des moines, Faith and Values, humor, Iowa, People

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.

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des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, Newspapers

HOT SHEET: Bears survive, Old Man Brady falters, Northwood volleyball poster provokes and prayers for Grandma Lois

ITEM ONE: Behold the power of reverse psychology: Hot Sheet predicted doom for the Chicago Bears vs. the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford’s Field. Hark! T’was but a ruse! They typist’s faux bad juju produced a dramatic come-from-behind win for the Monsters of the Midway led by none other than the much-maligned Mitchell Trubisky. Hope bursts for this big-and-tall Bears backer. The joy lasted for the time it took an autumn leaf to unmore itself from tree branch and flutter to the ground. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker is not fooled. These are the cruel tricks the Windy City’s pro football team plays on its devoted throngs. We know — oh how we know — just how rapid the taste of victory washes from our mouth with the foul and fetid flavor of the screw cap wine that is a Bears’ season. The losses shall come, maybe next week. The Hot Sheet shall burn its Trubisky Funko Pop! figure in effigy in hopes of repeating the good vibes that clearly comes from this gloomy smack.

ITEM TWO: Tom Brady looked very much like a man too old to be playing pro football in his debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at New Orleans. He threw two interceptions — one a pick-six — and generally looked out of sync and frustrated. Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but he managed to complete two of three passes to his pal Rob Gronkowski, whom Brady coerced out of retirement. The typist admits fondness for Brady, who at 43, is two years younger than the ol’ Paragraph Stacker and still playing pro football. One gets to be the typist’s age and one starts to have fondness for middle-aged people pushing the sun up into the sky one more time. Hot Sheet isn’t ready to shovel the dirt on Old Man Brady just yet. Childhood hero Joe Montana had two productive seasons in 1993 and 1994 for the Kansas City Chiefs after leaving his longtime home with the San Francisco 49ers. Of course Old Man Joe was six years younger than Old Man Brady.

ITEM THREE: The Northwood-Kensett High School volleyball team created a poster of the girls’ volleyball team posing with local police under the headline “Back the Blue: Whatever It Takes.” The posters were made in August and sold as a way to raise money for the school’s post-prom, reports the Mason City Globe-Gazette. However, some argued the poster was in poor taste given the recent national unrest over police killings of Blacks and systemic racism. A taste of the backlash comes from this Twitter post: “First of all, I am appalled by the ignorance people have for the current environment of the US and second, wtf??” The photographer who took the photo decided not to sell the poster, then changed her mind and offered to obscure or digitally remove any players who didn’t want to be in the poster, per the Globe-Gazette. The poster was not created with district supervision, the Northwood-Kensett superintendent said in a statement. Stripped of context, the typist supposes someone could twist the meaning of the poster to be something more sinister than high school kids posing with their local cops. In context, “Back the Blue” refers to the school colors, which are blue, white and red, as well as the “blue” referring to law enforcement in general, though the cops in the poster are wearing khaki uniforms. “Whatever It Takes” is a longtime slogan of the volleyball team. I suppose in the twisted minds of radicals, this statement could be construed as endorsement of police violence, but the mental gymnastics it takes to get that point are so exhausting one wonders how tortured a mind must be to reach such a conclusion. Hot Sheet rejects the extremist notion that any support of police is akin to racism. It is entirely possible to support both Black Lives Matter and police. The “all-or-nothing” approach to any idea is a pathway to madness and self-destruction. If kids want to have their picture taken with local cops for post-prom, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker chooses to read that as community spirit unless proven otherwise.

ITEM FOUR: Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is quitting as U.S. Ambassador to China after three years, reports CNN. The Leland, Iowa, native was one of President Donald Trump’s first ambassadorial appointees. The New York Times writes: Branstad “found himself on the front lines of President Trump’s trade war and, by this year, a downward spiral of tensions that, to many, has heralded a new era of Cold War-like confrontation between the world’s two largest economies.” The Times goes on to note Branstad visited 26 of 34 provinces, including a visit to Tibet. Hot Sheet was never a big Branstad backer, but felt some sympathy for his fellow Iowan thrust into the madness of Trump’s erratic and irresponsible foreign policy. When Branstad took the gig, the typist was glad to be rid of him as Iowa governor. Still, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker remembers Branstad with some fondness. In decades earlier, we both had tickets to Drake University women’s basketball games and more than once stood in line for popcorn together. Hot Sheet doubts one can run into the former governor of New York in line for snacks at a women’s basketball game.

ITEM LAST: Hot Sheet asks for prayers and well wishes for the typist’s grandmother, Lois Newcomb, who is in the hospital with excessive water in her tissues and a heart ailment. Grandma Lois is the mother of the ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s Mom 2.0, Joyce Rogers, the kindly east Des Moines hairdresser who raised him after his first set of parents died. Lois is 93, a kind and accepting soul, who has seen a lot of social changes play out in her own family. She made special effort to welcome yours truly into the family nearly 30 years ago. For years, Parents 2.0 and the typist ate Wednesday dinner at Lois’ house. And until she moved to assisted living a year ago, Lois made sure to make oyster soup once a year for the typist, Aunt Janice and herself as we were the only three in the family who enjoyed the stuff. At present, Lois is resting and due to COVID-19, visiting is kaput.

OK, let’s close the book on this one. Go forth this week, my friends. Remember to drop a donation if you can. And, as always, behave and be kind.

Daniel P. Finney has a Runza on his hat and you should, too.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way poking fun at the passing parade.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.