The other day my husband told me an anecdote I thought I’d never heard before, which is pretty amazing since we‘ve been married for 53 years. It wasn’t anything important — at least to us — it was just a story about how a young woman walked up to him in a dollar store and asked if he knew if the place had any long underwear for sale.
He told her he didn’t know, and she sighed and said she had to find some for her husband “because it gets awful cold sometimes in the jail.”
Then she asked him what he was doing, and he said looking for bags of little Snickers and Mounds bars, and she said, “No, I mean tonight, after you leave.”
But wait a minute — he told me that story seven or eight years ago, right after he fled from the store and came home. One of the problems with getting old is that you forget what you’ve already heard as often as you forget what you’ve already said.
In my younger days I used to roll my eyes when Mother and Daddy started in on some old family story they considered excruciatingly funny. I don’t know whether they actually thought it worthy of retelling time after time, or just didn‘t remember we already knew it. I don’t think they really cared; my generation seems to worry more about aging and sagging and being repetitive than theirs did.
Anyhow, this column isn’t about the memory lapses that afflict us senior citizens; it’s about how we’ve heard it all when it comes to presidential campaigns and how the kids that run them don’t know it. It’s about the tedium of being subjected to the tongue wagging that precedes another national election, and believe me if I had a little cabin in any place where nobody cares about U.S. politics I’d go there now and stay almost until Thanksgiving.
When Roosevelt and Truman and Eisenhower were running for office, I was too young to care, and when JFK arrived on the scene our baby son was the focus of my attention, as were the soap operas I watched while giving him what seemed like dozens of bottles a day. In the days I was a stay-at-home mom, I also turned the television on for the Democratic and Republican national conventions of ‘60 and ‘64, because they were interesting in that you didn’t really know how they’d come out until the roll-call of the states’ delegations; decisions had been made “behind the closed doors” in the “smoke-filled rooms” of legend rather than in primaries around the country.
These days, the candidates have been pontificating for what seems like all year, and none of their runs were iffy except for who would be Matt Romney’s vice president hopeful. Their messages differ only slightly from one venue to another, with speech writers catering to the crowds in the various 50 states. And, of course, changes are made when they move to podiums in front of union members, tea partyers, the NAACP or the Daughters of the American Revolution.
I learned long ago that not too much of what’s being promised will get done. After all, there’s Congress to consider. I remember crossing party and ideological lines, deserting the candidate I’d more or less decided on when his opponent said he would remedy a situation I disliked. He didn’t — or couldn’t.
The speeches of Barry and Joe and Mitt and Paul I cannot muster up much interest in, but the above-mentioned husband is something else. We will undoubtedly vote for the same team, but we’ll do it with different hopes, expectations and attitudes. And our heated back-porch conversations will cover the same ground we plowed 50 years ago.
Talk about repetitive.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.