That was over ten years ago. But - life gets in the way, ya know...
I'd had, just when I was starting my first year at grad school in Montreal, a dream about his first wife, the Anglo mother of that guy's first two children, whom I'd known, as well. It was sort of a nightmare, the dream: I can't recall the details but it was bad enough to impel me to try to find her (pre-internet, not quite the piece of cake such efforts can be, today) and my ill-of-ease feeling persisted when I could not locate her. Turned out I was right about that: when the news of his death reached her, she swooped down from her perch, hauled not only his body back east, she took away with her every material possession of his that she could grab, denied even the existence of his two 1/2-Navajo sons, the kids he'd had with my gal-pal. The wife-in-name made it painfully clear that respect for the life he'd tried to make for himself on the Rez wasn't of much concern, at least not to her.
I found all that a bit astonishing when I learned about it, wished I'd been able to persuade him when last I'd seen him, on my way back east by bus from a reunion-type meeting at Arcosanti, that my suggestion that he check himself into the nearest VA hospital (he was a 'Nam vet) was not negotiable. I was already enough of a social worker, I suppose, to have been sure it was essential to make the suggestion; but it wasn't in me, at the time, to ride herd on him until he actually did what I felt he needed to do. Didn't say: "Do that or die!"
Could I have said that? I'm not sure I was able, back then, to put my feelings in such stark terms, although anyone with any Al Anon experience would surely agree it is a simple truth, one any alcoholic had better 'get' ASAP if s/he has any hope at all of curtailing the endless human suffering that alcoholism intensifies and exacerbates.
So I hadn't/didn't and what was left was my dear gal-pal on the Rez, grieving, grieving grieving.
As is said in a play, The Busines of Fancy Dancing, by Spokane Indian writer Sherman Alexie, "Being Indian in touch with life, mourning is not far from my thoughts or feelings. It is a dam of turbulent water held back by daily strength, daily rituals. I mourn for the loss of all my people's feelings, the great majority of our ancestral lands and rights, the many sharp hardships of colonialism, disease, poverty, alcoholism, diabetes, post-colonialism and racism we have struggled with as indviduals and as a people. It [is] not difficult to mourn."
So yes, I came back to the Rez when/because I was invited. The temptation could not be resisted. I am trained as a sandplay therapist; sand is sacred to the Navajo. How could I turn away from the opportunity to bring sandplay to at-risk youth and their families, their friends, their community?
Answer: I could not. So yes, I came. The NY Commission for the Blind (I'm legally blind due to an accident so I no longer drive) had supplied me with computer equipment for my new job; the day after I got back from the international sandplay conference (in Europe, if you please), a friend helped me pack, shlepped into the city with me so I could board a train to Albuquerqe where I'd stay overnight w/ a friend, get a bus to Gallup where my gal-pal would meet me and drive me over to Fort Defiance, where the job was to be.
Where the job was to be. Right.
Within a few scant weeks after I started, the School District terminated its contract w/ the company that had hired me. Why? In truth, I don't know. But in their 29 page document, they took a few potshots at me personally, which I have to say did not amuse me. Not even a little bit. It doesn't take long to care about kids and even in that short time I was with them, I started getting to know those I was working with: I sure as heck didn't want to be told I couldn't do that no' mo' - no way. Nope, I did not.
So here things stand. What now, belagaana?