Nana and Nixon

by Karen Topakian


My maternal grandparents lived a few blocks away from my childhood home in Rhode Island. I spent many hours with them, almost as second parents. Since my mother was an only child, my sister and I received tons of love and affection from them both.

My Nana, a short woman with grey hair, a ready smile, a quick laugh and a refrigerator full of food, harbored tons of energy for parties and socializing. She loved to discuss the two topics one should avoid in polite company: religion and politics.

I don’t know which she loved more the Armenian church or the Republican Party.

President Eisenhower’s photo adorned the bookshelf in their den along with an “I Like Ike” button and banner. Because she spoke about Mr. Eisenhower as frequently and as affectionately as she did about her beloved brother, Mark, I thought she knew the president. Much later, in life I learned she didn’t.

“Nana, have you ever voted for a Democrat?” I once asked her.

“Of course not,” she answered.“There wasn’t one worth voting for.”

After Eisenhower, she loved Nixon best. After his mid-office resignation, she continued to display a photo of the Nixon family on the wall in her cheery yellow kitchen – Pat, Tricia and Julie standing around a smiling Dick playing the piano.

One Sunday, when my father was driving my family, including my grandparents, on an excursion, Nixon’s pending resignation came up in conversation.

“He’s a criminal,” said my mother disgustedly

“He ought to go to jail,” muttered my father.

“He’s a crook,” said my grandfather with conviction.

“Say what you will, he’s still a good-looking man,” said Nana with pride.