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They Aren’t Bad Men, Just Bought Men

We have a little fishing camp cottage in Harrisville, NH.  The year we bought it (2001), Granny D, Doris Haddock had been on Good Morning America talking to Charlie Gibson.  I was in awe of this woman, who at the age of 90 decided to walk across America to raise awareness and rally citizens to reform campaign finance laws.  In the interview she proudly stated that she lived in NH.  I couldn’t recall where at the time, but I did remember she was from New Hampshire.  Later that summer we bought the cottage and after our initial two week vacation began traveling there every chance we could, but mostly on weekends.

Little by little we began exploring our town- an old mill town- very picturesque with several ponds and lakes, a general store, church and little library at its center.  The closest large grocery store was in Peterborough, NH.  So we frequently traveled into Dublin, NH on the way to Peterborough.  On the first trip through Dublin, just down the street from our cottage, I noticed a van parked in front of a home.  On it was painted Go Granny Go with a Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do IT” motto also painted on the side complete with Norman Rockwell’s image of Rosie.  I looked at my husband and my kids.  “That’s Granny D’s van!” I exclaimed.  “Who is Granny D?” they all wanted to know. I told them her story.  Subsequent to having seen her on Good Morning America, I had read her book, Walking Across America in My 90th Year. I loved her book, and once I learned that she lived down the road from us I became Granny D obsessed.

Every time we drove by her house I would be looking to catch a glimpse of her.  “Stop,’ my kids would yell, ‘You’re becoming a Granny D stalker!” I know, right.  Only I would stalk a 91 year old! But read her book! You will understand.  It makes you laugh, it makes you cry and you will fall in love with this lovely, lovely lady!

Anyway, there I was several years later at our cottage.  I was in the kitchen making blueberry pancakes.  The coffee was perking.  The lake was lovely that morning with a light mist or fog seeming to float above it.  Not a cloud in the sky.  “Hey Ab!” my husband called.  “What?” I asked. “Get over here and look!” he said.  I expected to see a bald eagle or maybe even a moose, he sounded so excited.  Looking in front of our cottage, walking down the road was this little old lady with her characteristic and famous wide brimmed sun-hat.  “Oh my God!” I said.  “Is it her?” he asked.  “It’s her!  It’s Granny D.  What should I do?”  I asked.  “Well, you could start by saying hello. Ask her in for a cup of coffee!” he said.

I opened the screen door yelling “Excuse me! Granny D, please wait!”  Now I have to say, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she bolted in the opposite direction.  Instead she found our neighbor’s bench to sit on and did indeed wait.  I came upon her extolling, “I saw you on Good Morning America. I loved your book!” How stupid did I sound?  Her only response was, “Well I’ve been admiring your bench here for many years.  It is a lovely spot.”  “Oh,’ I said. ‘It’s my neighbor’s bench.  Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?” “I don’t drink coffee,” she said.  “Well, how about tea?” I asked.  “I would,’ she said. ‘But I have to get back to my house.  You see I am running for Senate.  I have bricks in my back pack and I am training for another walk…to Canada this time to raise money for my campaign.  There is a man from the New Yorker coming to interview me today.  I have to get back to brush up on issues.  You know I have been a kind of one issue woman for many years now and I can’t run for Senate unless I know where I stand on a wealth of issues.  I don’t know if you know the incumbent Senator.  He’s not a bad man.  But, he is a bought man.  That is the trouble with our government.  We need to elect people who do the will of the people, not corporations!” I just stood there in awe…listening to her gentle New Hampshire twang, which sounded almost British.  “If you’re sure you won’t come in for tea!” I said.  “I would love to on another day,” she said.  “Can I give you a ride to your house?” I asked.  “No, thank you.  I am in training as I said.  It is a lovely day.  Hope to see you again one day.  That is your house there?” she asked. “Yes,” I said.  “It’s a happy house.  I can tell by the way you decorate it. Well, I am off.” And with that she stood and was on her way.  I think I just stood staring at her as she left.  My hero!

I came back inside that day thinking…I am going to remember this as one of the greatest days of my life. The day I met Granny D.  Well, you know the story.  Campaign finance reform was passed- it was known as the McCain-Feingold Act.  Years later a very important part of it would be overturned by the Supreme Court.  Wandering along Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire one very cold and raw November day, I heard a familiar voice.  It was Granny D speaking on the Green, in the gazebo.  She had a microphone.  It was the kind of day that would make any teenager shiver, yet there she was standing there giving a speech.  The speech wasn’t publicized that I know of, she may have mentioned it on her website.  I listened.  She was encouraging young people to get involved with their communities and with their government.  “Do something!” She said.  She sounded a little out of breath.  She apologized as she explained she was recovering from a throat operation.  95 years old.  Recently operated on.  Standing in the center of Keene, NH on a brutally cold day.  Offering inspiration to a growing crowd.  Well…I thought.  Maybe this was one of the greatest days of my life. Not to just hear of it.  But to hear it.  Her voice.  Her voice rising above the whoosh of passing cars.  Her breath rising in vapor from her lips.  Go Granny go!

Granny D passed from this life March 9, 2010 at the age of 100. But her life continues to be an inspiration to many and in an era when the air waves are filled with accusations of corruption in politics I think I can hear her.  “He isn’t a bad man.  But he is a bought man.”  Granny D we need you still!

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