Friday came along again. John telephoned and said that he thought he needed to remain at home this weekend. From previous statements he made, I thought we were going to have a fun weekend together. I was looking at his actions carefully due to my past, and I felt certain he was doing the same with me, but this was bothering me. I used all I had learned since I began working on me. I let it go and focused on the present.
Gary and Elizabeth were here. Katharine telephoned and joined us for a visit Friday afternoon. At 6:00 p.m., we decided to go out for dinner as we laughed and were in the middle of a great conversation. We were all four in a happy, playful mood when Katharine and I began asking Gary and Elizabeth questions about their life, where they each grew up, and where were he and Elizabeth living now? After sharing just a little, Gary said, “Let’s have coffee with my Dad in the morning, and I can show you two where we live. You can see a little of the Rosebud Reservation.” I remarked, “Now? After we eat?” Katharine said, “We can take my car.” We all ate quickly, and by 7 o’clock, we were on our way to South Dakota.
Gary told stories about life on the reservation. Elizabeth shared her life in Louisiana. We also had some serious discussions about what happens when a person separates from another spirit. It has to be done at four levels: mind, body, heart, and soul. Until there is agreement on all levels that it is necessary, it is not time. This led our discussion to the medicine wheel and all it represents. After some serious discussions, Gary would pull us out of our thoughts and take us back to a fun continuance of a lighter discussion. We finally arrived in Mission, South Dakota, about 5:00 a.m. Deciding not to wake Gary’s Dad, Spencer, up until 6:00 a.m, we stopped to gas up, go to the bathroom, and get something to drink before seeing Spencer and other family members also living in the home.
Gary did call and warned Spencer that we were coming to the door quickly because we were about to his house. Gary next told Katharine and me that we were not to look Spencer in the eyes. It was not appropriate on the reservation. That instruction surprised us as he also explained that a mother-in-law was not to look a son-in-law directly in the eye. I took note that we were driving in the country, Everything looked desolate, but the roads were alright. Gary had already shared with us that he used to run 16 miles each way to school and back home as he grew up. He also said that he still held the honor of being the fastest runner at his high school. We came to a long driveway that went down a slight decline to a house. Gary explained that this house was like many other houses on the reservation. It sat on land allotted to his family.
As we entered the small living room, I noted that there were not many furnishings. There were a couch and one chair. Both were facing a television. Then I noted there were a dining room table and chairs next to the kitchen. The living area, dining, and kitchen were open areas. I could see a hall that must lead to bedrooms and a bathroom. Spencer greeted us and said for us to sit down while he made the coffee. I sat down on the couch. A little boy came wandering down the hall, rubbing his eyes, and walked over to me. I asked if he would like to sit in my lap since all the other seats were taken. He nodded, meaning yes. I picked him up and lifted him into my lap. I just loved him sitting there enjoying looking at us, the strangers.
Gary and Elizabeth showed us the bedroom they lived in and explained that Gary’s brother and sister’s families had their own bedroom with their wife or husband and children. A few other family members heard us talking and rose to see what was happening. The rest kept sleeping. We only visited for about an hour and a half before leaving. When we left, we added one more passenger. It was Elizabeth’s parrot. Due to a nervous condition, it had been pulling out its own feathers and looked pathetic. Elizabeth wanted to bring her parrot back to Oklahoma to see if it might be better.
Before starting the drive back to Oklahoma, Gary wanted to show us the reservation. We went into town and saw a few places plus the local small college. Next, he showed us the prettiest areas on the reservation as well as some desolate areas. It was obvious that life is hard on this reservation. As Gary shared about reservation life, we discussed dependency, alcoholism problems, few jobs, how the reservation Indians felt about whites, children watching television on the reservation, and becoming dissatisfied rather than satisfied with what they do have. They begin to feel their parents should provide them with what they see and think other children have, and so many other subjects. We visited the grave of Chief Eagle Feather and left a few prayer ties. According to Gary and Elizabeth, families had so little, and yet some were happy. I felt like we were in a foreign land. It felt something like a third world situation. This dependency of proud people began many years ago.
On the way back, we stopped in Valentine, Nebraska, for a good meal. We then continued home, visiting, taking turns driving, and stopping a few times for snacks and bathroom breaks. I happened to be the driver and almost missed a turn. Thus, I swiftly turned. From the back, I heard the words, “Whoa! What was that?” We were all so surprised. It was a parrot that I had never heard before. It spoke so loudly that it woke up the sleepers. Elizabeth’s parrot gave us a good laugh.
We were home by 3 a.m. John telephoned about noon the next day and said, “What did you do this weekend?” I smiled as I thought about our fun trip. I knew he would have loved it. I replied, “We went to South Dakota and met Spencer Bear Heals” His shocking reply was, “You did what? Susanne, I talked to you at 5 o’clock on Friday, and you said nothing about that. Yes, he was sorry he had canceled our weekend plans, and he asked me to come to Pauls Valley for the afternoon for dinner with him. I did so. He next came to visit us on Wednesday night to see Gary and Elizabeth before leaving on Thursday.
LESSON: When feeling frustrated about someone else doing something that hurts, like uses hurtful words against you, changes your plans, or perhaps does not invite you to a party, or maybe even no longer talks to you, bring your focus back to you. Be slow to react. What can you do for you? Perhaps this space opened up so that something different might happen. (like John canceling plans for us opened up an adventure for me). Just do what I learned to do through Al-Anon. Put one foot in front of the other, take the opportunity to clean a closet, or write a letter of gratitude to someone that has done something nice for you in your past. For a deep hurt, make prayers for the person or persons that hurt you every day for thirty days. Watch how your feelings begin to change. If nothing
Gifts: I saw a part of the United States I had not seen before, plus reservation life and how people survived there with so little. Meeting Gary’s family and seeing where he grew up brought appreciation and gratitude to mind. Spencer and three families lived in the same home. There were seven children, his grandchildren, there. I learned about the high cost of utilities and the suffering of so many during the cold season. It was a reminder that we take lots for granted.
I got to see the Sun Dance grounds where John committed to Sun Dance in the coming summer. The Sun Dance was to be on Spencer’s land.
We all felt joy and gratefulness when about this spontaneous trip to South Dakota. However, we were certainly happy to get back to my apartment for sleep!