Archive for March, 2010

Damn. Again.

Damn. Again.

And again I wake up thinking about how to talk about it with my daughter, Mica, who’s twelve.

Two teen girls dead – friends, out partying, and though we don’t know exactly what went down, one of them was found by the side of a Burnaby road, the other picked up by ambulance at a drug house in Richmond. But too late.

I’m tired of it all. I am angry. I am scared for people I love. I am sad.

Many years ago now, my folks started doing respite care for some extended family, spending a couple of days a week watching the kids, at that time 3 years old and 6 months old. Mica was three, too, and the girls became like sisters to her, particularly after my separation, when we moved in for a time with my folks.

During that period we became close to this previously almost unknown part of the family. And it was good. The kids got a safe and secure place when they needed it, Mica got to know new cousins her age, and to learn how she was connected to first nations communities on the island and up the coast. My mom’s cousin, the dad in this group, was struggling with addiction and violence, and got some support in parenting, as did his wife, who tried to make the money to care for her kids working the sex trade in the Downtown Eastside. We got close. We got to know the web of aunts and uncles and cousins who collectively helped raise the girls. Struggles and challenges, to be sure, as mom and dad learned about Fetal Alcohol Effect and much more.

Then, one Christmas Eve. The girls were with my folks, and we were all sitting down to dinner. A, their mom, had been expected around 4:00 and hadn’t shown up. Strange for her. A had many days she wasn’t up for parenting, but when she said she’d be there, she was. So when the kids went to be at 10:00 and there was still no word from her, my mom and I made our way down to Main and Hastings to look for her.

No A in any of her usual haunts. No sign for a couple of days. Nothing. Until her body was found outside the city limits, dumped. One more to the rising count of women from the DTES disappeared and murdered. One more name to be remembered in each year’s memorial march. One more ‘just a hooker’ or ‘just an Indian’ to the ever-growing list.

Since then, my folks have taken full custody of A‘s daughters, asked by the dad and extended family to do their damndest to provide a safe and stable home. They moved out of Vancouver, back the island and close to the res so the girls can be in closer contact with the larger family.

On Valentine’s Day this year, the memorial march weaved its way through the downtown eastside, marking another year and still more deaths. On Valentine’s Day this year Mica’s mom spoke to her again about her cousins’ mom and why the march was so important. And then, just a couple of weeks later, the news of two teen girls. Two friends, two bodies in two municipalities.

Since A‘s murder, I find I pay a lot more attention to these news clips. Every time I feel my chest tighten a little as I wonder whether this is someone else from the family. Every time I follow the trail of small print, afterthought, space-filling news to see where it leads, and hope to hell it doesn’t lead home in some way. I had that reaction this time round, too. But for days, no new info, no identification, no names.

Til mom phoned last night.

One of those teens was family. The girl’s cousin. And a cousin who had often come by the house to visit, play with the other little ones – Mica included – and who provided a huge support to the girls after their mom was killed. She was the cousin most spoken about, most admired, most looked-up to – old enough to be a caretaker, young enough to inspire all those fantasies kids have of what life will be like when they get just a little bit older. Damn. Again.

Woke up this morning thinking how I would talk to Mica about it all. The basics: “Do you remember….?” “You’ve heard your cousins talk alot about….” “Well, there’s bad news…” And thinking about those cousins of Mica, those cousins of mine who call me uncle cause the generation gap makes more sense than the technical relationship, those girls who lost their mom, who were shuttled for so many years between homes, who are struggling to make their way to adolescence with the deck so stacked against them, who are just learning to head out on their own into a society that hates them for being Indians, who hang so fiercely to family, a family that faces death after death, violence after violence and works so damn hard to maintain community and love and support amid it all. I can’t help imagine all the worst for where they end up five, ten years down the road. I can’t help but imagine future phone calls from mom just like this. I don’t want to despair. There are many futures. But fuck it’s hard to be hopeful on days like this.

Waiting, now, for toxicology reports on what exactly happened. Waiting, now, to see what the investigation turns up to explain why this teenage girl was found in another city from her friend. Waiting, now, for all the family to be informed. Waiting, now, for the memorial to be announced, for my folks and the girls to come into town to stay and visit and grieve in our home.

Alot of waiting. Again. Damn.


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