From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.
ITEM ONLY: I ate my mother’s food on Thanksgiving Day.
This simple declarative sentence would be unimpressive in any other year.
But we know damn well this is not any other year.
This is the year of COVID, social distancing and lockdowns.
Parents 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines couple who raised me after my parents died, delivered turkey with all the fixings to my apartment at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
I greeted them in my robe, slippers and, of course, a mask.
They wore masks, too.
Mom 2.0 gave instructions on reheating.
I took the box lid full of food in my arms.
My parents drove off to make similar deliveries to others in the family.
We didn’t hug.
We didn’t bump elbows.
That’s not really our family style.
The love was in the box.
Mom 2.0 called about a week before Thanksgiving. She discovered a frozen turkey in the basement deep freeze of their stately east Des Moines manor.
She decided she would cook a big dinner with all the fixings. She and Dad 2.0 would eat at home together and then go delivering meals to the family.
Thanksgiving is fellowship and family. COVID stole that from many of us this year.
Our family is old-fashioned. We like turkey on Thanksgiving and we listen to doctors when they tell us to social distance and wear masks in a pandemic.
I have not tasted my mother’s cooking in nearly a year. We gathered for Christmas. I got pneumonia in February. COVID and social distancing came in March.
My parents are healthy, but they are both 71. I am 45, obese with occasional asthma.
The desire to get together grew with each passing week of the pandemic. It just seemed like a bad idea.
I couldn’t live with the idea that I brought potentially life-threatening sickness to Parents 2.0, these beautiful souls who rescued me in my mid-teens when I was so vulnerable and alone.
In the strictest sense of the word, I was alone Thanksgiving Day.
But if I closed my eyes, I could see my mom as she streaked through the kitchen, checked the turkey, chopped the veggies for the salad, mixed the stuffing, stirred the gravy and yanked the scalloped corn out of the oven just as the top layer got crispy.
I could see my dad, too. There aren’t many roles for others in my mom’s kitchen. She is both maestro and orchestra.
But there are a thousand honey-dos. Set the table. Bring the cook a glass of water with ice. Run the beaters through the mashed potatoes to knock out the last of the lumps.
And, of course, cut the turkey with the fancy double-bladed electric knife. Dad 2.0 is a wiz on that thing.
I ignored my mom’s admonition to reheat. The food was still warm enough and my desire outpaced the time it would take to put it on a sturdier plate for the microwave.
The first bite of gravy-soaked dressing answered a prayer I did not know I had whispered.
I tried to pace myself, but I cleared the plate of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, gravy and tossed salad in Italian dressing faster than I wanted.
I spent time with my slice of rhubarb pie.
The only thing I made myself was the cranberry jelly. All that took was a can opener and a spoon.
I texted my folks a picture of my empty plate with the caption, “Seconds?”
True to parental form, they answered, “You’d be sorry if you did.”
My belly full, I drifted asleep during the dull football games.
On Wednesday, I sat down at this computer to type an upbeat holiday column. I struggled. My life is rich and full in many ways, but I am greedy. I miss my family and friends.
So, I wrote a few Thanksgiving jokes and went on with the day.
But by the holiday’s end and after that lovely meal, I had no trouble counting the things I was thankful for.
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