Election reveals possibilities for great-grandson Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
Grand Mom by Audrey Mettel Fixmer

Did you weep that night? November 4, 2008, was one of those times when every senior citizen in this country had to whisper, "Thank you, Lord, for letting me live to see this day when an African American has been elected president of the United States, the leader of the free world."

Regardless of how one may have voted in this election, no one who had lived through witnessing President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 sign an order that would allow people of any color, race, or creed the right to vote, or who could recall the race riots and the separate drinking fountains and bus seats of the '50s could possibly be unmoved by this drama.

The world was watching democracy at its finest moment: an African American, president-elect Barack Obama, and his beautiful family take the stage on the night of November 4.

I was a student in a Catholic high school during Word War II. We were told to pray for the racially oppressed Jews in Hitler's Europe. The stark ugly truth of racial hatred was portrayed in pictures of skeleton-like bodies moved from gas chambers to be tossed into open graves in the concentration camps of Europe. Those images prompted vigorous campaigns against racial prejudice.

A few years later I was a student at the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota when some of my fellow students spent their summers working at Friendship House in Chicago, beginning their lifelong work of fighting racial injustice. Racial equality was an intrinsic tenet of my faith and values: a right-to-life issue.

Close to home

But I also had another, more personal reason to weep with joy on that election night. Five years ago my beloved granddaughter, Bridget, married Sira, a man born in Africa, who escaped to America with his father under the oppression of Idi Amin.

He had been born into the Catholic faith and was hosted by a Catholic family in northern Wisconsin during his high school years and worked on their farm. From there he went to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and while working at Fairhaven Nursing Home in Whitewater he met our Bridget.

He wanted to become a doctor, but a lack of money held him back. Still, with his gentle ways and sunny disposition he has excelled at caretaking of the elderly and handicapped and is already a loving dad to his daughter from a first marriage.

Fr. Bill Nolan performed the marriage ceremony, the last one held in our old St. Joseph Church, four years ago. As I watched Bridget, my beautiful blonde fair-skinned granddaughter, stand beside Sira, this very black love of her life, I wept then too.

They were tears of joy mixed with fear. And I begged God to bless them. I knew that the world still had reservations about race. Marriage has enough challenges without adding this complication. Would their bi-racial children suffer racial prejudice as well?

Looking to the future

Well, guess what? Their first child is due in January, the same month that Barack Obama will be sworn into the nation's highest office. Our great-grandson will be born into three generations of a loving family in a land where the president of the United States looks just like him.

I can't wait to whisper in his ear, "If you work hard enough you too could become president of the United States and leader of the free world."

Thanks, Lord, for the gift of years. This was worth sticking around for.

Author's Note: Since this column was written, my biracial great-grandson, Gavin James Nsibirwa, arrived on January 4, a husky 9 lb. 6 oz boy. His parents will be sure to have him watching the inauguration of our first biracial president.

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