Sunday, December 11, 2011

Traveling with Bees

 Recently I flew back to North Carolina for an emergency trip to see my paternal grandfather, who was in the final weeks of his life.  I got the call on a Monday that I needed to be there within two weeks if I wanted to see him, so I purchased my ticket and flew out at 6:15 on Thursday morning--Thanksgiving Day.

The only time I've traveled since beginning with the bees in April is to New Orleans, and that was an apitherapy conference.  Which meant that I didn't have to worry about procuring bees.

But a last-minute trip with virtually no planning time is a different story.  I'm not supposed to go more than 72 hours without stinging, and I had a week in NC.  And while I didn't ask, I made a pretty reasonable assumption that I could not bring a jar of bees on the plane.  Can you imagine trying to go through airport security with a jar of live bees?

After a little research, I called Dr. David Tarpy at NCSU, but as I was flying in on Thanksgiving day, there was no way for us to coordinate.  And no students were going to be at the NCSU apiculture lab, as it was vacation time.  I hope I can visit their facility next time I come home though.  It seems like it would be an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

Luckily for me, a friend recommended Monica and Todd Warner, who have in Apiary in Youngsville, NC--about 20 minutes north of Raleigh.   I explained to Monica how I "package" my bees, and on my way out to the island on Friday, I swung by her place.  She had gathered about 100 bees in a jar for which she'd also made a mesh lid so that they could breathe.  I placed the jar in my pocketbook so that it wouldn't roll around during the drive, and commenced the 6 hour journey to Ocracoke.

I had to stop a few times for water, groceries,  and pee-breaks.  I did all of these things with a jar of aggitated bees buzzing in my bag.  Some women carry little dogs in their purses.  Me?  Bees.  Turns out, it's probably a good thing that my cel-phone broke before I left.  Hell, I don't get reception on the island anyway.

The other thing I needed was someone to sting me.  My long-time friend Leslie stepped up to the plate.  The weather was beautiful pretty much the whole time I was there, so we did the stings on the back porch of her book store, where I used to work for a couple of summers while I was in college.  

 Leslie did AWESOME.  Saturday morning was the first time.  I did the first six stings on my hands myself to show her, and then she did the remaining 14.  As the stingee, I've been doing this for long enough that I don't really get nervous (although anticipating the stings is often unpleasant).  But it can be nervewracking for the stinger, especially the first time.  Reaching into a jar of bees with a long set of tweezers isn't exactly a relaxing past-time.  Leslie was very brave throughout the process.  Then, when she did the last sting, she was so relieved that it was over that she cried.  We did it twice more while I was there, and she handled those bees like a pro.

I want to say something about what kind of friend Leslie is.  My poppy was in the final stages of cancer.  It had spread through his entire body, and I knew that he was going to look bad.  I didn't know how bad, but when you only see an older person once a year, the changes from one visit to the next can be...dramatic.  I wanted to be strong for him, but I was afraid that I break down in tears the moment I walked in the door from seeing him suffering so much and from knowing that I was going to lose him soon.

So when I got off the ferry, I first drove to Leslie's shop, and asked her if she would go with me to my grandparents' house.  She let me know that she'd heard from people who went up there that he seemed to be in pretty good spirits, and was enjoying the company.  Just knowing this helped me to be more relaxed.  Then we went together, and I was able to keep it together.  Which helped me be confident that I could keep it together for the entirety of the trip.  I had a few moments where I had to go sit in my car and compose myself, but that's only natural.

Leslie, you were really there for me when I needed you, and I don't think that words can express just how much I appreciate your friendship. 

My Poppy passed away in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.  It was December 7--Pearl Harbor Day.  Today was his funeral.  It made me very sad to miss it.  I was told that the church was packed.  People were standing against the walls on the sides and the back.  People were packed into the space traditionally reserved for the choir.  People were outside.  I know it must have been a beautiful service, because that room was overflowing with love.

Poppy, I will miss you so much.    You will always be in my heart.
RIP Ronald Thomas "Conk" O'Neal
November 2, 1929-December 7, 2011

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandfather. We should all have such a special friend like Leslie.Thinking of you as you grieve the loss of your Grandfather. Lida