I'm not a big fan of turkey.
I grew up spending a lot of time on my grandmother's farm in West Virginia. Her biggest cash crop was turkeys, and the buyer for thousands of them wanted the birds to be delivered -- dressed and ready for roasting -- the day before Thanksgiving.
Today, people would call the turkeys my grandmother raised "free range." That is, they wandered around an enclosed yard with screening over the top so that they couldn't make a break for freedom. Nor could foxes and other predators find their way in most of the time. I've read that turkeys are smart, but I never saw any evidence of it. Their most annoying habit was escaping in the middle of the night, which required all of us to get out of bed and chase them back into the enclosure.
I'll spare you the details of their final days on this earth. Suffice it to say that by the time the last one was packaged and ready to go, none of us were in the mood for a turkey dinner.
Every time I cook a turkey, I think of my grandmother who in her mid-70s was still running the farm, starting at dawn and finishing after the last cow was milked. Retirement wasn't anything she expected to be able to do. She didn't get a pension or Social Security, although farmers generally qualify for them today. Whatever she needed but couldn't earn from hard work, the family did its best to contribute. But, her old age was never easy.
Lots of people complain about Social Security and other government retirement planning programs. Some people think they aren't generous enough. Others say they are more generous than we can afford. Personally, I think Franklin Delano Roosevelt got it right in 1935 when he pushed through legislation, creating Social Security as a safety net but not a substitute for work and savings.
Roosevelt said, "We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."
Being able to retire and count on Social Security is a blessing. This year, the program will keep more than 15 million people age 65 and older out of poverty, according to U.S. Census data, analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That means millions more of us -- Social Security recipients, children and grandchildren -- have a good reason to bow our heads and say thank you this Thanksgiving for a program that isn't perfect but still works.