Posts Tagged ‘Bee sting’

A Few of Grandma’s Mysteries

February 7, 2012 2 comments

My maternal grandmother always seemed old to me. I have no memories of how she looked before I was old enough to go to school, and she died when I was twelve.

I do remember a few things; conversations overheard, and the like. She had several philosophies that would shock many reading about them today. I grew up in that era of the “children should be seen and not heard” child-rearing techniques.

In fairness I must say that I learned a lot about many things by having to keep silent.

For instance, I learned that that tiny woman of barely four feet ten, was strong, and not just physically. There was one story that Mom told about the day that Grandma was bitten by the snake. Mom figured that it was a copperhead or cottonmouth since there had been no sounding rattles.

This event happened back in the late 30’s or early 40’s when a person had to be on death’s threshold before they’d go to a doctor. The way I understood the story, Grandma waited until she got sick and then agreed to go to seek help. That she did this didn’t surprise me at the time. That she followed doctor’s orders was what kept my attention and respect.

The doctor’s prescription was for her to take a drop of arsenic each day to counteract the snakebite venom. Antivenin hadn’t made its appearance yet. So there she was, still sick from snakebite and dropping arsenic each day to compensate. At the time I first heard the story. I was old enough to know that arsenic was poisonous; too young to wrap my head around the belief that such a prescription would actually work.

Grandma would have laughed if she’d heard my questions about it. The snakebite wasn’t nearly as deadly as Malaria, which she and both daughters contracted during the war. They all landed in the hospital for treatment. It was the first time that Grandma had ever been in the hospital for any reason, as far as I know.

She was the one who would wait for the menfolk to exit the house during visits on Sunday so that she and the other females could imbibe in a tiny snifter of her homemade elderberry wine. I think I was about ten when she handed me a small snifter of my own. I was stunned the first time she did it. Alcohol was verboten in our house, but Mom didn’t blink an eye when snifters and decanter came down from the sideboard.

When I was eleven, not long before my twelfth birthday, she and Grandfather were visiting on a Sunday afternoon.  People did that back then. I was outside playing with my brother when I stepped on a honeybee. Needless to say, I yelped, hopped, and generally acted like a girl.

I got inside the house and reported the incident to Mom. With my Dad deathly allergic to bees, Mom always watched our reactions very carefully, though I didn’t realize that was the reason until adulthood. (I began my senior moments a few decades too early, you understand.)

Grandma took my hand and my brother’s hand and led us outside. She had us sit on the well platform beside her.

I can close my eyes and still feel her hands cradling my swollen foot that throbbed as if it’d been stomped on. Her eyes were closed, even as mine dripped tears of pain and uncertainty. Brother was unusually silent as he watched the procedure.

Quiet words flowed from her, repeating gospel verses such as “Wherever two or more are gathered in His name…” and moving on to more prayer-like sentences. I do remember hearing absolute silence all around us. That’s hard to achieve on a bright summer day in the country.

As she made her prayer, Grandma gently stroked my foot, first the swollen red venom site, along the ball and on to the toes, and back along the top to the ankle and down the heel. Her fingers, which moved to the equivalent of a whisper of movement, traced each part of my foot with the transience of a feather on the breeze.

When she finished her ministrations and her prayer, Brother and I said “Amen” and waited.

This tiny lady, with her Mrs. Beasley glasses and hair pulled away from her pudgy cheeks, turned to me and said, “From this day on, you will never again be stung by a bee. If you should step on one, it must defend itself, but you will not swell or have pain.”

Those intense eyes of hers held mine until I nodded my understanding. At that moment outside sound flooded back in, the world righted itself, and we returned to the house.

My foot? All swelling and pain had disappeared while we sat at the well. To this day, over 50 years later, I have never been stung by another bee. In fact, bees and wasps will walk all over me and never bother to sting.

How did she do it? I can only conclude that she asked the Creator for a favor and had it granted. That’s enough for me to understand.