I called my Lakota friend yesterday. We live 2,000 miles apart and the only way to stay connected is by phone. She had been on my mind a lot for the past week – ever since she told me my “godchild” was going to be DOC’d.
I didn’t know what that meant either. But I did know my “godchild” had a way of getting herself into trouble so I knew it couldn’t be good. This had to do with court, I was informed.
Today was court day, to find out how long she would be away. But when I reached my friend, she was at the hospital. I was confused and you may be too, if you don’t follow this blog regularly. Let me backtrack for a bit . . .
When I first met this family, it was as a sponsor for a 10-year-old girl, who has since become my “godchild.” She is going to be 15 this summer. In the 5 years that have passed, I have become very close to her family. And I have watched this girl grow farther and farther away from her family. I have watched her become an inveterate liar. I have watched her get into trouble for running away constantly and other assorted escapades.
I have also watched the pain of her mother, my friend. She has done everything she can to help her daughter. She has moved off the rez for her girls. She has helped my “godchild” change schools and tried to get her into school off the rez. She has made court appearances. She has stayed up all night to watch her daughter sleep so she could be sure she didn’t open her bedroom window and run away. She has driven around the rez trying to find her daughter before calling the authorities to try to keep her daughter out of the system. She worked to get her into a treatment program for the alcohol.
Nothing has worked. Her daughter will not listen. Her daughter will not learn. She came home from the treatment program and within a couple of weeks she ran away again.
Her daughter has been raped. Her daughter began drinking. She may be using drugs, though she will not admit that. She has been in fights at school.
What’s a mother to do?
The judicial system has decided that it will do what this mother cannot. It will “contain” this child. DOC’d means that the child is committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections. She will be kept in detention in the juvenile system until she is 18 or 21, to be decided by the judge. My friend is losing her baby. Yet she will be required to pay child support (a ludicrous idea when you consider that this mother had to ask me for money for gas to look for the child because she, like 80% of those on the rez, has no job.)
So, back to the phone call yesterday. When my friend answered the phone, she was crying. I asked what was wrong. This is the story she told me.
She was in court with her daughter to find out how long the judge would keep her in custody. She was then going to have to leave for jail. In the middle of the courtroom, her daughter had a seizure. They ambulance came and transported them to the hospital, where they were at the time of the call. They were giving her Dilantin and then they would have to return to the courtroom. The proceedings would continue.
My friend was clearly terrified – and with good reason. This was the first time my “godchild” had ever had a seizure. But it was not the first time my friend had to deal with that medical issue. In the past two years, another of her daughters (2 years older than my “godchild”) had had seizures. The local medical practitioners had even sent her to Rapid City for tests and to see a specialist, to try to diagnose the cause. They never got a final diagnosis. Prior to that, my “godchild’s” sister died (March 2009). The cause of death was drowning due to having a seizure while bathing in the tub. [See my post “A Mother’s Grief in Pine Ridge” dated March 17, 2009]
Now my friend has a second child having seizures. This child will be far away from her in the care of the state, not family. My friend is terrified that something will happen to her daughter while she is in juvenile detention and there will be no one there to help her. She is frightened that no one will try to find out the cause of her seizure. She is reliving the nightmare of losing one daughter to seizures already.
I am 2,000 miles away, as I noted. But it might as well be 2 million miles. All I want to do is hug my friend and support her. I want to be there with her in the dark times. It cannot be. We have learned that in the past 4 years, when she has endured unimaginable pain and I have been unable to be there.
I will do the only things I can do again – phone, pray, write.