Dell's Canadian Tails

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dell on Broken Hearts

Two posts ago, I said I'd blog on an incident in a small town. While I've changed bits to protect folks' privacy, it's a true tale, nonetheless.

A few years back, following my heart surgery, I spent the next six months recovering, staying with friends in a little northern Ontario community. Everyone knew everybody else going back generations. I made friends while I stayed there, but have never returned. Whenever my chest scar itches, I think of one friend in particular: Sammy.

For some reason, young people like to tell me all about their lives. Maybe it's their way of saying I can get on with the business of dying: they are ready to take on the world. Sammy and I became friends in early autumn as she strolled her year old daughter through the park. My surgery had left my chest some kind of sore and I'd walk a bit and then sit on the park bench until I could walk some more. Sammy would spot me at the park, wheel Nicole alongside and plop down beside me. "How's things going?" I'd enquire, and Sammy would be off and running.

She would tell me whatever new things little Nicole was doing. How Jason, Nicole's father, had been picked up by the police for showing up at her place again. Jason was in his twenties, quick with the fists and slow on responsibility. Mostly I just let her talk. She, Jason and Nicole had started out as a family until Jason decided to go a couple rounds with Sammy, who is a good fifty pounds short of his weight class. Children's services decided Nicole should temporarily live with Sammy's parents. Eventually, I met them and Sammy's brother, Trevor, too. He would have been about thirteen at that time.

Trevor had the scars of having once been badly burned. Sammy told me he had been just three years old. and had woken up one evening, after being put to bed. He had gone outside and fallen into the coals in the campfire. Both his hands and one side of his body had been badly burned. Their father had been drinking, her mother at work. Sammy said she woke to Trevor's screams and ran outside. Too young to know what to do, she had pulled Trevor from the fire and dumped him in the wading pool. Then she had shaken her father, passed out in a lawn chair, until he woke up. Trevor spent years going back and forth to a burn unit for skin grafts. Sammy said Children's services didn't want to give Trevor back to her parents until they quit drinking.

"And did they? give him back?" Dumb question. He was living with them. "Did the drinking stop?"

"Yeah, they were perfect parents until Children's services backed off. The drinking's never got that bad again."

"Do you worry about Nicole being with your folks?" I asked Sammy.

"Nope. Trevor watches her like a hawk. He adores Nicole. If there's trouble, I'll hear about it."

Mid-winter, Sammy showed up at my friend's front door, looking for me. She had brought Nicole, tucked under a mountain of blankets in a snow sled. Sammy was over the moon with happiness; Children's services had returned Nicole to Sammy's care. The two of them came in to visit and warm up. Little Nicole was all over the place and into everything. Sammy had the patience of a saint with her daughter.

My failure to properly parent my own daughter had led to my becoming a better parent to my grand-daughter. She came to live with me when she was fourteen, after her mother's drunken boyfriend went after her. Her mother never asked Shelley to come back and my daughter died suddenly two years later. My post Where Were You? tells that tale. Raising Shelley, and being involved in her emotional recovery, gave me a whole new understanding on the role of parenting.

Sammy's folks didn't know who I was when I came up to them in the coffee shop one day. I had recognized Nicole in her snow sled, so I introduced myself. They were quick to say they had no use for Jason. He wasn't from town. Sammy had met him while visiting her aunt out west and Jason had followed a pregnant Sammy home. Sammy's father said he had offered to find Jason work at the mine until he got in that fight with Sammy. "He can piss up a rope sideways, for all I care. He'll move on once he gets the message," Sammy's father proclaimed with confidence.

Sammy had told me she kept hoping Jason would show her parents he could be a good father. Court orders forbid Jason going to Sammy's apartment and his visits with Nicole were always supervised by Children's services. With so many folks against Jason, Sammy's dreams didn't look like they'd be coming true any time soon.

Three weeks before I was due to leave, Sammy came running up to me, sobbing hysterically. "They took her, they took her," was all I could make out at first. As she calmed down, the details emerged. She had been home with Nicole when Jason showed up at the door with a puppy. Sammy had told him to leave but he put the puppy down and then followed it into the apartment. He wasn't there more than five minutes, according to Sammy. Then, minutes after Jason left, the police came knocking on Sammy's door looking for him. She admitted he had been there and had left. The officers then began to search her apartment. They found a single joint of marijuana on top of the fridge. Children's services were called. They immediately took Nicole and placed her with Sammy's folks.
"Honest, Dell, it wasn't mine. Jason must have put it there. There is no way I would risk losing Nicole by doing something that stupid."

"So what will happen now?" I asked, "is she going to stay with your folks again?"

"I don't know. Family court is next week." We talked for a bit and then, as she was walking away I hollered after her "Chin up!" She waved without turning around, but her shoulders were shaking and I knew she was crying again.

The time finally arrived for me to leave. I took a walk into town to see if I could find Sammy. Instead, I found her brother, Trevor. He told me Jason had left town quite suddenly. Family court had given their parents permanent custody of Nicole. Sammy had moved in with a fellow she'd only just met.
"How did it happen?" I wondered aloud to Trevor, "Surely to God they don't take a child from its mother for something as minor as a joint?"

"You know that saying It's not who you know?... In this case, who my parents knew was all that mattered."

As we said our good-byes, he shook my hand, then looking at his scarred palm said, "Sammy always looked out for me. She would have been a great mom. She just never got a chance."

Dell on Ribbons

Dorg and I have just returned from a trot along the beach. He did a real trot. I sort of stumbled along. As I searched for a stick to toss for him, I came across this piece of driftwood: a ribbon pinned to mother nature.

Thousands of miles away an oil disaster is wreaking havoc and she wanted me to pause for a moment to consider her pain and loss; asking if I will support her cause.

If you've ever seen Schindler's List, you may recall Schindler's reaction on receiving the gift of a golden ring in thanks for the lives he saved: he weeps for the lives he failed to save.

Nature has a huge capacity to recover from man's inflicted indignities: her generosity is no excuse for my having done so little, for so long.


Dell on Good Intentions Gone Bad

Another wet morning and my dogs are hurting again. Dorg is lying on top of my feet so that will warm them and ease the pain.
To pick up from my last post: I had stated I believe social policies and their supporting agencies have become part of a systematic means to criminalize Canadians. PM Harper calls for more jails and longer jail sentences, this despite a cost expected to break the backs of Canadian taxpayers. [see Dell on The War on Drugs]. With the best of intentions, laws and the social agencies originally formed to help families have, over the last decades, become power tools.

The horror of having government agencies running your life has always been the nightmare of the poor and minorities. Having discovered the "help system" can be used to castigate whomever, that is exactly what is happening. Those in power have seen the effectiveness of employing the police and supporting agencies, including the legal system, to create more poverty and despair. Are people getting rich on this misery? You betcha!

Agencies serving troubled and disabled young people in their care, usually cease involvement after the ward turns sixteen. In fact, they will make a point of returning children to their original families just before this time,  thereby avoiding mandated financial responsibility. Those still in care who outgrow the agency, end up living at a group home. I am not talking community living or regulated group housing, but something else.

Large homes are bought as an investment. The owner runs a lucrative business renting to young people in need of housing. He will charge the exact amount social services allows these young people for room and board and provide them a single bedroom with shared bath facilities. With no staff to speak of, the owner may have from four to eight young people bringing in between $3,2000 to $6,400.00 a month. You do the math. The remainder of the social services cheque that is given to the boarder is his own, but it isn't much, and many unscrupulous landlords find a way to get every cent of these cheques into their own pocket. It's easy money. They don't have to police their boarders, either. They simply set them up for a police charge and the system takes over. You think I'm making this up? Not so.

I personally met a young man with learning disabilities [18 at the time] who was living in just such an arrangement. When the landlord, an alcoholic with a mean streak, objected to this young man coming in after nine in the evening, the young boarder was arrested. Another resident's unopened monthly cheque had been found in the boarder's dresser drawer. This young man couldn't read and his own cheque was directly deposited because he didn't have sufficient skills to negotiate banking matters. He told me he had no idea how the envelope got there because his door was locked and only the landlord had a key. Charged, he was released prior to his court appearance, with conditions that suited the owner/landlord: curfew. The charge itself never made it to court. Instead, the Crown used a Mental Health Diversion. Unable to read or write, this very sweet young person signed the form, unaware that he had placed himself under the ongoing control of a mental health agency. There was no crime and he did not fit the profile for Mental Health Diversion. The entire system worked to serve the needs of the landlord/owner.

In an earlier post, I described the typical scenario of the destruction of a family. Courts now routinely require the involvement of agencies; a systematic form of control in which counsellors do assessments, recommend psychiatrists who then recommend medications for adults and/or children, and ongoing agency interventions; all this as part of addressing, or as a requirement of, sentencing. This is the fuel that keeps the system going: money made by creating misery and criminalizing the population.

Having created a miserably unhappy citizenry, it is no surprise that drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions. Yet, as I pointed out in 'Dell on The War On Drugs', the warring is only a war in name. In reality it is punishment or control of individuals and NOT meant to stop the burgeoning drug business (prescribed or illicit) nationwide. Why on earth would they want to "make war" on the very lucrative business of drugs? There are millions if not billions to be made by increasing misery.

Whole industries depend on rehabilitation to create jobs and secure funding.

Why do doctor's rarely sign forms for medicinal use of cannabis? Would drug companies want people using non-addicting cannabis instead of their very addictive prescription drugs?

The saddest part of this situation is the number of Canadians working in these agencies, who unwittingly believe they are doing good work.

In the next post or two, I will tell the tale of a small town family, the police and service agencies, lest you think the problem is confined to large cities.

I'm off to have my one perfect cup of coffee and give Dorg his run along the shoreline.