I have lived in the same general area for 50 of my 54 years. The 4 years away were the college years. In the years after college, I have lived in 2 homes – an apartment for 5 years and the house I now own (which originally was my grandmother’s house – she bought it new). My children have lived in one place until college. They are now adults – my son is still here due to his disability, my daughter is in another state and has had a number of residences, but is single, so there is no family disruption. I guess I have taken stability for granted in my life.
My Lakota friends are a different story. I know that Mom lived on the rez at Pine Ridge as a child, but moved away as soon as she could. Got married too young, too. Had kids too young, too. I’m not sure where she lived in Salt Lake City or how many moves there might have been. As her daughters got older, she was concerned about the atmosphere the girls were in and moved back to the rez. But she was unhappy there and getting unhappier by the day. She recently remarried – a good thing for her. And they have decided to move off the rez again.
In the past 18 months, they have lived in at least 4 different places. Only one of those was a place where their family was the only one in the home. Usually there were at least one elder and additional adults and children also living in the home.
Today I called to see how their move to Nebraska was coming along. I was informed that they had moved, so of course I guessed to Nebraska. No, I was told, to a motel in Rapid City. They gave me the name of the motel but didn’t have the number. Okay …. not really a problem for me – I used to do investigations in an insurance company, I have a computer and I’m somewhat creative. I found what I guessed was the right motel using the Yellow Pages online and called there. After explaining who I was looking for and where I was (half a country away), the gentleman informed me that, yes, they were expected today by 4 PM (it was now 5:30 their time) but they had not arrived yet. They had called a few days earlier for a place. I know they won’t have the funds to call me, so I just left my name and a message that I was trying to get in touch. I’m hoping they’re on “Indian time” and will show up sometime tonight. I may try again in a couple of days. I’m hoping they have not had transportation trouble along the way. I’m hoping this is a temporary stop before moving to Nebraska, where I thought they had an apartment lined up. I’m hoping a whole lot of things …
Why? Well, I guess I’m thinking about those girls, especially my special girl (I don’t know what to call her, really, maybe godchild – she is no longer just a girl I sponsor; she truly is special). I know the Lakota were nomadic before the pioneers and the Army interfered. So maybe they are more comfortable than I am with the mobile lifestyle they have lived. But I think in this day and age, kids need some stability. A place to call their own.
My “godchild” asked at the end of school if she could come stay with us for the summer. She said she had spent plenty of summers with her mother already. I think she knew it would be a summer of changes – she’ll be 12 later this month. It broke my heart to say no. There were just too many reasons why we could not do that. But the mother in me yearned to say yes, to say come live with us, get a good education, know some stability in your life. Fortunately or unfortunately, I know myself and my limitations. I have fibromyalgia. We travel a lot. We are semi-empty-nesters (having an adult child is way different than a preteen) and we like it. The hospitality gene skipped a generation and I didn’t get it (my mother and daughter have a gift for it; not me). So, I said no. And my heart broke.
Now I have no way to contact my “godchild” and her family. I don’t know where they are or what their plans are. I really wanted to do what I could to make sure that she got a solid start and lots of support in a new school. Please understand, I like being incommunicado when I’m on vacation. I’m not a big fan of phones in general. We finally caved in and got a cell phone last year, which we use rarely but have “in case of emergency.” You will never find us with the cell phone glued to our ear while we drive down the road or in the market or in the restaurant. But that’s another story.
I’m trying to find a way to support my friends in a lifestyle I really don’t understand and know I wouldn’t like for myself. I love to travel, but I also treasure that I have a place to call my own (and the bank’s for at least a few more years). I fear for my “godchild” that she will not find her way in life easy. I know – none of us really have it easy. But some definitely have it tougher than others. And being 1,500 miles away makes it difficult to show love and support, and to teach the things that have made my 50+ years better.
So I pray, because it is the only thing I know will help – and I try to keep up with all the moves my friends make.