My grandma passed away last month, and I'm lucky that I knew her. I met and spent some time with all four of my grandparents at different points in my childhood, and they all affected me in positive ways.
(The comic strip is after this essay, so if you don't want to read, scroll on down).
Granny was a fan of words, and even though I spent less time with her than many of my cousins did, I still know all about her love of Webster (the dictionary), and I can recall plenty of laughter centered around the correct and incorrect use of words. Her love of the dictionary was something that I inherited.
She also liked the comic strips that ran in the newspaper, and her and my grandpa said bye to me more than once by telling me that they'd see me "in the funny papers". That farewell inspired me to do this comic tribute to Granny to thank her for being such an amazing grandmother to me even though I didn't get to spend much time with her.
This comic is the story of a day one summer when I was something like seven or eight years old. My parents had sent us to West Virginia on a plane by ourselves (the flight attendants looked out for us...can you imagine doing this now?) Papa Junior (dad's dad) picked us up at the airport, at the gate where there was no security, and we stayed with our grandparents for a few days at a time at each of their houses.
Granny and Papa had honeybees (and cows and sheep and chickens and maybe pigs) at this time, and I'd been warned not to get too close to the bees or I might get stung. So I stayed away from the bee hive. I'd never been stung by a bee, and I knew enough about pain to want to avoid it.
I ran outside and played the way kids play when they have nothing but open spaces and their imaginations. I climbed the fence, swung from tree branches, threw rocks, smashed dirt clods. I did whatever I could to pass the time. What I probably wanted to do was play Nintendo; luckily the adults in my life didn't let me do that all day every day.
There was a lot of clover in Granny and Papa's yard, and that meant the honeybees were in the yard collecting pollen. I was oblivious to this because I didn't know how bees did what they do and because I was a daydreaming kid who ran around thinking about wars between dragons and trolls and knights and goblins.
I'm not sure what caused it to happen, but a bee must have thought I was an aggressor, and it zipped up and stung me on the upper lip. My actual memory of the aftermath is that I ran toward the house and wound up in Granny's arms. I don't remember Granny even asking me what happened. I just remember her being at the sliding door to meet me and placing an ice cube on my lip. It made the pain go away. Granny hugged me, and I felt safe even though my parents were thousands of miles away.
I have other memories about my time on the farm. Granny fried country ham and made biscuits and gravy. There were a lot of green beans and pickled beets and pickled eggs (and pickles). We baled hay, and it scratched my forearms and dust made my eyes red. We looked for deer at dusk, and there was a lot of laughter about silly things that I'll likely never remember. I had a serious fear when riding on the wagon behind the tractor that it would kick up a cow pie and spray manure all over me (this never happened, luckily).
I moved around more than a lot of kids (and way less than others.) Dad's job kept us away from our extended family most of the time. That's just how it goes for some people. But even though I didn't spend a lot of time with my grandparents, I know they love me. I knew it as a kid, and I know it now. I'm a lucky guy for more reasons than I can count.
See you in the funny papers, Granny. Love you.