Ojibwe was his first language. He didn't speak English at all until he started Kindergarten in the early 1950's. That was a hard time for him, but it wasn't the English that was the major problem. Going to school meant going home to live with his mother again, who drank heavily. And it meant leaving his grandpa, whom he had grown to love with all his heart...
Below are portions of the book - "Dying in Indian Country" by Beth Ward.
The next day Wilson went back up north, taking Dale, Tammy and Misty with him. Mickey stayed with me. I enrolled him in South High School and in a karate class on Lake Avenue.
The next Friday, I woke Mickey up for school.
“Do I have to go today? Can’t I get to stay home today as a reward for having gone the other four days?”
“No,” I answered. Despite all I’d seen in the last few years, this train of thought still astounded me.
Through the grapevine we heard that both Wilson and Misty were drinking heavily. Misty had even taken our van one night and tore up someone's yard. I called Tammy and asked her to hide the van keys. Later, I heard the vehicle wasn't running right anyway and they had parked it.
Wilson called one evening, "Could you send me the title for the van?"
"I sold it."
"What? It's in my name. How could you sell it to them?"
"Well I did it and they need the title."
It was Wilson's van; he'd paid for it. But I was angry he sold it for drinking money. I called the county sheriff's office.
"My van was sold without my permission."
Later, the deputy called me back.
"Look, I know the people that bought it. I used to go to school with the lady and they're good people. They've already bought new tires for it, so they said that if you want it back, they’d have to take the tires off. You'll have your car but it'll be on blocks."
Reluctantly, I sent the title.
Angry I was, but being a single mom was also lonely. Don't ask me why I kept wanting him back. I never could figure it out myself.
A month or so later, Wilson called and asked if I'd come get him.
"Okay. I'll be up this weekend."
"And I hocked my tools. I need about $75 to get them back."
Everyone was drinking at Dale's when I arrived on Friday night. Wilson greeted me.
"Buy us a twelve-pack, will ya?"
Misty, high on whatever, stumbled out the door with her boyfriend as soon as I sat down. A few minutes later, she returned. While I sat on the couch, she leaned over to her dad's ear, too stoned to know she wasn't whispering, and asked, "Can I get some of Beth's money?"
"I don't know," he answered, "ask her yourself."
Misty looked at me, then walked away. A few minutes later she came toward me.
"Can I get some money?"
"I need all the money I have to get your dad's stuff out of hock and then get home."
"You f------ b----," she swore. Turning, she pulled her boyfriend out the door.
After Wilson and I made the rounds collecting his tools, we went back to Dale's to spend the night. Wilson wasn't done drinking. He decided to go out to the bar with his nieces.
"I'll drive you," I told them. Wanting to make sure we could leave the next day, I figured I'd rather go with Wilson to keep him out of trouble.
After spending about an hour at the bar, we were just getting ready to go back to Dale's when Misty came in. Her boyfriend was tugging on her sleeve, trying to pull her back out. Wilson stood up and walked over to her.
"You only care for her!" she cried. "How come you always have to drop everything and do what she wants?"
Wilson, with the help of the boyfriend, pushed her back out the door. The whole bar watched. As Wilson walked back to our booth, Misty could be heard still screaming on the street. I felt satisfaction.