Bee Calm

Last night as we were sitting in the living room watching TV, one of the boys pointed out that there was a bee flying up near the ceiling, bumping into the lights but not doing much else.

Oh, I thought, maybe I should try to whack it, or somehow get it to go outside. But it was up there, just bumping around, not really bothering anyone, nor were we bothering it. So okay, I thought, no big deal.

What none of us were counting on was Chucky. He’s one of our cats, a stray we took in a couple of months ago. I guess he must have batted the bee out of the air because next thing I knew it was stumbling around on the sofa, right next to Al. And then Al, who didn’t know the bee was there, put his left hand down right where it was. He lifted his hand up a moment later and the bee was gone. Without thinking, he’d scooped it right up.

“Al,” I said, getting up, trying to figure out how to get that bee out of there without freaking Al out and/or getting him stung.

But it was too late. He jumped up and started running, holding his left hand with his right. The bee had stung him.

Now let’s pause for a moment and think about how bee stings usually go. I think we’ve all been stung at least once, right? I got stung by a bee once when I was a kid. It sucked but it was no big deal. I cried. So let’s pause and imagine Al running over to me, crying, and Leen saying Oh what happened, oh that bee stung you, oh poor Al. And we wipe his tears away and google all sorts of home remedies for bee stings and pick the least crazy one we can find, and we apply that remedy and maybe wipe some more tears away, and then we all go to bed.

Well, that’s not what happened. Because things aren’t like when we were kids, are they? No, these days bees can kill your kids. Just like peanuts can kill your kids. You have to watch out for bees and peanuts. And cars. For God’s sake, don’t let your kids play outside! If they do, they’re probably going to get hit by a car. And if they somehow manage to dodge all the cars that are driving around trying to hit kids, they’re going to be taken by one of the child molesters who are waiting on every street corner for some careless parent to let their kids wander out of their sight. Yes, folks, it’s a mad, dangerous world out there for our kids, and it’s full of killer bees.

Anyway, I digress. Suffice it to say that thanks to NatGeo Wild or something, Al thought bee stings were way more deadly than they actually are. So instead of just running over and showing me his booboo, he ran around the living room as fast as he could, leaving a trail of blood-curdling screams in his wake.

This wasn’t the first time something he’d seen on TV had left him with a horrible fear of something. A couple of years ago, one of those Caught on Camera shows had a segment where a car got hit by raging flood waters and the occupants narrowly escaped by climbing out onto the roof and leaping into the arms of rescuers. After that, Al was absolutely terrified of heavy rain that sent water flowing down the street. At the time, we lived on the 18th floor of an apartment building, but during heavy rain he would run around in a panic, screaming about how we were going to get washed away. It was terrible and hilarious at the same time. Well no, not at the same time. Terrible then, hilarious now.

Anyway, Leen and I both took a look at the sting, and it looked okay. I mean, his thumb was red and kind of swollen, but minutes after the sting he still looked okay. He wasn’t convulsing on the floor or frothing at the mouth or swelling up like a balloon and thaying eberything like thith becauthe ob all the thwelling. He seemed fine…except he was still shrieking OH GOD AM I GONNA DIE I DON’T WANNA DIE and jumping around like he was on fire. So we figured we’d better take him to the clinic up the road just in case. Bee stings can be dangerous, Leen said, which really just made Al shriek louder. Well yeah, I said, recalling this guy I did basic training with in the army reserves. He had to carry a little kit around with him everywhere he went because he was allergic to bee stings. Cue more shrieking.

Meanwhile, the bee was still on the sofa, stumbling around, its guts oozing out where the stinger had come off. Chucky was thoroughly traumatized by this point, probably by all the screaming, and wasn’t going anywhere near it now. I picked up one of the sofa’s massive cushions and hit the bee hard. When I lifted the cushion up, the bee was still stumbling around, so I hit it again. Still stumbling. Whack! Stumble. Whack! Stumble. Oh for…WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! Finally the damn thing stopped moving. And the whole time, Al was screaming like he was being hacked to death with a machete dipped in flaming acid.

Why the neighbours weren’t all out in front of their houses when we went outside, I’ll never know. It’s a bit disturbing, actually, to think the sound of someone being murdered wouldn’t bring the whole neighbourhood out. Thanks, guys. Anyway, we went outside and I unlocked the car and Leen and Al got inside, and I put Aaron in the back and closed the door and suddenly HE was shrieking, and I was all What’s wrong with you and then Leen was shrieking HIS FINGERS! HIS FINGERS! So yeah, I had slammed the door on Aaron’s hand. So I opened the door and moved his mangled fingers out of the way, closed the door again, and got in the car and off we went.

The clinic, the only one around that was open at that hour, was packed. Well, I thought, if they assess Al and suggest we wait, then it’s probably no big deal and we can just go home. So they assessed Al and suggested we go to a hospital, the sole reason being that there were so many people ahead of us at the clinic. My brain could not brain that (if it’s serious, can’t he just be given priority? If it’s not serious, why go to a hospital?). Bee stings are dangerous, the nurse/receptionist said, which got Al shrieking again, all the way back to the car.

So we were cruising into Kajang town, debating which hospital to go to, while Al shrieked in the back seat. Fortunately Aaron had stopped shrieking already, but I can’t recall the exact moment he stopped because the inside of the car was stuffed to the roof with shrieking, punctuated by Leen and me yelling as we debated our destination. We decided to go to Hospital Kajang, because we knew KPJ would make a huge deal out of the sting even if it was nothing, and they’d charge us a lot for it. So I put on my four-way flashers and ran a red light near the police station and we turned into the Hospital Kajang compound.

The doctor in triage said Al would probably end up getting an injection, and suddenly Al went from shrieking that his pain was a ten to calmly saying it was maybe a two. No, one. Actually you know what Mommy, I feel okay now. But we were there, and Leen was concerned, and eventually Al’s number came up, so I waited out in the waiting room and sat in front of some kid who was feverish and coughing and puking while Aaron slept in my arms. We were sitting there for what seemed like an eternity, and then I heard Al shrieking in the examination room. The shrieking went on for a minute or two, then went silent. Then, finally, Leen and Al emerged. I half expected Leen to be carrying him, but he was walking, his good hand on his butt. He had been given a tetanus shot. Okay, I thought, whatever. It only cost us one ringgit. Let’s go home.

So we finally got home and slumped onto the sofa. The bee was nowhere to be found. Chucky must have eaten it, we all said. Then I saw it, right where Al was sitting. It was dead, right under his leg. But I didn’t say anything until Al had already got up and moved far enough away.

Because you know, shrieking.

In one ear…

I was taking a shower this morning when Al yelled from the living room, “Daddy, your phone!”

“Answer it,” I yelled back, “it’s probably Mommy!” Leen was on her way to a conference somewhere in Shah Alam and, fully expecting to hit heavy traffic and probably get lost, promised to call me with updates.

“It IS Mommy!” Al yelled (there’s a lot of yelling in our family). So he answered the phone. By this time he was standing at the open bathroom door.

“Yes,” he said. “Uh-huh. Mmm-hmmm. Yes. Yes. Uh-huh. Okay. Okay, I love you too Mommy. Okay, bye.”

“So what did she say?” I asked, assuming she’d just given him an important message for me.

“She said ‘Blah blah blah’,” said Al.

“What? Come on buddy, really, what did she say?”

Al bit his lower lip, squinted his eyes, searched his memory.

“Uh….she said ‘Blah blah blah’.”

Tell me, how did my five-year-old suddenly become a teenager?

Lost Treasures

I am a chronic procrastinator. It’s something I know I need to work on, and I will. Some other time. But for now, here’s an example of how procrastination and genealogy do not work well together.

Wait, you might say, don’t they? I mean, the great uncle who was dead 30 years ago will still be dead five years from now. Quite true. There are parts of my family tree I’d love to look into but will probably only do so several years from now, mostly because I have neither the time nor the money to do so right now. There’s no rush. The history will still be there, waiting for me.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work that way.

Several weeks ago, my grandfather, who was trying to recover from pneumonia, fell in his bathroom and broke his hip. The next week or so after that was a rollercoaster of emotions for the entire family. At one point, it seemed the end was very near. My mother and most of her siblings took turns sitting with him in the hospital, hoping against hope that Papa would somehow pull through, but thinking that he probably wouldn’t.

To make a long story short: He pulled through. The doctors don’t know how long he’ll still be around — it could be just a few months — but he’s still around. He’s back at home. He’s still the toughest man I know. He’s still the Highlander.

That whole episode really drove home the fact at some point, people will be gone. It’s not like I didn’t know it already, but Papa’s latest brush with mortality really got me thinking I should make sure I talk to my elderly relatives while they’re still around. When they’re gone, it’s too late. Your aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, grandparents…they’ve all got stories to tell. They can send you to another time, a time when you weren’t alive. They can tell you about their lives, and about the lives of people who were part of a grand story called The Making of You. They’re important. And they won’t be here forever.

I thought of Papa’s brother Jack. After the deaths of Hughie, Hector, Ronald, Robert, and the other MacLeods of MacLeod Settlement in Glencoe, Jack came into possession of the property, at least that’s what Papa told me. Jack spent time up there when those guys were still alive. He’d have stories. He’d probably be able to shed some light on a few foggy spots in my information about the MacLeods. At the very least, he’d be able to tell me his story. His stories.

The last time I saw Jack was when I was a kid. I might not even know him if he passed right in front of me, but that’s probably not true because you can’t mistake the MacLeods. I do vaguely remember one of his daughters once babysat me and my brother for about a week but never did so again, probably because of the time I found a rusty pair of garden shears in a brook and when Troy said ‘Throw them over’ I did just that and the damn things stuck right into his leg, and our cousin — I think it was Sheila — had to take him to the hospital. God, we drove her crazy. Good times. Anyway, it had been a while since I last had any contact with Jack, but I knew he still lived in Sydney, on Townsend Street. So I looked up his number online. I reached for my phone, then thought, No, I’ll call him tomorrow.

The next day I did the same thing. Every time I went to call Jack, I thought I’d just be bothering him. I figured I’d just call the next day, when I had a better idea what I would say to him, what I would ask him. The episode with Papa had driven home the point that you can’t let things go too long. But hey, Jack is Papa’s youngest brother. My great-grandmother was pregnant with Jack when my great-grandfather was killed. Papa’s going on 83 but Jack’s just turned 74. He’ll be around at least a little while longer.

Well, no.

It is with heavy hearts that we, the family, announce the sudden passing of Jack MacLeod on Sunday, July 24, 2011, at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Sydney.
Born in Sydney, he was the son of the late John and Susan (Powell) MacLeod.
Jack was in the military for 33 years, including a tour in Germany, until his retirement in 1988. He held many roles, but was particularly proud of being a paratrooper and a tank corps member as a radio operator.
Jack was also a member of the Royal Canadian Legion branch 12.
Jack was a gifted athlete. He particularly loved baseball and hockey, which he played competitively as well as coached. In his retirement, Jack enjoyed woodworking and painting.
He had the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and immediately understand what was important to them. He will always be remembered for this gift.
He is survived by his loving wife, Rose (Twerd) MacLeod; his children, Ronald Joseph (Bev) MacLeod, Regina, Sask., Carol Ann (Joe) Lewis, Sydney, N.S., Sheila Marie DiPenta (Guy Choquette), Swift Current, Sask., and Stanley Charles MacLeod (Melissa Harper), Mesa, Ariz.; and seven grandchildren.
He is also survived by three sisters, Mary (Frank) O’Brien, Florence (late Fern) MacLeod, Frances (Jack) O’Brien, all of Sydney, N.S.; two brothers, Duncan (Mary Theresa) MacLeod, Sydney, N.S., and Ronald MacLeod, Toronto, Ont.; several nieces and nephews, as well as many special close friends.
Besides his parents, Jack was predeceased by his daughter, Stephanie in infancy, sisters, Pauline Morrison and Jessie MacEachern and brothers, John, Hughie, Fraser, James ‘Jim’ and Donald.
Cremation has taken place. There will be no visitation by request.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, July 28, 2011, at the S.W. Chant & Son Funeral Home, 564 Alexandra St., Sydney, with Pastor Sheldon Chant officiating.
Interment to take place in Resurrection Cemetery, Sydney Forks. In lieu of flowers, donations will gratefully be accepted on behalf of the charity of your choice.
Online condolences may be sent to our web page at

Mom Skyped me the other night to tell me about Jack’s passing. It seems he was with his wife Rose at Dominion Beach when he just dropped. He was unconscious before he even hit the ground. A lifeguard did CPR and Jack was rushed to the hospital, where he had a second heart attack and died.

I think I’ll always regret not making that call. There are a few other calls I can still make. Better not put them off too long. Some of our family history is just history, but there’s also living history. Don’t wait, go and find it. And treasure it.