Editor's Column: The oldest person at our Thanksgiving dinner

It happens before you know it. Turn around and suddenly you’re the oldest person at the Thanksgiving family dinner.

I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but due to some untimely passings in the family I ended up being the oldest person this Thanksgiving. The ones in charge were my daughters’ ages, and the old hands in the kitchen were a bit younger than myself. There were several grown males watching football on a big screen TV and what seemed like dozens of tiny people running madly about the house. The one thing they had in common was that they were all younger than me, some by a couple of years and others by more decades than we really need to detail.

As I recalled from my youth, old people were oddities from a much-younger perspective. Some had come to this country on ships and still had Danish or Swedish accents. They were interesting to watch but actual communication was out of the question. What does a kid say to an old person? “Gee, I’m surprised you’re still alive and could make it today?”

As the oldest person at last Thursday’s gathering, I found myself the subject of furtive glances and quizzical looks from babies, toddlers and teens. Persons a little more mature tried to be polite and navigate around me as carefully as possible so I wouldn’t inadvertently knock the gravy bowl out of their hands.

The first thing I learned is that if you’re the oldest person in the house, stay out of the kitchen. I made the mistake of wearing a festive brown shirt which, coupled with my wattling neck and paunch, made me look like the holiday dinner’s main course, especially to the age-set that won’t yet admit it needs eyeglasses but is allowed to carry around huge carving knives anyway. “Wow, where’d you get such an enormous turkey!,” one of them exclaimed as she came toward me with blood lust in her eyes and an electric carving knife in her hand. Luckily, I was standing a ways from the outlet and the cord came unplugged just before the first cut could be made into my plumpest part. Before she could plug the buzzing blade back in I escaped to the living room.

A chair in the corner called to me, close enough to respond if anyone asked anything of me, such as did I see the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show or the Apollo moon landing or did I know the guy who invented the wheel? Apparently nobody cared about such things. I mentioned to another male of my generation that we were the oldest ones there, so we silently agreed not to reminisce about ancient history in front of the young’uns. Many of them had jobs but they couldn’t explain exactly what they did or why it was necessary. I refrained from saying that in my day, people actually went to work and made things. I quietly watched the football game, recognizing the teams but not a single player.

Meanwhile, little kids were buzzing past my chair, sometimes tripping over my feet by generally giving me a wide berth. I felt like an exhibit in a zoo, and one little boy actually threw some food at me. I tried to strike up a conversation by asking what he wanted for Christmas, but he had been told not to talk to strange relatives.

At least I learned what Thanksgiving is all about, at least for the oldest person present. I was thankful to get out of there alive.

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