When I began writing my memoir, I never dreamed a man in my critique group would someday say, “I’d like to see your soup beans, greens, and cornbread recipes in this story.”

“Recipes?” I replied. “Who doesn’t know how to boil greens in bacon fat, and mix self-rising cornmeal with buttermilk for cornbread?”

“I don’t,” my friend said.

More than a decade since he corrected my wrongful assumption, I’ve included fifty-eight recipes in my memoir cookbook. However, two novels came along and waylaid my progress with what I’ve titled Milk, Honey, and Chocolate Gravy.

You see, I’ve lost enough in this human experience to understand life’s too short to shun the unexpected. We never know what gifts they carry from the realms of Glory. They entreat us to embrace whatsoever is good, pure, and holy. The benefits of delay far exceed the risks we take to pursue a new vision. So I gave my best to both novels, meanwhile interviewing my mother’s brothers to preserve family history. One by one they’ve left us. Now Uncle Herm is the last McCoy son standing at age 93. Our extended family gathers July 22 for a reunion in Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve prepared my list of questions for our beloved patriarch.

For example, during last winter’s reprieve from gardening, I spent many days researching and writing about the hardships of WWII upon my mother’s parents, Floyd and Ollie Hunt McCoy. Their eldest son, James, joined the Marine Corps at age eighteen. My mother, Sadie Lee, their firstborn, was beholden to leave the McCoy farm to work in a city’s factory to send money home to help pay their bills.

What city gave my mother refuge? Who befriended her? And what happened to the photo of her on the assembly line, wearing large, white gloves and a big smile?

Later, her brother James was commissioned to the Korean battlefront. Not to be overlooked, her youngest brother, Leonard, ran away from home, lied about his age, joined the Marines, and landed in Japan.

However, when he reported to his officer, the stern man presented him a letter of revelation and intervention from his mother. “Son, you’re under age, and you’re going home.”

Fifteen-year-old Leonard McCoy watched his platoon board the plane and leave him behind, deflated. What good was he to his parents and country?

Once the aircraft was airborne, “it blew up into a million pieces,” as my uncle recalled. “If I’d boarded that plane, I would’ve never married Alma Leigh, the love of my life.” Alma Leigh Estep, the most colorful girl in Delorme, West Virginia, became Alma Leigh McCoy, the most fashionable woman in Kentucky.

Dear Reader, last Father’s Day, while our youngest daughter prepared brunch, my husband spied a remarkable photo my mother gave our daughter years ago. On the back is dated “5/6/45” with “Ernie, Mr. Hunt, Sadie Lee, and Leonard.”

I praise Aunt Ernie, James McCoy’s wife, for this unexpected gift to share with Uncle Herm when I see him.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail. com