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Uncle Ronnie finally went to the hospital on a Monday in May, after going all weekend not telling anyone about his chest pain. I chided him for not going to the doctor at the first sign of trouble despite my longstanding inclination to do exactly the same thing. He and I put the "pro" in procrastination. Mama always told me I was born late and would be late to my own funeral. I told her she'd have to wait and see.

Thankfully, Uncle Ronnie's procrastination didn't land him in the funeral parlor, and for that, I credit a healthy dose of orneriness, Aunt Shirley and the Man Upstairs. He pulled through open heart surgery fine and has slowly and steadily been on the mend. Over the past few months, he's sent messages recounting his progress in his trademark all-caps-sans-punctuation format.

"TIRED AFTER REHAB DID THREE QUARTERS OF MILE ON TREADMILL BOUGHT A NEW CALF SUNDAY SO HAD 2 GET UP AT SIX 2 FEED I AM DOING GREAT," one text read.

Another read, "HAY GIRL BEEN SO BUSY CUT AND BALED HAY ALL LAST WEEK LONG HOURS BUT I HELD UP GOOD THAT HEART BY PASS DONE ITS JOB HAULED OFF STEER 2 DAY."

I adore how each message gives equal weight to health and farm happenings, just as he values them in life. Most messages he sends end with "LOVE YOU," "MISS YOU," or "ABSOLUTELY" -- the latter of which is our standard reply when we couldn't agree more heartily about something.

Then last week, I received this message:

"WELL I WAS EXPOSED LAST THURSDAY AT REHAB BUT IT WAS NOT THE GOOD KIND," Uncle Ronnie joked before breaking the news. "I TESTED POSITIVE FOR THE VIRUS"

My heart sank. He's a "seasoned" adult with a few extra pounds on him who just had major surgery due to a serious underlying medical condition. He's like Dr. Fauci's poster child for persons most likely to push daisies from covid-19. And he's dear to me. All of which is why he delayed several days before telling me he was sick.

He assured me he was fine and feeling better. He said Aunt Shirley tested negative and that they were in quarantine for 10 days, which must be a heightened subcategory of quarantine since they already live in Piggott. He proceeded to write about the cows and Lulu – the neighbors' Great Pyrenees that he got in the neighbors' divorce. I think my uncle is the only person in the tri-county area to acquire property from a divorce proceeding not his own.

His birthday was Sunday, and I asked him how he spent it.

"IT WAS A GOOD DAY WATCHED COWBOY SHOWS ALL DAY LONG EXCEPT FOR PREACHING JUST GLAD 2 BE KICKING RIGHT NOW FEELING BETTER EACH DAY 72 THAT IS IN THE OLD AGE GROUP LOVE YOU."

One more day with my favorite cowboy still upright in his boots? I'll take that. Absolutely.

Lisa Kelley-Gibbs is a Southern storyteller, lawyer and country gal living a simple urban life in downtown Bentonville. Email her at [email protected]

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