“Iris, don’t be surprised if Daddy doesn’t remember you. And I can’t promise he’ll be awake for a visit,” my cousin said on the phone.

“Thanks for the warning. It’s been two years since we last saw him, so we’ll take the risk. Besides, Mel and I plan to visit Mom’s grave in Lexington.”

“I suggest you visit Daddy in the morning. He’s at his best before lunch.”

I hung up the phone, for we still use our souped-up landline with our thirty-two year-old number. Our flip phones serve for emergencies and road travel.

Uncle Tab, on the other hand, embraced modern technology, his cell phone a form of abiding with his grandchildren.

That was before the death of his beloved wife three years ago. Then my uncle suffered a stroke. He lost the privilege of his phone and never returned home. Therefore, Mel and I visited my uncle in a memory care facility in Lexington two summers ago. Tough as nails, he survived another stroke and facility transition this past year.

How I anticipated his laugh again! For I believed nothing could quench his “early to rise” commitment to life as a farm boy, coal mine operator, and great-grandparent.

He never lost his love for play after a day’s work, such as running leg races with my sisters, cousins and me when we visited for summer vacation. I remembered his face blackened with coal dust. The white of his eyes and pink lips could’ve been any other coal miner’s.

Yet, as everyone else, I knew Tab McCoy by the flick of his fingers and swagger in his shoulders.

I can’t recall life without Uncle Tab for he and Uncle Herm lived with my parents in our Kentucky homeplace in my infancy until they married as young men.

The two youngest sons of Floyd and Ollie McCoy bounced me on their knees and recited, “Ars Lee caught a flea sittin’ on her daddy’s knee.”

At last, when we walked into Uncle Tab’s room, I said, “I’m Ars Lee, and this is Mel,” he smiled and repeated my name.

As we sat together outside during his lunch, he lifted a glass of milk to his lips and closed his eyes. “Lord, thank you for this food and my family. Please keep them from harm in your tender care. Amen.”

Oh yes, my uncle is grateful for good food. As he dipped crinkle-cut fries in ketchup, I asked, “Do they serve you greasy beans here?”

He paused, put down his French fry, and touched one large-boned finger to another. A family trait.

“First, if you want to grow good beans, you’ve got to have good seed.”

Mel and I nodded. Uncle Tab taught us how to save good seed from fresh greasy beans.

He counted on another finger. “And you need fertilizer.”

Dear Reader, I didn’t have the heart to tell my uncle that Mel no longer wants to string greasy beans and planted a stringless variety instead.

That’s one significant thing he would’ve remembered.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com