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Soon-to-be centenarian Grandma Margaret makes her vote count

Updated November 3, 2020 - 8:16 pm

We don’t know how Grandma Margaret voted. But we know she voted. That in itself is something of a miracle.

Margaret Sanna is in an exclusive demographic. On Friday, she turns 100. She was born on Nov. 6, 1920, just 2½ months after the 19th amendment allowing women to vote was certified. Four days before her birth, Warren G. Harding was elected the 29th president.

Grandma Margaret has survived an entire century of presidential administrations, 17 in all. She has lived through 38 percent of all U.S. presidents and has voted in every presidential election since World War II.

Grandma Margaret lives in an assisted-living facility in Boise, Idaho. An activity director at the residence made sure she had her early voting ballot on Monday, and that ballot was filled out and submitted.

We have hardly talked politics, specifically, over the years. But Grandma Margaret has always been well-informed and well-read. Walter Cronkite, the afternoon newspaper and weekly news magazine were popular in my grandparents’ house in their original hometown of Pocatello. “60 Minutes” was required weekly viewing.

In her younger days, Grandma Margaret was a checker and an early union member at the Pocatello Safeway grocery store. She spent most of her spare time volunteering at St. Anthony Church, washing and ironing linens and helping clean the church for the Catholic parishioners. Her passions have been reading, gardening, cooking and playing such games as solitaire, Rumikub, Hand and Foot, Skip-Bo and Bingo. Somewhere in there is a political party affiliation.

As if to add additional drama to this landmark event, last week Grandma Margaret tested positive for COVID-19. Yes, the same woman who admonished us as kids, “Remember to wash your hands! You can’t see germs! You might catch something!” now has coronavirus. Thanks, 2020.

But Grandma Margaret has no symptoms, which also is something of a miracle. She has enough going on, health-wise, as it is. When you ask how she is doing, she answers with comic precision, “I can’t see. I can’t hear. I can’t walk. I hurt all over. But otherwise, I’m doing great!”

The family is all-in with Grandma Margaret closes in on 100. Ours is a very Idaho clan. My mom, Kathleen Sanna, is close enough to Grandma that I’ve walked and biked to her residence. My Aunt Chris Sanna Lark and Tom Lark, and Uncle David Sanna and Aunt Dayna are in the area. Just further out is my brother, Bill Kats, his wife, Lindsey; and son, Austin; and cousin, Quincee Lark. Cousin A.J. Eaton, the filmmaker who directed “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” has been visiting Boise from Los Angeles. Our great singer/songwriter/musician Marcus Eaton (who has recorded and toured with Croz) was raised in the state and lives in L.A. today. Cousins Denise McClure and Dedra Sanna are in Pocatello, where we spent so much of our childhood roughhousing at our grandparents’ home, and picking pea pods out of Grandma’s garden.

Sadly, Grandma Margaret’s failing hearing makes it nearly impossible to conduct a phone conversation without actually shouting. In-person visits to her facility are not permitted because of the spike in COVID cases. But so far, Grandma is beating the coronavirus, wheeling through the facility in her scooter, with the nicknames Holy Roller and the Energizer Bunny.

In an ideal world, we would be together and with Grandma Margaret for the birthday. Complications of the times won’t allow it, and her health and comfort are what matters now.

The last time I have been able to visit Grandma Margaret in person was Christmas Day 2019. We took a couple of selfies, a process she loves because she can look at the pictures instantly. With no prompting, she pointed at the phone and said, “That’s the biggest invention in my lifetime.”

I was startled that she just offered that information and thought she felt it would someday be important. I asked her why, and she said, “All the information you can get.”

We’re using the information now to keep track of elections, talk to each other, even check in on our grandparents. Today my cousin texted me a photo of Grandma Margaret, wearing her “I Voted” sticker. I don’t know if her candidate prevailed, but 100 years on, Grandma Margaret is a winner.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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