A Love Story

breaking-up.jpgI broke up with my boyfriend the night before I took off for Ohio to canvass for Obama.  Well really, I broke up with him three nights later, but I knew in my head that I would do it the night before I left.  What I did that night before was tell him I could not talk to him for three days.  Three days of: landing in Ohio the morning after the red-eye; having breakfast with Carol Ogline (my 84 year old host) at the fanciest restaurant in Alliance; Ohio (where the side salad is $3.00 extra); driving to the Alliance, Ohio campaign office (the first national campaign office to ever exist there); taking off from the office to canvass down the street; getting chased down that same street by a rabid dog, finding out the owner was an Obama supporter and recruiting him to volunteer; returning to the office to make phone calls; going back to Carol Ogline's house and eating peanut butter sandwiches with her at 1am while her 1 month old puppy rolled around on the floor; getting back to the campaign office the next day to canvass some more; promising a man I would show up at 6am the day after election day and chop the wood piled in his yard if he voted; taking a picture at the end of that street; returning to the office to make phone calls; going to Applebee's with my volunteer coordinator; returning to the office the next day to canvass, swaying a voter, swaying another voter, going to another county to meet the 20 new volunteers that had just arrived; jumping on a conference call to hear Obama give us all an amazing half time speech; and going into the backyard after that phone call to sit by the empty pool and have that final phone conversation with my boyfriend.  

freakinout.jpgMy boyfriend was supposed to be with me in Ohio, and he freaked out the day before we left.  We are all freaking out actually, all the 20 somethings I know who don’t have a job and don’t know what they want and who some would call bratty and lazy but I would call directionless and motivation-less.  Everyone I know has had a series of panic attacks this past fall, everyone from my best friend to my ex-boyfriend to the 20 somethings I met in Ohio, one of whom just had a baby and can barely afford diapers while her husband is in jail, another of whom has a masters in child psychology and cannot find a job because she has all the training and is over qualified for a lesser job but can not find an opening in her field.  We were all in need of a leader.

I told him, my ex-boyfriend, that I understood he was freaking out, I was freaking out too, so was everyone around me, but if he did not think that what was happening in Ohio was the most important thing in the country and more important than any one of our panic attacks put together, then obviously he couldn’t get it and we couldn’t go out anymore.

I went back inside and we, all 25 volunteers, relaxed for the first time in days and enjoyed each other’s company and ate.  Most of the new people had just come down from Yale and there was excitement with the fresh energy they were bringing to the campaign.  They all went back to another house to party and I went back to Carol Ogline’s, because I was tired and I wanted to get ready for the next day.  Carol, of course, was awake.  She was always awake at 1am when I would get home.  I burst into tears in her kitchen.  My volunteer coordinator had told me earlier that night that ‘the one thing I could not do in the middle of this campaign was have a dramatic breakup,’ and I looked at her appallingly because there was no way I would even consider that.  But now it was 1am, and looking at Carol, the sweetest person I had ever met, I practically couldn’t help it.  Carol told me to go take a shower and she would make us tuna fish sandwiches. 

allianceohio.jpgI have to tell you something about Carol Ogline: she used to be a Republican.  Her husband worked at one of the biggest law firms in a larger city in Ohio and he would come home every night plagued by the internal corruption happening at his firm.  One day it got to be too much, and they packed their things and moved to Alliance; he got a new job, and they became Democrats.  Now she’s 84 and called the campaign office to tell them she had room in her house if an out of state volunteer needed a place to stay.  The lucky volunteer was me.  She also runs Green Alliance, the organization to make Alliance more ‘green,’ including a weekly farmer’s market.

“It’s a good thing you broke up with him, he wasn’t right for you.”  And she added, “when they’re right, they’re right.”  The only thing that comforts a breakup is looking in the eyes of true love.  Some say it would make you jealous; I say it gives you clarity.  “When they’re right, they’re right,” and when they’re wrong, they’re not right.

Carol went to Mount Union.  Her mother had bought her red boots, and she wore them practically every day.  Michael Ogline had just come back from the war, and she met him on campus while walking with her friend.  She took that same walk every single day afterwards in hopes of running into him, always wearing the same boots.  One day he was standing there, and some friends were teasing him about not going out enough since he got back from the war. They were inviting him out for that Saturday night, but he needed a date. 

“Hey, Boots!”  He yelled across the lawn.  “What are you doing this Saturday?”

She told me she was so nervous she didn’t say a word their entire first date, and that he called her Boots throughout their entire marriage. 

The day after the election Carol took me to breakfast at the Alliance Country Club.  At breakfast she asked me if I would be her granddaughter.  She told me she only had grandsons and she had always wanted a granddaughter.  Then she took me on a tour of the castle and drove me to the airport.  I had helped him win, I had made new friends, I had gained a new perspective, and I had let go of old friends.  I was off to New York to celebrate.  By the way, at breakfast Carol also told me that her youngest grandson had just broken up with his girlfriend as well.  So perhaps I could be Carol’s granddaughter after all…