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Silver Threads: Giving thanks for the stuff we learn from old folk

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

One time while editing a reporter‘s story that was scheduled to run on Thanksgiving Day, I got hung up on the line that the nation‘s observance had since Lincoln’s time taken place on the last Thursday in November. Didn’t I remember that this particular holiday had once been celebrated on the third Thursday?

I was probably within 10 years of retirement age then and the oldest in the Living section, so I traipsed out into the newsroom to find an elder colleague to ask about it. City editor Vince Randazzo, nine years my senior, had the answer: In 1939, during the last days of the Great Depression and the countdown to the outbreak of World War II in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt accommodated U.S. retailers by moving Thanksgiving up a week to increase the number of shopping days before Christmas.

“They called it ‘Franksgiving,’” he said, “and some people didn’t like it.” My family included, which is why I remembered the carping over the date change.

My point is this: Don’t you always need an old person around to tell you what’s what?

And since today’s column is going to be about things I’m thankful for, I’ll start with this:

I’m thankful for the folks still here who are my seniors: My husband and I have lost too many of the relatives and friends who knew our world before we did. And:

  • for the youngsters I depend on to help me survive in the world I now know, who steer me through the travails of coping with modern media, who tell me what the music means, who keep me almost current, who take my mind off my aches.
  • for a town like New Orleans, whose younger citizens call you “baby,” rush to help when you’re unloading your car, admire your snowy hair, step up to catch you if you stumble.
  • for the invitations we’re already gotten to Christmas-time parties, that our juniors are still happy in our company.
  • for retirement and assisted living and nursing homes, that they are there if I ever need them and that they were there for friends and relatives who did.
  • for modern medicine, over-the-counter and from the pharmacy; and medical treatments, cortisone for the bursitis in my hips and stents for the ailing hearts of several of the people I love.
  • for e-readers that make it easy for me enjoy books, with the bonus that I can buy them for less than half of what I’d pay for the hard copies; e-mail that helps me stay in touch with friends quickly; my cell phone — what did I ever do without it?
  • that some frozen meals have gotten so tasty — remember the first “TV dinners”? Now my husband/chef can take a break when he needs to.
  • for central air and heat because if you’re old enough to remember the days of oscillating and attic and window fans, not to mention space heaters and dirty fireplaces,  you appreciate just pushing a button to stay comfortably cool or warm.
  • for the planes that take you all over the world, and for friends who don’t mind seeing the sights with one whose step has slowed.
  • for readers who can appreciate the viewpoint of an old woman — and laugh with her, sometimes at her — and occasionally let her know that they do.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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