HOT SHEET: The joy of mother’s cooking when we can’t be together

Seconds, please.

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.

Believe it or not, he’s walking on air. He never thought he could feel so free. Flyin’ away on a wing and a prayer, who could it be? Believe it or not, it’s Daniel P. Finney.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

HOT SHEET: How does that Mormon marshal on ‘Fargo’ keep his carrot sticks so crispy?

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The following Hot Sheet contains language. Reader discretion is advised.

ITEM TWO: This Hot Sheet may be recorded for training and assurance purposes.

ITEM THREE: Watch “Fargo.” It’s the best thing on TV. Also, after you catch up on “Fargo,” can somebody tell me how U.S. Marshal Dick “Deafy” Wickware keeps the carrot sticks he carries around so crisp?

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say on Beggars’ Night:

Q: What do cats eat for breakfast?
A: Mice Krispies!

Q: Why do fish always sing off key?
A: Because you can’t tuna fish.

Q: What kind of horses go out after dusk?
A: Nightmares!

Q: Did you hear about the fire at the circus?
A: It was in tents!

ITEM FIVE: Something you will never hear the ol’ Paragraph Stacker say: “I could go for some more Red Hot Chili Peppers.” That’s true both of the band and in food.

ITEM SIX: The ESPN sports shout show “Pardon The Interruption” recently celebrated 20 years on the air. The show, which stars former Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, is the best of its kind. There are many imitators. Almost all of them are terrible. But Kornheiser and Wilbon have stood the test of time. The typist expects ESPN to fire them at any moment in budget cuts.

ITEM SEVEN: The FieldTurf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons, is the ugliest in the NFL. It looks like shag carpet from the 1970s, the kind you raked instead of swept.

ITEM LAST: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s beloved Chicago Bears play a pro football contest at the Los Angeles Rams tonight. The Bears are inexplicably 5-1, despite an aggressively mediocre offense. The Rams are 4-2 with flashes of excessive mediocrity as well. It should be a perfect game for a nap.

Daniel P. Finney helped her out of a jam one night but guesses he used a little too much force.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

HOT SHEET: Calamity for Hawkeyes, Cyclones; World Series Dad 2.0 jokes; and more jokes to learn and say for trick-or-treat

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The typist slumped into his over-stuffed recliner shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday with the idea of flipping between the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State game and the Iowa vs. Purdue game.

The memorial service for Grandma Lois earlier that day and the heavy brunch of blueberry pancakes, eggs and bacon at Jethro’s exacted their toll and a deep nap soon swept him away.

The Hawkeyes and Cyclones both lost in his deep slumber and he awoke content, having missed nothing important.

ITEM TWO: The typist and Dad 2.0 used to watch the World Series together in the fall when he was a boy. Many years have passed since the pair last met to do so in person.

The recent deaths of family members and illnesses of friends left the typist in an atavistic mood. He did not wish to risk an in-home visit in the pandemic, so on a whim he texted his father.

Dad 2.0, a retired printer, is a quiet man, but he occasionally unleashes a savagely funny one-liner when the mood strikes him, which it did during the fourth game of the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays.

On the Dodgers’ shaking their hands after a soft base hit, something they call “barrels are overrated,” which means hard-hit balls are overrated:
What’s with the monkey imitations?

On the Aflac duck commercial with Nick Saban:
It’s the beginning of the end when you see the ducks clapping.

On the great baseball name of the Dodgers’ Max Muncy:
That must be his stage name.

On a broken-bat single by one of the Rays:
That bat is coming out of his paycheck.

On Verizon Wireless’ incessant 5G commercials:
That’s too much “G.”

ITEM THREE: Game Four of the World Series provided one of the finest unofficial Fall Classic games the typist had ever witnessed.*
*As every Iowan of a certain age knows from Frank Miller editorial cartoons, an official World Series must include the New York Yankees.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say on Beggars’ Night in Des Moines:

Q: Why was the broom late?
A: It over swept.

Q: Where do hamsters go on vacation?
A: Hamsterdam.

Q: How do you communicate with a fish?
A: You drop it a line.

Q: What did the music teacher say when her students asked if they could sing their favorite song?
A: “Of chorus”

ITEM FIVE: The typist can’t stop listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album, “Folklore,” which two readers gifted to the Hot Sheet when it was released.

The album is melancholy and goes places Swift’s previous albums didn’t. Her work enthralls the typist. She’s a good writer and her presentation is perfect.

Swift seems to be genuinely interested in her fans having a good time and communal experience at her concerts. And she shows kindnesses big and small to fans, especially young girls.

The typist is an admitted grouch. Swift’s generally upbeat work would not seem to fit with his daily dourness.

Well, people can surprise you whether they be singers or paragraph stackers.

ITEM LAST: Try to get a nap in today.

Every breath Daniel P. Finney takes without your permission raises his self-esteem.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.