COVID Chronicle: COVID can’t keep ‘Poppa” down

This latest COVID Chronicle was submitted for a Media Writing class assignment.

My grandfather, who I refer to as Poppa, was diagnosed with COVID about two weeks ago.

I have always seen Poppa as a cowboy. Not just because of his looks, but by his way of living. He is brave, tough as nails, and always keeps his word. His salt and pepper beard, dirty hands, and the horse pasture in the backyard also contribute to why I have always envisioned him in this way. 

When my mom told me that he had tested positive, I started thinking about him and how I have this idea that he’s going to live forever, when in reality, time is not in our favor. He has lived through so much in his life and honestly, cheated death a few too many times. 

I promise this is not a super sad story that is going to end in tears, I just wanted to share a few memories and stories I have tucked away about my Poppa because until two weeks ago, I had not thought about them for a long time. 

Poppa and Maga (my grandmother) live in Ludlow, Vermont, and met as ski instructors at Killington Mountain. Growing up in the ’70s, they truly embraced the hippie Vermonter lifestyle. They had two kids, a huge house, two barns, a lot of land and always a plethora of animals. 

In all honesty, I couldn’t remember half of their names if I tried so I called Maga because she knows all of their names, birthdays, and pictures to prove it. 

For dogs, we’ve got Dillon, Raja, Mitsy, Clover, Lily, Brooklyn, Angel, Kitty, Luke, Venus, Saturn and Daisy. The cats were Saige, Licorice, Maverick and Sassafrass. There were ducks at one point, a guinea pig named Guinea Pig and then we’ve got the horses; Thunder, Callie, Strawberry, Princess, Summer, Tophat, Sunny and Dancer – which brings us to my first story about Poppa. 

I remember seeing a scar on Poppa’s face when I was young. I asked him what had happened and he told me that one of their ponies, Dancer, gave him a “kiss” on his cheek. Even back then I knew that wasn’t a nice peck on the cheek. 

Poppa got bit by a horse. 

When I was around 13 years old, Poppa got into a car accident. It was really bad. He was brought to Dartmouth, where he stayed in the ICU and was later transferred to a rehabilitation facility. He had a long road of recovery, but as soon as he was back home he was stacking wood and mowing the lawn, even though he was probably in a lot of pain. 

I was amazed by his ability to push through and bounce back as if nothing had happened, he is incredible. 

If you couldn’t tell, Poppa likes to get shit done by himself. 

I remember when hurricane Irene hit and we were stuck at their house due to a washed-out road below. We needed to get into town after a few days of isolation so Poppa hopped in his backhoe and made a wide enough road so we could take four-wheelers into town. 

My hero. 

I have very vivid memories of Poppa on his backhoe. Riding the bucket up to the top of the hayloft to fill it is probably one of my favorites. But the backhoe would come back to bite him in the ass. I believe it was almost a year ago that he was fixing something underneath it and the backhoe ran him over. Yeah, like actually ran him over. It might’ve resulted in a broken rib and maybe something wrong with his hip, but other than that he was fine after a few weeks of relaxation. 

I have one last story, though I could think of so many more. 

One day, Poppa was doing something with his tools in the barn while I was probably braiding the horses’ tails when I heard him yell. When I walked outside, his arm was bleeding and he was cussing like I had never heard before. My first thought was “wow, the swear jar is gonna be so full,” but my second thought was worry for Poppa. He grabbed a knife, heated it up, sat down on a stump, shoved his handkerchief in his mouth, and cauterized his wound right in front of me. 

No, I’m not joking. 

This was the first time I had learned that dog saliva has antibacterial properties because afterward, Panda came up and was licking the burn. I was a little freaked out, but mostly amazed by Poppa and how strong he was. 

After these stories, I’m sure you can see why I look at Poppa as a badass and invincible cowboy that will always be around. 

He is now through the worst of COVID and is recovering well. Even though I was worried and upset when my mom told me about his results, I thought about all the years of crazy things that Poppa has gone through, and I knew he would be okay.

There is no way that COVID is going to be the one thing that gets the best of him.

No way in hell. 

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