A Story of My Life, Part 2: The Bees
My eldest sister Faye, my eldest brother Jerry, and our brother David stayed at home while Mom, Dad and the rest of the children went on an excursion into the country to visit some other relatives on a Sunday afternoon. I was an infant in arms at the time, so I have no first-hand recollection of this story; it comes from my brother Louie.
It's part of the family arcana. Louie remembers it vividly. It's one of those memories that can't be erased, no matter how much time goes by.
Our Aunt Barb stayed with us; she was a house guest for a short while. David, who was nine, and Faye, who was twelve, were NOT supposed to cross the road. It was one of Mother's rules.
We always had such fun when both the parents were away! The atmosphere became instantly lighter. We went all giddy from the relief.
We were also a little bit naughty. While the cats are away...
David and Faye DID cross the road. They went exploring in the woods.
They laughed and chased each other and scared up a rabbit and went splashing through a creek. They had a BLAST! They ran and laughed, having a heck of a good time. Jerry (who was 14 years old at this time) was back at the farm, tinkering with something electronic he was fixing for a neighbor.
So much fun, until...
David stepped on a ground wasps' nest.
David and Faye both fled, screaming, pursued by thousands of angry bees.
David and Faye both suffered many, many bee stings. Auntie Barb did what she could for them: she pulled the stingers with tweezers, she washed the stings in baking soda and water.
David was ok, though not happy. He had a lot of stings on his arms, but only a few on his face and neck, and none on his legs or elsewhere. He was wearing long pants, socks and shoes, and a short-sleeve shirt. The swelling went down soon and there was just a little red place, like a mosquito bite, only larger.
Faye was definitely NOT OK. She was wearing a dress, bobby socks and sneakers, and she got swarmed more than David did, so she had stings EVERYWHERE! She also experienced an allergic reaction.
Her face and body became extremely swollen. Her throat swelled up. She had trouble breathing. Her face turned blue.
Jerry came inside the house. He saw the situation was an emergency, so he got out the tractor and went down the road towards the doctor's house. No one knew how long the parents would be gone, and it looked like Faye might die. There was no phone in the house at that time.
Mom and Dad met Jerry on the road. They stopped the car and stopped him on the tractor, demanding an explanation. What was he DOING, driving the tractor down the road? (I think they might have thought he was running away from home, while they were gone.)
He explained to them what had happened. And it was MOM, this time, not Dad but MOM, who turned Jerry around and sent him back where he came from, and wouldn't let Dad go for help, either. Mom said, "This wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been disobedient. Faye deserves everything that's coming to her. It'll teach her a lesson."
Jerry, David and Louie, all thought that Faye was a goner, and wouldn't survive the night.
But she did.
The above picture is a screensaver she made and emailed to me a little while ago. She calls it, "The Teddy Bear's Picnic".
My sister Faye is a wonderful woman. She's got a lot of spirit and is fun to be around. She makes us all laugh.
She moved south, early on. She can't stand the cold, up north here. She has been married and divorced. She raised four lovely children, mostly single-handed, and my hat is off to her, big time, for that. She loves her children; she loves her grandbabies. She has a deep soft spot for kids. She's a retired schoolteacher now, living in Florida. She taught kindergarten for many years.
My Fayesy Daisy worked hard, all her whole life--sometimes two or three jobs at once, to provide well for her children. We don't get to see much of her, up here, up North, because she really didn't have the time to travel, and because she really doesn't like the cold, and, now that she's retired, because...
I think she doesn't want to be reminded, either, of the hurts of those early days. I really can't say I blame her.
She DID come back to visit, once, about ten years ago. She came back in order to escort our mother on a paddle-boat trip down the Mississippi River.
On the eve of the trip, the bee sting story came up.
Both Faye and Mother remembered it the same way, and both accounts agreed with Louie's memory of that event, which I've related here. Louie was in the car when Mom turned Jerry back around, heading him home and away from the doctor. Louie remembers that long night, helpless to help Faye, thinking each breath would be her last.
I said, "Well, Mom didn't know. She didn't realize bee stings could KILL!"
Mom snapped back, "I DID TOO KNOW! I'm not ignorant, you know. I got stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction. I went to the doctor and he gave me a shot If I didn't get the shot, I could've died."
Faye and I looked at each other.
I said, "But then Mom, WHY didn't you get Faye a doctor?"
Mom said, "Faye deserved whatever she got. She disobeyed me."
Those were almost the exact words Louie heard her speak. She hadn't changed her mind one little bit about the extremity of death as a punishment for minor disobedience on the part of her child. She hadn't softened on that any at all over the years, or experienced any remorse. She had gained no perspective at all over time.
Fay and I both had to shrug our shoulders and shake our heads and let it go.
i discovered then that our mother is not capable of changing.
We can't change the past. We can't change our parents. We can't change someone else's mind for them. The most we can do is try to share a wider perspective; that works at least sometimes.
I'm glad I'm who I am. I'm glad both my sisters are still with me. I'm glad I have my own deeply contented life, which I'm grateful for every moment of the day, apart from my mother's and not under her thumb.
I still love my mother. Of course I do; we only get one mother. If I have some reservations, I try not to let her feel them. I try not to have a punishing attitude towards her for all that we went through as kids. I try hard to extend to her now the kindness and ruth that were missing in her heart for us as children.
If I can succeed in doing this, in spite of an objective recognition of all that was wrong in our upbringing, maybe the world (or at least our tiny corner of it) is a better place.
If you liked this and want to read Part I, click HERE:
- A Story From My Life (Part I)
When I was five and my sister Carole was six, she got whooping cough. It really isn't surprising--our bedroom was unheated and the snow lay deep in the fields of the farm where we grew up. Mom decided to...