I spoke with my Lakota friend today – the one we met when we began to sponsor her then 10 year old daughter. Her daughter is now 15 and some months. We have been friends for all these years now.
We are visiting the reservation in early June and hope to travel to Utah with our friends to visit the young lady who has been quite a challenge for her mother to raise. If you are a regular reader, you know the many dramatic adventures she has put herself in. She is now in a resident program in Utah that I believe has some hope of helping her with the issues she now has. Traveling from the part of Pine Ridge Reservation in which her parents reside to the institute in Utah takes about 12 hours of driving. That is not exactly convenient for folks on the rez who have unreliable vehicles and no gas money. So we suggested the trip as out treat – stopping overnight so we can be refreshed for the return trip. It ought to be an interesting drive. One of the reasons I called my friend was to ask her to make sure that her daughter can have visitors once we arrive. It would be very upsetting to arrive and be turned away.
I asked about other family members I have gotten to know many over the years. My friend’s sister, with whom she has not had a smooth relationship, is now living with my friend and her husband. My friend’s mother, who owns the trailer in which my friend now resides, is still a thorn in her side. Her middle daughter, 19 years old, has moved out to live with her boyfriend (whom my friend dislikes). She told her mother she was of age and could do whatever she wanted. Her mother agreed, but said not in her house. So daughter and boyfriend moved out.
My friend’s eldest daughter is the mother of 2 toddlers. They live with her also. So does the father of the children. That young man had been kicked out at Christmas time after he came home drunk and started beating the children’s mom while she was asleep. But he is back and behaving – so far. That’s good for those children.
My friend’s other sister died last year. Her children were mostly teens and young adults. She also had grandchildren. Apparently one of her children has abandoned her children, whom my friend has taken in. The woman, my friend’s niece, was seeing a man who didn’t like children. So she made a choice. She took off with the guy and left her children behind.
According to my friend, the children had not been well taken care of before she left. They are in need of serious dental work and other care. I know she will see to it that they get what they need if she can.
Of all the drama, this is the event that has really bothered my friend the most. I don’t mean to say the drama with her own children hasn’t been upsetting. But she truly cannot understand a woman just abandoning her children to run off with a guy. I had to agree with her on this. There were certainly times, when I was the mother of young or teen-aged children, when I felt like just packing up and leaving. Parenting is strenuous work! But most of us ultimately put the needs of our children before our own needs. This woman did not and it really has upset my friend.
I suspect this is not really uncommon in a population where many of the adults grew up without adequate parenting and thus have a need to be the center of someone’s world. If you add in the alcohol problems many have, it becomes even more understandable. It is far easier to do hurtful things when you have anesthetized yourself to the pain others will feel.
Still, I look at this from the perspective of the children who have been neglected and abandoned. What issues will they have as they get older which will stem directly from this event? Will they become promiscuous, looking for affection and love? Will they have illness and poor health as a result of receiving poor health and dental care as children? Will they become diabetic and/or obese because they’ve learned to drink soda pop instead of water and juice? Will they take up smoking to calm frayed nerves – or do drugs to self medicate? Perhaps they, too, will turn to alcohol as a form of recreation or self medication. Will the suffer from PTSD as a result of the abandonment? Will they grow up without hope, perhaps adding to the statistics of the reservation youth who have lost hope and attempted or succeeded in committing suicide? I think my friends sees all these possibilities. I think that is why it weighs on her so heavily.
But I think the hardest part facing my friend is when she has to find an answer for the questions the children will bring to her:
Why did she leave me?
Did she love me?