The incoming call triggered my internal alarm. My Kentucky sister doesn’t typically phone during a workday. I assumed sad news.

“Patty, what’s going on?”

“Are you busy?”

“Just making Quiche Lorraine for company. And you?”

“I’m roosterin’ up,” she said.

I envisioned her makeup table covered with lighted mirror and all manner of beauty products and curling irons.

“I have a closing in south Williamson this mornin’, then I’m off to Pikeville,” Patty said.

Her route pops up on memory’s map–the landmarks she’ll pass along Route 23 and Kentucky’s Big Sandy River.

She relays her frustration with expiring curling irons and offers her family’s Christmas logistics.

Then she says, “I have some sad news.”

I think it’s Uncle Tab, our mother’s youngest brother who lives in Lexington, Kentucky. With the pandemic restrictions for senior care residents, I’ve not seen him in two years.

“Did you hear about cousin Ronnie?” Patty asks.


“He passed away yesterday at age eighty-three.”

“Well, I’m sorry for his wife Jenny, but I’m glad I visited Ronnie and Uncle Tab in Florida several winters ago,” I said.

“I forgot about that.”

“I’ll share the details some other time.”

We said our good-byes with cousin Ronnie and the mid-fifties on my mind.

Dad drove to Peter Creek, Kentucky, and brought sixteen-year old Edgil Ronnie and his pitching arm to our home on Yacama Street in Detroit.

Cousin Ronnie threw a mean fastball backed up with his curveball and made the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm team. Mom packed her favorite nephew man-sized lunches with a thermos of sweet tea for the ball field.

She kept my two sisters and me quiet on his days off from ball practice so cousin Ronnie could sleep in.

“The boy has growin’ to do,” Mom said.

One sunny day, cousin Ronnie took my hand for a walk. I heard change jingling in his pocket. We turned the corner onto Seven Mile Road where he held the door open to Brown’s Creamery.

I spun on the stool for the first time and ordered chocolate malt.

Sixty-some years later, I visited Uncle Tab, cousin Ronnie, and their wives in their Florida homes. Cousin Ronnie and I walked their neighborhood together.

“Your mommy would give me her loose change,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “‘Take Iris and treat yourselves to an ice cream,’ she’d say.”

Mom did the same for my older and younger sister until cousin Ronnie blew out his pitching arm and the Phillies’ coach sent him home.

I pined when Dad drove Cousin Ronnie back to Peter Creek. Mom did too.

Two Februarys later, Mom and Dad brought Patty home from the hospital to Joann Street in Detroit.

Dear Reader, the Christmas before, our father bought his first movie camera and lights. Although we have no film of cousin Ronnie’s fastball backed up by a curveball, my sisters and I have hours of Baby Patty drooling and taking her first steps before Dad’s bright lights.

The predecessor to Patty’s makeup mirror?

Contact Iris at