It has been some time since I’ve blogged, and my apologies to the folks who have been expecting something from me. I have two or three blogs in various stages of completion and hopefully, soon, I’ll pick those back up and extend them forward to their final stage.
Life happens, when we least expect it, and we had some rather trying times since November. My husband, it seems, just had to match the first broken hip, and fell again in late November and broke his right hip this time, and had to have a partial hip replacement. In December, one of my younger brothers passed away and we went home for the services. And all this was in the midst of my temporary job that started in October, working for the legislature as a proofreader of bills. I reminded myself that it was similar to 2012, when I had begun a new job at the University of New Mexico. And then a few short weeks later, in March 2012, my mother passed away from a brain aneurysm which caused her to have a hemorrhagic stroke. Her siblings, her brother, passed ten months later, and her sister, the next month. I left my job after only being there a year, because I could not deal with the three people who were significant to my childhood having passed within one year. So, selfishly, I could not help but think that this was some trend which somehow appeared again, i.e., to jeopardize my job. I feel bad for thinking of it, and I am sure my husband has forgiven me for those thoughts which he knows nothing about.
Since then, it has been a series of surgeon, doctor and physical therapist appointments, prescriptions and the gazillion bills that we owe for both of those hips. He is at a high risk for another fall, and so we take care of him as best as we can, not wanting another fall. At 88, though, it is highly likely it could happen again. We also look to the future of potential Alzheimer’s, which both his mother and his sister had at the end of their lives. We see signs of it, and the doctor is aware of his history. Something to be aware of as we move ahead.
Somehow, I manage to pay the bills. Somehow, I manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow, I manage to keep smiling. Somehow, I manage to laugh. Somehow, I get rid of the stress, mostly by finding solace in Nature, in hiking, just being outdoors, the sun beaming down on my face, soaking in the Vitamin D, hearing birds chirp, listening to water flowing in streams and rivers, eating trail mix and summer sausage, putting my boots to trails that I’ve never been on, and on trails that are worthy of a second or third trip.
I also recharge my Indian-ness, as I call it, in dancing and in singing, the two worlds of the powwow circle. I gather energy from those positive forces of the now pan-Indian powwow circle. The arena is for dancing and singing, not a spiritual event, but a social one, full of friends and family, those who truly are on your wavelength, who understand what it is to dance for 30 minutes at a time, to drums as diverse as can be found anywhere.
I am in no way whining, as some might say. Rather, I am saying that no where in your Book of Life does it state that “When your husband falls and breaks a hip, you need to do this”, or “When your husband falls and breaks a rib, do this” or “When your husband falls and breaks the other hip, then you need to do this”. No where in your Book of Life does it tell you how to deal with the passing of your mother, yet somehow you manage to continue. It makes me realize that I need to help my children deal with my eventual passing. God willing and the creeks don’t rise, that will hopefullynot be until I am 100 years old.
I like to think that I am a strong person, strong of mind, strong willed, strong mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and certainly, physically (because I did, after all, make it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up without problems, and in 120 degree desert heat…and we are going back). I could do a better job, though.
I was fortunate to have been raised to be independent, strong, tough, yet kind and caring and empathic, by my Pawnee grandparents and “aunt” (great-grandmother in non-Pawnee kinship terms). I was raised by them, observed their behavior when it came to times of great stress, sorrow, joy, happiness, in gardening, at our war dances and in their church. They never showed stress. I believe it was their faith in their beliefs of a higher power, Atius Tirawahut, Almighty God, that got them through times of stress, including the passing of their oldest son, my mom’s brother, at the age of 36, and later, when Gran’s mom passed at 96, that very same year. How did my grandmother do it? How did she handle that? And how did my mom handle my Gran’s passing? I never asked.
My mom was busy raising kids and working, a professional person, a nurse who worked long hours and tended to probably thousands of people in her long career, which included working at the Osteopathic hospital in our hometown, at Indian Health Service, at the first nursing home on the reserve in the 60’s, and later, at the Municipal hospital and the two subsequent nursing homes that were built. My grandma was a nurse’s aide, my aunt a registered nurse, and my grandma told me my “aunt” was a healer. Watching them be active in the community, caring for others, jumping in to help when it was needed and working hard to make sure that there was a roof over their heads, that the bills were paid and there was food on the table. My Upit and Gran would always pay their bills at the end of the week, and what was left, they would split it. I always thought that was a cool way to do your finances. Hard workers, all of them.
And my Upit worked for the local trading post, making drums and beaters and tipis, using a design he created. He painted them, in an enclosed 8 foot by 10 foot room, with no windows, no ventilation. He was a smoker, and died of lung cancer, but I have no doubt that the paint fumes he inhaled were a likely contributor of the cancer that he had. He and Gran would go out and drive the countryside, stopping here and there to cut willows for the drum beaters and the tipi poles for the tipis they made. By the end of the week, they would have cut yards and yards of goat hide into string, circles for drums and also the tipis. It was a long process from start to finish, and required many stages, the final step being the painting of the dried drums and tipis by my Upit. He graduated from Bacone College and later attended the Chicago Art Institute. An educated person, the first of our family, followed by my mother with her nursing degree. At one point, my mother made drums and beaters for extra money.
Hard workers. There were many in the community who were hard workers and contributing members of our community. Hard workers. There are many American Indian people across the country who were hard workers and contributing members of their communities. I speak of those who were the first generation born on the reservations. Tough people who experienced first hand the racism, the educational system, the boarding schools, the industrial society, clocks, living in square houses, who first drove cars, spoke over a phone and watched television and movies. Those whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were born on their homelands which did not have fences, and who hunted buffalo. Those who were led to believe in assimilation, and yet who managed to maintain their language and some semblance of culture, the vestiges of which we honor today.
I was mentally exhausted through all of this. I did not want to do anything. I did not want to go anywhere, but son dragged me out to singing practice. Daughter dragged me out to go grocery shopping. I was tired. No socializing here. With all that had happened, I did not want to do a damn thing. My sewing area was bad…bills had piled up. It was my way of saying “Enough! Enough.” And I am still not over it completely. Maybe soon. I have several projects I need to finish.
I heard my grandmother say one time, “Oh, I’m just lazy.” I heard my mother say one time, “Oh, I wanted to do this or that, but I’m just lazy.” Not lazy. Tired, maybe, but not lazy. And certainly, both deserved a good rest, a good sleep, after going through what they had gone through in their lives, experiencing changes on many diverse levels, changes that we will never know, but certainly changes that were just as profound as the ones that we experience, almost on a daily basis.
When I started writing this, I was apologizing for my lack of blogging, for not passing my thoughts here about what was happening, or passing on some words of wisdom, which I really don’t claim to have…it’s just practical experience, I say. The randomosity of this, in trying to tie it altogether, is to say that we all go through this life, heading to the end, and we can either smile and go on, saying “I never did mind about the little things” – thank you, Anne Bancroft, in “Point of No Return” (a favorite movie of mine), saying “I shall pass this way but once” or however that goes – or we can wallow in our sorrows. To me, wallowing is a waste of effort. It’s a dishonor to my relatives gone on, to even want to sit and throw a tantrum, to have a breakdown. Because, as they say, whoever, “they” are, this too, shall pass. It’s only momentary and it’s all in our approach to these challenges, those rough spots in the road, that make our character. I occasionally tell myself to “Snap Out Of It!” I guess this was one of those times that writing helped me “snap out of it”.
And that is all I have to say for now. This was only my mother’s side. I haven’t told about my dad’s Cheyenne folks yet, and they are just as great, though I didn’t get to know them until late.
Namaste (I like this – it’s comparable to our greeting “Nawa” in Pawnee).
Peace and blessings.