Saturday, March 13, 2010

Andrew: Visiting Dad at the Workhouse, Grandpa on the Rez

With Wilson put away for six months, I considered moving out of state as soon as I finished school. But when it got right down to it, I was too scared to leave my family. So I stayed. I even installed a phone, which Wilson then began calling on. He only had a few minutes to talk; there were many other inmates waiting their turn. But he begged me to stay with him and to please be around during the times that he had phone privileges. I didn't make any promises. He asked me to come visit. I agreed initially, telling myself I was only doing it for Andrew's sake.

The aged brick building, long and maybe three stories high, could have been a factory except for the barred windows. Walking through the big door into the tiled, room size entryway, the long line of women waiting for visitation had already formed. Only so many men at a time could fit into the visitation room, so the visiting women were allowed in on a "first come first serve" basis. The line progressed as each woman approached the barred door and gave the guard her name and the name of the man she was visiting. After registering for the visit, we were instructed to wait until our name was called.

One set of women was called at a time. Upon hearing our names, we lined up and were allowed into a narrow room off the side of the entryway. A row of chairs lined up in front of a row of windows. We sat down and waited for our men to appear.

Wilson was glad to see us, but I remained aloof. I was only there for Andrew. I held Andrew on the ledge in front of the window so he could see his Dad. After a couple glances Andrew noticed him, but for the most part he was more interested in climbing back into my lap and pulling on the shirtsleeves of the women sitting on either side of me.

Wilson wanted us to come back again; but taking the bus to the workhouse was too difficult, what with putting the stroller on and off the bus and making the connections. On top of that, I was still mad at him. But Wilson wrote and called daily. Sober in the workhouse, he was making promises.

"I'll never drink again if you marry me."

While Wilson was in the workhouse, Wanda moved out of her house. This didn't surprise me; she and her family seemed to move every six months or so for various reasons. She called to tell me to come to the house to get the things Wilson had stored there. Not having a car, I called Wanda's mother, Yvonne, to ask if she would help me move Wilson's things.

"Get your white people to help you," Yvonne said, and hung up.

I wasn't going to call my "white people." Wilson was in the workhouse for crashing up the car given me. There was no way I was going to ask them to come all the way down to the south side to help get his things moved. So Wilson lost his possessions, including his mother's sewing machine.


In early June, when Andrew was about six-months-old, I borrowed a car and took him up to Salmon Lake to get enrolled in the tribe. When I arrived at Walter's house, he was around back in the yard. Seeing me, he smiled, walked over and gave me a hug. He was still agile and able to get around, but his mind was becoming forgetful. He would forget he had just bought bread or potatoes and would go buy more. Annie laughed about how many lemons were in the fridge.

We sat down with Dorothy on a blanket in the shade and talked. Andrew lay between us, his chubby legs waving in the summer air.

As the afternoon wore on, Andrew' bottle emptied.

"Paul," Dorothy called to her son, "go fill this bottle up."

It bothered me that Paul and the other kids were ordered around so much.

"No," I said, quickly standing up. "I can take care of my kid." I took the bottle in the house and filled it myself.

Later that day while unpacking, I kept Andrew's bottles in my bag and kept all our things in the middle of the bed. I didn't want to bring any roaches home.

After enrolling Andrew, I spent the next day with Walter, driving him 14 miles to town to buy tires. As we drove into the tire lot, Walter motioned, saying, "Oh, I forgot my money. We have to go back."

I pulled back out of the lot. When we arrived at his home, he got out of the car and began walking up the sidewalk. Halfway to the door, he stopped, turned, and fished in his pocket.

"Oh," he said looking into his wallet, "I had money with me all along."

We drove back to the lot. As it turned out, this was the last time he recognized me and the last time we enjoyed time together.


No comments: