It’s been a day of extremes and I am now officially exhausted. Should be no trouble sleeping tonight. Just hope fibromyalgia doesn’t rear it’s ugly head in the morning, but I am afraid it will. It often does that when you push yourself past what you know should be your limits.
The morning started off beautifully. We left the Hampton Inn in Mitchell, SD about 9:15 AM, setting off to the west on I 90. It was about 74 degrees when we left the hotel – practically balmy! As we drove along the highway, the temperature rose quickly to 90 degrees. I thought this was October, not July! Very shortly after leaving Mitchell, the terrain changed; instead of flat prairie, we drove through rolling hills.
We made a rest stop in Chamberlain, SD – it was at the top of a hill, overlooking the Missouri River. As it turned out, it was just above a spot on the Missouri where the Lewis & Clark had camped in 1804. The visitor center had a lot of interesting information regarding the realities of the expedition – the quantity of food and supplies, how it was necessary to unpack everything and dry it out after a rain. They even had a replica of a keelboat that you could climb to.
We knew the promised weather front was coming through because the wind on that hill was fierce – my husband estimated at least 20 mph sustained. That was the end of a fairly good hair day! After we explored the visitor center and took a short walk to the river overlook, we set off again, crossing the bridge that spans the Missouri River. The Missouri is a beautiful blue, in comparison to the Mississippi, that always seems black.
In Oacoma, SD we stopped to rummage through an antique/collectibles shop. Nothing we really wanted. Then we drove over to Al’s Oasis, a family owned enterprise that dates back to the early 1900’s. They have enlarged over the years and now have a restaurant, gift shop, grocery market, saloon and a few other small stores. We ate a light lunch at the restaurant – they still serve coffee for 5 cents, with refills. It wasn’t half bad, either.
After lunch, we continued west on I 90. Again, as we got closer to Rapid City, the terrain continued to change – still hills, but also the badlands formations of rock, especially looking south. It was also getting cooler as we drove through the front that was also moving – in the opposite direction. By the time we got to Rapid, the temperature had dropped from 90 degrees to 65 degrees. Amazing! We didn’t know it at the time, but by the time we turned in for the night, the outside temp was about 47 degrees.
Arriving in Rapid, we checked in to the Hampton Inn and got settled. I tried to call my Lakota friend, but got the voice mail on the cell phone. I told her we had just gotten there and in a few minutes we were going to go by the apartment to see if anyone was home. If there was no one there, we’d leave a note with info on how to contact us here in Rapid.
We set about locating their apartment. Finding the street wasn’t too difficult, what with Mapquest and Google. Finding the apartment was another matter. We parked on the street and headed to the apartment office. The apartment is part of a building that was originally a motel. We knew the apartment number, so we headed down the row. The room numbers ended at 10 – okay, what now? The number we needed was considerably higher. We asked one couple we saw, but they didn’t know. We finally found the office manager by ringing the bell near the office door. We needed to go down the alley and around the corner. We dutifully started down the alley, and found another whole motel building in the rear. We checked the room numbers as we passed by and came up 4 short of the number we needed. We trekked around the end of the building – nothing there. We back tracked. At the front of the building, we turned the corner and finally found the building we needed. I have to tell you that this was not the best part of town.
As we approached the door, my “godchild” and her older sister spotted us through the picture window and threw the door open. We were warmly welcomed. That was when the sadness began to creep in. The girls informed us that their mother was at the hospital because her uncle was dying and they had given him less than 24 hours to live. Before setting off for the hospital, we chatted a bit with the girls and took in the “apartment” they had (we later learned they pay $550/month for it). The apartment consists of a living room, bed room and kitchen. It wasn’t the size of the place that was depressing, it was the condition! It obviously hadn’t been remodeled in decades. They had blankets hanging in the windows for curtains. Furniture was sparse. The kitchen had the microwave we had given them and a kitchen table with 4 chairs – probably 40 years old. The living room had a well-worn sofa, end table and “entertainment center” that held a TV and DVD player, also prior gifts. There was also a double-sized fold-up cot that the girls obviously set up to sleep on. We did not get to look into the bedroom, which is separated from the living area by a cloth curtain. The girls went in there to get clothing and change, so I suspect everyone’s personal items are also stored in there. It was very apparent there is little privacy for anyone.
My “godchild” showed me a photo of her biological dad, who had died just a couple of weeks ago after a long illness. You could see he was a good looking man in youth. They also had the crucifix from his casket. Talk about children who have seen too much in their short lives! I thought my youth had sadness in it, but these girls have surpassed that.
We left for the hospital, which was at least 1.5 miles away. They told us that they usually walk there. (They walk to school, too, though not quite that far.) They walk everywhere because they have no car. My “godchild” gave excellent directions to get to the hospital. She has learned her way around extremely well in the months since they arrived here in August. We later learned that’s because she had been given a bike that she rode all over the city this summer – alone. 12 years old!
We got to the hospital and learned that their mom’s uncle was in the intensive care unit. We went up and, since only 2 could go into that area (and my husband hates hospitals), I offered to go with my “godchild” while her sister waited with my husband. We expected her mother to be there. She wasn’t! Apparently, her aunt (the dying man’s wife) had been taken to the ER. She has a number of ailments herself and needed care. We later learned her blood sugar had jumped to about 600 and her blood pressure had risen sharply. When we came out of ICU, my friend had come back and was talking to my husband. When she saw me, she told me that, because her biological dad lives in Michigan, her mother’s brother, the dying man, had been like a father to her. We went to the family waiting room near the ICU. We were introduced to my friend’s cousin and her daughter. The women were working the cell phones to contact all other families members to let them know time was short and they should get there soon.
The girls looked uncomfortable hanging around, so we decided to take care of them for my friend for that evening. We decided to go ice skating. Well, they would go with my husband – this disabled lady doesn’t skate. Their mom walked us down to the car and when we hugged and talked, she broke down and sobbed while I held her. She is the one who tries to be strong for everyone else. There is so much weight on her shoulders. All I had to give her was my love, which I know is “enough” but which felt so inadequate. I really wish we were closer because it’s even harder to be in Massachusetts when things like this happen. I guess I try to be the strong one too – something I have in common with my friend.
We went to the rink to find the hours and found we had plenty of time before the public skate. So we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Burger King. Then we went to the Mall to go shopping. I won’t bore you with the details of walking from store to store, but the girls finally ended up with new coats, shirts and shoes. My husband ended up with new western boots and I ended up with a body that was screaming at me that I would pay for this little shopping excursion. Fibromyalgia likes to taunt me in advance, sometimes.
We had talked about going to the Black Hills Pow Wow after shopping, instead of ice skating. But I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it much because of the way my body felt. So I asked the girls if we could go tomorrow instead, because I was starting to hurt. They were great about it. We did take them ice skating. I sat and watched (and froze, even with the fleece I had on). I got a few pictures. My husband skates well. My “godchild” was on ice skates for the first time. It was the second time on skates for her sister. My “godchild” was afraid to fall. She acts the warrior, but when confronted with something really scary – skating for the first time, getting her ears pierced – she has a lot of anxiety. Her sister had little fear. As a matter of fact, she looked like she’d been skating for years, though I know there are no ice rinks on the rez. She really has natural talent for it! I got information on the cost of skating so I can set up something for them. Best to keep busy and off the streets.
After skating, we decided to go to their home to pick up their step-dad so he wouldn’t have to walk to the hospital after working all day. When we got to the apartment, their mom was there – she got a ride from a friend. She was getting food together to take back to the hospital for the family as they gathered in vigil for the dying man. We offered a ride back to the hospital and they asked us to come up to the waiting room again. We agreed and, after being introduced to various relatives along the way (exiting the elevator, in the elevator), we were introduced to more relatives in the waiting room. It was a good thing there was no test on names required to leave, because I’d have been in trouble. Too many, too quickly. After a while, I was too exhausted to stay and we came back to our room. I tried to write this all then, but was too tired to think. And too sad. I fell into bed, knowing how I would likely feel this morning.
I was right. Someone drove a big truck through our room last night while we were sleeping. Every part of my body has some kind of pain. I’m still tired, even after Ritalin. But it’s time to get a shower and get going. The girls are expecting us this morning and I think we’ll be spending a lot of time at the Pow Wow today. Unless their mom’s uncle died overnight. Then I have no idea what we’ll do. Time will tell, I guess.