Tuesday: We had been home from vacation less than 48 hours when I got a call that registered as “South Dakota” on my caller ID. It was about 11 AM here – about 9 AM there. I never get calls that early from the rez. Who could this be?
It was, indeed, my Lakota friend. She was terribly distressed and crying. In my fibro fogged state, I tried to think as clearly as I could – no small task. I asked if she was okay (I know, dumb question) and she told me that they had taken my “godchild” away from her. Well, that sent a shot of adrenaline through my body and helped my brain work a little better!
I knew that my “godchild” had been acting up in the past few months. She has been lying and acting out. She’s almost 13, but trying to act 18. My friend says she sneaks out of her window when she thinks her mom is asleep so she can hang out with the boyfriend she’s not allowed to have and drink. No, we aren’t talking lemonade – we’re talking hard liquor and beer.
Apparently she had been doing just that when she was picked up by the tribal police. In order to save her own hide, she accused her mother of abusing her and her 2 sisters every day. So the police took it upon themselves to place her in “foster care” with a woman she said was her aunt. She isn’t really related. It’s her best friend’s mother, who doesn’t set rules for her own kids. No investigation, no checking the kid’s story, nothing. The next morning they informed my friend, who had been out all night looking for her daughter when she wasn’t in her room, that they had taken her and were probably going to take the other two girls also. My friend was frantic. She wanted to know if I could help with money for the attorney she would need to get her girls back. I told her, since the amount she needed was under $100, I could probably find that much.
I love my friend and her family, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that money requested for the best of reasons can get used for somewhat less necessary things (like cigarettes instead of food – says someone who has never smoked). So generally I send money to the person who needs to be paid – like the propane gas company when heat runs out in the winter. I asked her to get me the attorney’s phone number so I could call him to find out the particulars and make financial arrangements if they were feasible. She asked me to call back in an hour or so; she needed to get the information from her sister.
When I called back, she gave me the name and phone numbers to reach the attorney. Yes, that was numbers, in the plural. One for his cell phone, the others for who knew where. She told me that she also had to go to juvie to see about getting her oldest daughter out of there. She’s about 16 and getting a bit wild, too – not coming home and drinking. I told her I’d call her tomorrow.
I set about trying to contact the attorney. I tried the cell phone – no answer, no voice mail. Hmm… I waited half an hour and tried again – same result. By early evening, I had had no luck. I decided to try again the next morning.
Wednesday: I tried the attorney’s cell phone first – a young woman answered and based on the accent, she was Lakota. I asked for the attorney and she told me he was over at the court. She gave me a number, which was the same as the next one on my list. So I called that number – the phone was busy. Tried again in 10 minutes – the phone was answered. “Tribal court.” So fast that I had to think about it before I recognized what was said. I asked for the attorney. “Oh, he’s probably over at the jail there.” Did they have the number? Sure – and there was the third number on my list.
I called the jail. “Oh, he’s not right here. He’s probably in the back. Try this number.” I was given a new number! That makes 4. I was getting a bit tired with the circular calling – the person at number 4 referred me back to the number for the tribal court. With my fibro fog closing in, I decided to quit and called my friend instead. The plan was to ask her to give my number to the attorney so he could call me to take payment, if he wanted money.
The drama was cranked up to high today. The first call to my friend was answered while she was at the juvie center trying to pick up her oldest daughter. The reception was terrible – she was lucky if she had “one bar.” I told her I’d call her back later in the afternoon.
When I called her back later that day, I found her crying and a bit out of control herself. My “godchild” had been calling her mom’s cell phone frequently, then hanging up when she answered. All my friend could say is “Why is she doing this to me?” We talked for quite a while. I tried to explain that it wasn’t about her – that my “godchild” was probably just acting out to impress her “friends”, such as they are. She told me that she had considered suicide when she was first hit with the news because she was so frustrated at trying to be a good mother but apparently not succeeding. I told her I was glad to hear that she had reconsidered, realizing that it would really not solve the problem and would hurt her daughters.
She told me that a couple of evenings ago, she and her husband had gone outside the house for some air. They witnessed 2 groups of teens/young adults at the other end of housing complex engaged in battle, with bats and other weapons. Nothing was done and no one stopped them.
She told me that yesterday, when she and her husband had started walking from the house to wherever they needed to be (no car, you travel by foot), they heard someone screaming for help outside the house next door to them. They turned back and as they hurried to reach that house, they saw someone fall. They thought maybe someone was sick. When they got there, they discovered that the 16 y.o. boy next door had tried to hang himself. What they had seen was him falling when his family cut him down from the tree. My friend is haunted by the sight of the boy on the ground, his face blue. They of course called the ambulance and the boy was taken to the hospital. He survived but has a broken neck – so who knows what health issues he’ll face in the future.
I almost forgot to tell her I hadn’t been able to contact the attorney, with the images of gangs fighting and boys falling from trees in my fibro-fogged brain. By the grace of God, I remembered – or maybe it was because I had a list of items to do in front of me. Whatever, I told her my problem and asked her to have him call me. I also called the tribal court office and left a message for him myself.
At this point I was exhausted – I don’t know how rez-idents manage to live with all the drama. But wait, we aren’t done yet!
Thursday: Late in the day I called my friend just to see how she was doing and to let her know I hadn’t heard from the attorney. I reached her middle daughter instead. She told me that my “godchild” had been returned home, but she had been drinking and when she took her medication for ADHD, she had a severe bad reaction. She had a seizure, stopped breathing and turned blue. Her mother had called the ambulance, but it was taking so long to arrive that they took my “godchild” in their car and raced to meet the ambulance. My friend was still at the hospital and the girl with whom I was speaking had not heard anything yet. I asked her to have her mom let me know how her sister was when she could.
At this point I was shaking a bit and turned to the only thing I could do at the time – I prayed. I put my “godchild” in God’s hands. I will confess that this stress did nothing to improve my fibromyalgia pain and fog. On the contrary, I ended up with increases in both. “Expletive.”
I decided not to call my friend for the next couple of days. She was going to be busy, no matter what the outcome of this “drama” was.
Sunday: I decided to call my friend to see how things were. Her daughter had been kept overnight at the hospital, but was released and was home with her family. The doctors had decided she had a bad reaction to the Stratera that had been prescribed for her ADHD. Apparently they had increased her dosage and of course, she had been drinking. So they told her to stop the medication and go back to her doctor.
After we hung up, I looked up Stratera on the internet. I wanted to learn about the side effects and contraindications. Bear in mind we’re talking about a girl who will be 13 in June; who has had anger management issues; who lives in a place that has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the nation. What I learned was this: Stratera has been found to cause aggressive behavior in some who take it (hey – that’s great for a kid who has anger management problems already, don’t you think). It has been found to cause seizures in some cases but has not been studied in a population known to be prone to seizures. Alcohol is not listed as contraindicated. Stratera does have a warning about an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and actions in teens. Hmm…….
Monday: My friend called. She wasn’t on her cell phone – the caller ID came up as OST. That’s Oglala Sioux Tribe to the uninformed. She was calling from the tribal offices because her phone was “out.” She was very upbeat today. Okay . . . what’s really going on?
All her children are home. She was able to change her daughter’s doctors so that maybe she will get the proper attention and medication this time. I asked her if anyone had told her about the information that was on the Stratera patient information insert. No, she hadn’t heard any of that. She was happy to have the info now.
She asked if I could give them $75 for food. I asked if that was in addition to the money for an attorney or in place of it, because I couldn’t do both. She understood and we agreed that food was the most important need. I told her I would call the local grocery store and authorize $75 as long as it wasn’t used for cigarettes. The last time, when I received the receipt, it had shown half the money went to butts. I know, I’ve never smoked and don’t know the need – and I do know the cigarettes help my friends cope with the stress. I just prefer not to pay for them. She laughed when I mentioned it – she wasn’t angry with me. She told me she was completing her GED testing Tuesday. I wished her luck. We chatted a few more minutes, but since she was on the phone at the tribal office, she couldn’t stay on long. I did ask her if there had really been no “drama” that day. She laughed and said no. I asked her if she was still on the rez. She laughed harder. She said, “Yeah, you don’t have many days without “drama” on the rez!” I haven’t heard her this happy in quite a while. Maybe those prayers were helping out.
I called the market and arranged for the food account. I asked the manager, whom I’ve spoken to before, if I could put a restriction on it for food only, no cigarettes. She’s a funny, pleasant woman. She said, “Sure, it’s your money. You can use it for whatever you want.” I told her I wasn’t judging my friends; I just wanted the money to go to something the whole family could use. She apparently understood. She said, “That’s right. If they want to have a bad habit, let them pay for it themselves!”
Tuesday: Hey – that’s today. No calls, either from my friends or the attorney. My brain is beginning to work and not a second too soon. Tonight’s the big rehearsal for Saturday’s ordination.
Besides, I think I’ve had enough “rez drama” for a while. I don’t know how the people who live out at Pine Ridge manage to do it and stay sane year after year. I think it explains the lack of hope, alcoholism, teen suicide rate, domestic abuse rate and many other things common to rez life.
As my friend would say, “Never a day without ‘drama’!”