My Dad Isn't Voting for the First Time Ever & I Hope My Sons & I Can Change His Mind

Marisa Torrieri Bloom and sons voting
My first memory of voting stretches back to 1980, when I was hoisted onto Dad's shoulders while he cast his ballot to re-elect Jimmy Carter at Galway Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Voting was a big deal and a privilege, he told me then, and again in 1984 when he took me to Galway to vote for Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.


"Voting is a big privilege, Marisa," he told then-4-year-old me. "In places like the Soviet Union, you don't get to make a choice."

I always took him seriously. Dad, better known as Don Torrieri, is a recently retired army engineer, analyst, and communications specialist whose near-perfect attendance record during his 44 years of service for the US Department of Defense earned him special recognition on his last day of work. (He accumulated more than two years of sick leave, only taking a few days right after his appendix burst in 2009.) He spent more than four decades designing communications systems, and gave up countless opportunities to make more money in the private sector like other MIT alumni with PhDs and multiple masters degrees.

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Because my dad displayed such a great example of how an American hero and man of character should live his life, I never faltered in my admiration, or borderline idolization, of him. As an adult -- following only a brief period of rebellion in my 20s -- I sought to emulate him, and follow his example as I segued into motherhood. This meant treating the law, and voting, with utmost seriousness.

So when Dad, a 73-year-old lifelong Democrat, told me a few weeks ago that for the first time in his life he has zero intention of voting, it shocked me. Here was the man who'd raised me to respect our country and the Democratic process -- the guy who proudly took me to polls -- telling me he couldn't bring himself to endorse either Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump. Was the world ending?! 

"The presidency is an honor," he said. "With these two clowns, you have to pick your poison: Clinton is like poison of the face, and Trump is like poison of the body."

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I'm seriously bothered by this, not just because I'm his daughter, but also because I'm a mom of two preschoolers, ages 2 and 4. It wasn't so long ago that I headed to the polls with both kids (and a babysitter), and held the older one in my arms as I cast my vote in my state's primary election. I made sure both kids got "I Voted" stickers afterward not only to commemorate the event, but to emphasize its importance: Voting is a BIG deal, a big privilege. And it's super important and potentially impactful. I want my kids to know this not by what I say, but by what I do. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom and sons voting

I should probably mention here that Dad was (and still is) a die-hard "Bernie bro" who could hang with the best of the jaded millennial voters holding "Bernie or Bust" signs at rallies across the country. I'm fine with that. I like Bernie Sanders, too -- so much so that I struggled with deciding who to vote for in the primaries. At one point, I half-jokingly asked my 4-year-old to point to the candidate I should pick, before deciding to go with my gut.

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But at the end of the day, I assumed Dad would do his small part to ensure that the best person -- or, at the very least, the lesser of two evils -- secures the most important job of the land. So much is at stake, from our country's relationship with our NATO allies and our stance on ISIS to the next Supreme Court Justice we pick. Voting now matters more than ever, and we can't assume that Donald Trump's P**sygate scandal or Hillary Rodham Clinton's Wikileaks scandal will simply push the polls in one direction or the other.

Yet every time I try to attempt and change his mind about not voting, I get lectures. With Hillary, Dad rattles on and on about Fort Leavenworth. "If I did what she did, and had a separate e-mail server in my basement or saved my emails to a flash drive, I'd be in prison," he says. "Don't even get me started about the cattle futures controversy!"

In terms of Trump, he cites the obvious: an unpredictable, often volatile temperament that is ill-suited for the highest office, and exhibited in the business giant's vulgar comments about disabled Americans, women, and Muslims. 

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Dad has the right to skip voting this time around. Still, I'm saddened that he feels so jaded by the political process, and by the candidates for either party. He's getting older; every time I visit my parents I see how health ailments nip at his physicality and tug at his once-exuberant energy levels. This may be the last election he has the opportunity to make a statement.

I'm still hoping my mom, a die-hard Democrat who has never for one moment wavered in her support of HRC, convinces Dad to go to the polls in Silver Spring on November 8. I wish Dad could remember his own words, as I raise my own two children: "Voting is a privilege," I'll continue to tell them, as they grow older.

As I head to the polls on Tuesday, with my two preschoolers in tow, no doubt I'll have sweet flashbacks of being Tiny Marisa on Dad's shoulders, escorting my father-idol to the booth where he let his voice be heard. Hopefully, the snapshots I send of me and my kids wearing our "I Voted" stickers will nudge him to head up the street to his own polls, so he doesn't regret it later on.


Images courtesy of Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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