Until we are reunited
By Mike Wheeler, Contributing Columnist
When I first got introduced to my cousins Joe and Isaac, I thought they were twins. Even though Isaac was the older brother by barely a few months, Joe and Isaac went to high school together and even graduated at the same. They have another brother by the name of Travis who is currently serving in the military overseas. Joe told me once if you truly want something in life, you have to work your ass off for it. After he told me that, he pulled out a stack of money and said, “This is what hard work as a firefighter will get you.”
As soon as he did that I thought to myself, Damn! Where do I sign up? Joe inspired me to want to be a “fire outer” as he would call it. To this day, I want to put my life on the line and fight wildfires. Isaac, on the other hand was an artist. His drawings were some of the best I have ever seen. He had some major artistic talent, which he eventually used to do tattoos. People would come from out of town just to get some ink done by him. This may sound crazy, but he is so skilled that he gave himself a tattoo, and it doesn’t even look bad. His tattoos actually looked like they were done by another tattooist, but the truth is he did them all by his lonely.
I remember drinking with Joe, Isaac, and a few friends back on the rez. We were watching Gina Carrano go against Cris Cyborg in some Mixed Martial Arts. Gina was undefeated at the time. Everybody was going for Gina, hoping she would land that one good punch to knock her out. But Gina didn’t land that punch, instead she was the one on the receiving end of the punches. Seeing her get beat down got everybody rowdy, to the point where they all wanted to go out back and let off some anger. I was the youngest of the whole group. Joe came out of nowhere and tackled me. He said, “Come on cousin let’s see what you got.” We rolled around the yard for about five minutes, trying to get a submission on each other, until somebody broke us up thinking the Tribals (Tribal Police) were coming, which happened to be a false alarm. Joe wasn’t going to let me off that easily. He told me ”I ain’t done with you yet, let’s go again.” Tired as I was, I knew he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, so I used what little energy I had left to try and sweep him. I got him to the ground, but the problem was keeping him there, he did these little kicks to the back of my thighs with his heels. Those kicks started to take a toll on me. I started to lose my position, as soon as there was a little bit of space between Joe and I, he went for a triangle choke. I think my pride wouldn’t let me tapout, but after awhile I had to give in; there was no way of getting out of it.
Joe helped me up after we were done and said, “You’ve got heart, couz,” Isaac was right there waiting for his chance to put me to the test. He told me he was going to give me some time to rest and regain my strength. As soon as I did, he rushed me with a takedown and swept me from my feet. I got the wind knocked out of me from the impact of the ground. Isaac felt bad after that happened, so he didn’t want to continue. Their mom overheard all the commotion of me getting slammed to the ground, so she ran outside as fast she could to investigate what happened, and was upset with the whole situation. She started to get in Isaac’s face, saying, ”how can you do that to him, that’s supposed to be like a little brother to you.” She considered me a little brother to Joe and Isaac, mainly because I was living with them at the time.
One summer afternoon my grandparents and I went to the casino for something to eat. After we were done, we went to a nearby gas station to fill up and hit the road. When my grandma got this unexpected phone call, I could tell from the look on her face, something terrible happened. She had tears in her eyes, which made me start to worry. I don’t think anyone was prepared for the horrific news that was to come. She got off the phone and told my grandpa and I that Joe and Isaac had just passed away in a car wreck. I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. I kept telling myself “no it can’t be. Why did they have to be taken away from us.” I couldn’t help but cry, I felt like I could have drowned myself in my own tears. I kept thinking about their mom and how she was feeling. Nobody was able to get a hold of her for a while, so I wasn’t even sure if she knew yet.
The funeral was the hardest part to deal with. To be honest, I think that’s when it hit me. Seeing them get placed into the ground, knowing it would be the last time I will see them, at least until I see them in the afterlife. Joe and Isaac will forever be remembered and never forgotten. Your family loves you two, and you’re always in our prayers.
Lost without a surface to trace
By Tosha Jones, Contributing Columnist
Someone once told me that the bond of love is so strong between a father and his children that the bond can never break. Well, I think that person lied. There are two reasons why people leave: One, they fall out of love with you, and two, they’re just looking for a way out.
Why did he leave? Where did he go? Does he not love me? Am I worth his time?” Some nights I stay up thinking and wondering, does he love me or not? What’d I do wrong? What can I do to make him come back?
Do you ever find yourself laying awake thinking everything is your fault?
When I was just a baby, my father abandoned me and my sisters and brothers, and you could say I never got over it. My father has been in and out of my life; one minute he’s there, the next he doesn’t care.
April 30, 2011; I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday morning at 8:30. I hear yelling back in forth, my mom saying, “Randy if you leave this time you are never welcomed back in this house.”
I peek out my doorway. I’ve never seen my dad’s face so red; it’s heated like one of those chile peppers people put into their salads. My dad looks back at his suitcase, stuffing his clothes in there like stuffing dressing into a Thanksgiving turkey. My dad says, “Alicia, the only reason I’m leaving is for the sake of these kids, they are tired of you arguing with me.”
“It takes two people to argue, Randy,” my mom says.
My dad pauses and says, “You know what Alicia, I’m tired of you treating me like one of the kids.”
I get up and walk out into the living room.
“Mom, dad what’s going on? Dad were you going?” My dad looks up at me as if he is going to tell me his brother died, his mouth opens wide like a fly flew in and flew out and he didn’t even notice.
By the time he can speak I say, “ Dad, don’t you want to be here? Don’t you love us anymore?”
My dad picks up his last suitcase, loads it in the car, closes the car door, and drives. I run out crying so hard I can’t see what’s happing. He drives away faster.
That’s the last time I saw him. Now I know things don’t last forever.
Mike Wheeler and Tosha Jones are students at the Native American Family and Youth Center’s Early College Academy. The Academy’s Language Arts class is partnering with Street Roots. After reading Sherman Alexie’s “Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian,” the students wrote personal narratives that reflected on loss and change in their lives. This is the second in a series of articles by NAYA students. The first can be read here.