My frequently traveled road…. Destination: Grief, loss, depression and hopefully healing

I knew once I moved back to New Orleans I would have to take to the frequently traveled road to Minnesota as I have since the 90s. My move back to New Orleans has me on the road to visit my family was here, my adult children, grandchildren, Mama, sister, brother, nieces, and nephews as well as extended family, but I never thought this road to Minnesota would come with frequent, constant unbearable pain. The grief stricken, heartbroken trips to back to Minnesota seem to outweigh my preplanned family vacations.

Road travel pain life grief

This time I returned to Minnesota after the murder of my sweet cousin, she was more than my cousin, but sister and friend. Her death is hard on me because she was helping me in the process by keeping my adopted daughter, who is actually my cousin, she was a victim as well. My cousin’s murderer, her ex-boyfriend, brutally assaulted, raped and kidnapped her after leaving my cousin for dead.

I do not know how to handle this at all, life has forever changed for my entire family once again, especially my adopted daughter. Whom I recently had a conversation with after she expressed concern for other family members, but she wondered if some forgot about her. I tried my best to sum it up as we as a family have experienced murder, my cousin is our 3rd murder victim. And we still have not fully healed from our first loss and our second victim, he was just taken from us in October 2017 and now another murder and a surviving victim. Plus this crime was not like the others where they were men who were shot by bullets flying in the air… She was killed up close and personal with as much intent, thought and pure evil as he had inflicted upon her.. We never had to care for a survivor and it’s a blessing to have her with us, some just may not know what to do for her or say to her especially with the horror that she endured. I felt angry as I realized that once again I couldn’t give her the right answer, a reasonable excuse for others outside of my immediate family especially those who God granted exclusive biological rights for her.

Moving forward it’s hard enough on a family after an elder has died, most times the family dynamic is forever changed. As it is with the passing of my grandmother, but actually, my family desenigrated after the upheaval of everyone in New Orleans from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. After my grandmother evacuated her home never to return, suffering a series of strokes after Katrina, then the murder of my cousin, her grandson in 2006 not even six months after Hurricane Katrina she would never be the grandmother I once knew. The stress, stokes, and heartache caused Alzheimer’s causing a slow downward spin to her grave last April 2017.

If my family’s foundation was shaky prior to Katrina then, you could only imagine how it is now. I’m blessed that my Mama’s heirs have a tight bond, but I miss having a big family tree full of . Most days I wish I could hear the heartfelt word “Cousinnnnnnnnn” echoing throughout the nighborhood.. I want to blame it all on Hurricane Katrina, which proceeded by the death of my grandmother and our first murder victim. Had it not been for the lack of government response they would have never had to flee to Minnesota.

But I realize the breach in my family’s levy was just as weak as the city’s prior to Hurricane Katrina. I used to blame Katrina on the destruction of healthy, loving bond I had with my favorite auntie before the murder of my cousin because had it not been for Katrina. Not only did she lose her first born son, but she was a victim of Hurricane Katrina, well the government as well. The combination of it all was too much for our relationship, I feel bad because I didn’t know how to help her with his murder, I just kinda let her be as she wanted, because she was my elder, who am I to tell her how to handle life.

Decades prior to Hurricane Katrina my family fled to Minnesota to escape the lifestyles we were living in New Orleans,some not as severe as others, but we looked at moving up here as a chance to live a long quality, but we would find that life and death follows you wherever you go.

Which leads me to maybe the possible cause for what seems like the dissolution of my family. It seemed as if each Mama’s siblings and children moved to St. Paul Minnesota leaving our matriarch, our foundation, our roots left in New Orleans. I wish I could say uprooted, but that would mean our family tree was replanted with the same love as it flourished in New Orleans.

My Momo, my grandmother, didn’t follow us to Minnesota, she stayed in New Orleans, leaving that sacred family tradition intact for our visits home and when she came up to Minnesota, she would have the influence to get us all together, but it never was as it was in New Orleans. The constant contact with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins, the Sunday dinners after church and holidays with all of us packed in my Momo’s tiny house. She tried her best to keep and pass on our family tradition and legacy as well as our New Orleans culture. In fact, Alzheimer’s couldn’t erase the loving memory of New Orleans, she would ask to return home as her mind faded with the disease. The the Lord, her Mama and New Orleans never left her heart, mind, and soul.

Maybe it was our reasons for leaving New Orleans, unlike my Great Uncle who left New Orleans in the 70s for advancement, moving to Minnesota would lead him to an affirmative administration director position within the school board. As you all know I left New Orleans to escape the streets, well the street corners my then ex-fiance was selling drugs in. No matter how much my Mama helped me with my daughter, I was involved with a drug dealer and was in a controlling relationship… I left New Orleans to get away from him, but my path would greet me with the same lessons, and I would fail a quite a few more times til God stepped in and put bars between us.

As with any relationship, even the one you have with yourself, I’m learning that I must not run away, because down the road somewhere I will be greeted with the same problems, saying “Hey, girl you ready or what? this time I’m gonna try my best not to kill you, but Chic, please listen to what I’m trying to show you.” Not tying loose ends, writing the final chapter and making amends before you get on the road only leads to the “Road Frequently Traveled” will bring you back to familiar places. I found myself saying “I have been here before” and even now I know this road, this pain and I recognize the “something” that is keeping me here.

This time I know what it is, well who I am here for and that who is my daughter and the need to make amends with the past, the people who disappointed the both of us. I never fully accepted my role in her life as her mother and I smothered the hurt and pain by the adults who failed both of us. We both need to heal from being in fostercare. If you haven’t noticed, I always refer to my adopted daughter as “adopted daughter or my niece” she actually calls me Auntie Dee as does the rest of my nieces, nephews, and kids I have bonded with, but she’s actually my little cousin. To this day I honored her mother as her Mom regardless of the lack of a relationship, I never wanted to replace her, make her forget her Mom, my role and actually foster parents are trained to assist the parent and child relationship, not to alienate their bond. My goal was always for them to have restoration even after the adoption.

I didn’t know her until the day she and her sister came to my house for placement in the summer of 2009; therefore there wasn’t a relationship established with her prior. The girls came into my home as if any new foster care placement, but I accepted them more so because I was helping my Auntie and my cousin, her Dad. It was a life-altering favor. As the time went on and adoption was needed, I did so in honor of my bond with my Auntie as always, believing, knowing that the time will come when they could go be with the grandparents and then the Dad after he was released from prison, but it didn’t fall in place like that. The arrangement never went as plan.

I didn’t understand that, and I never realized why I never received the support, especially emotionally and help caretaking or babysitting I was told I would get. In 5 years I was only able to send her for a few weeks out of one summer, her sister was never welcomed, and I was asked: “What you need a break for?” This Auntie of mines abandoned me after I opened my home. I’m happy I had my own Mama who basically moved in and was Auntie/Grandma to both girls as well as my foster kids. I was Auntie Dee and a single foster-mother before meeting the girls, that was easy for me is that I love kids. Since I was a child I dreamed of being the “Old Lady who lived in a shoe with so many kids, she didn’t know what to do,” and I got my wish and it got to the point I didn’t know what to do.

I was a special needs foster mom, the kids that were placed with me were diagnosed with behavioral, mental or medical issues. At one point I had 6 girls in my care one being my baby with severe medical needs, as well as my own adult daughter who has hydrocephalus and she was recently a new mom. It was hard, but the county worker tried her best to give me services, and I had a great foster care worker, but what I didn’t know was all that cushion, extra in-home support and financial assistance would be cut severely, especially social services and in-home support. It got to the point where I really needed help, a break, I was trying to run a restaurant and a house. After the adoption, I did not know how alone I would be. If you’re a foster parent especially a single parent, you look at the social workers as if they are the other parent, ya Daddy. You can call on them when the kids are being wrong when you needed clothing, a respite break and etc… My support was gone, and it got hard to care for the girls. All I had for support was my immediate family and my now murdered cousin who was stood solidly in my corner. They had their own children, their own home, their own lives, but they went over and beyond the call as did other family members who came into my house to assist me, but they got burnt out too.

Things got so bad, well-being a foster/adoptive single parent was extremely challenging, plus I had a 12yr old placement who lied on her adoptive brother in hopes of getting reunited with a mother she never met. I realized “Attachment Disorder” was a real mental health issue. I would just about stop up my ears, I went deaf when I was told behaviors, and I did not believe in medicating children… The black family shunned formal therapy and medication, but I would soon be forced to accept counseling. I’m partially on the fence for meds, however I have allowed the girls to be placed on medication as things got tougher and they got older. Eventually the behaviors got so bad, so unmanageable that a judge decided after hearing a statement from the older sister that it was in the best interest for my family for her not to be in my home. Among the things she stated was “she would not stop her behaviors, she would do whatever it took to get back with her mom, Dee is not my Mom.” Once the judge heard her say this in open court, it was decided it was needed to terminate from the then 15yr old. The same would happen with my other placement and her adoptive mother. Actually, the adopted mom pleaded with the judge after her son sat in adult jail after being falsely accused by the girl. The mom was beyond hurt, she was devastated to the point that she did not want anything to do with the little girl anymore. I would feel like that in the beginning, my life was threatened by a child I took it out of love turned on me, but once I found out, she was sent to live in group home settings, because of the behaviors. I felt inclined to allow her to continue to be a part of the family as long as she worked on her issues.

The sad part about it is both girl’s actions were prompted by parents who never parented, and that desire to be with the bio parent was as strong as a drug. They would do whatever it took to be with their biological parents, even destroy the family that took them into their home… I’m thankful that my ex- daughter, like what do you call a child you adopt and then terminate the adoption? But I’m grateful to her for being honest by stating her feelings and honestly I could not be mad with her, because that was the goal when they were placed in my home to be reunited with her biological mother, but she never completed her case plan. I believe all kids should be with their parents, foster-care damages the child mentally and emotionally, the separation is more than not physically being in the home. I couldn’t imagine how it feels to be without my Mama and Daddy as a child, therefore part of me sympathizes with them, then the other gets angry because of the desperation to be with their Mom’s came with manipulation and the sacrifice of others, such as that young man who was jailed for false allegations by who was known and loved as his little sister.

Unlike me, that adoptive mom who was also a family member took in the little girl as a 6-week old baby who was freed from the womb of a mother who was incarcerated. It would be 12 years later this little girl would meet her Mom as she rode her bike… The placement of the little girl would be a blessing in disguise because she would confide in her and me, we would meet with the police and social workers, to tell the truth, which would free the young man from his jail cell. I can see her in my sliding down the wall onto the floor letting out a sigh, “Auntie Dee can I talk to you? Can you help me? I lied to my brother.” She would give me all the details, showing me her cell phone with messages from her Mom with promises of living together as long as she kept up with the lie, which was headed to trial. I was so proud of her for speaking the truth. I can’t believe with all the real stories of child molestation, the grown adult who currently live in the shadows of childhood abuse that a mother would manipulate her child to lie. Yes, it’s a lie a false allegation is a lie that kills the accused soul, their life entire life is forever changed, and some can never view a child as innocent anymore. I know my love for children has not changed, but I being a foster mom and dealing with bitter unaccountable parents has me not as trusting of children, and that hurts. It was a hard time then and as you can see I’m still upset, not over it and want justice for the mother’s action, especially after hearing that the young man who was falsely accused turned to drugs months after the charges were dropped. , very hard. I’m unsure how I do not have a pacemaker..but anyway I was committed to making it work with my daughter, because she was family and wanted to be in the home, but it still came with challenges as she was entering teenage-hood, plus struggling with all the years she had been in foster care prior to meeting me.

Neither girl ever reunited with their Mother’s and the relationships are unhealthy, fueled by women who do not want to own up for their lack of parenting skills, blaming everyone from the county to the foster parents for the so-called “taking” of their kids which gave them the excuse to manipulate their children to hurt others….Sad, no horrible and I feel they should have been charged with criminal child abuse and lying to the police.

I never imagined that I would be literally at the bottom and just about living in Minnesota once again. I have been here since the crime on July 22nd leaving for only 5 days in August, and it has been hard trying to figure out how to support her through this and getting back to New Orleans to encourage us all financially. She was here with my cousin in the summer after an unsuccessful attempt to granting legal custody to her grandmother, my auntie only for it to be returned to me. All these years I had her I just knew that would be the end result, it seemed to be the right thing to do, the way things should be. I actually never understood why I had the girls in the first place, especially being that I was and still am single and she has grandparents who are well off. I remember trying to explain how it came to be that I had her to the judge in New Orleans after it was learned I was the cousin and not some stranger who adopted the child because I so wanted a child.

So, you see I can’t just leave Minnesota, because after this tragedy I realized that I am not “Auntie Dee, I’m not the cousin, and I’m not adopted, mom” she is my child, and she is deserving of knowing that I’m here regardless of who’s not doing what. I’m really trying to be what I can for her, even while my heart is bleeding and my mind is going haywire. I’m here allowing her to have access to the bounty of resources that Minnesota has to serve her, especially finding out that New Orleans does not have the same, something that I want to assist in changing.

It took for the most horrendous crime to happen to her, to happen to my cousin for me to understand my position, a position I never accepted because I didn’t want to step on toes or insult her right immediate family. I never saw that I was it, all these years, I thought I was just caring for her, ensuring that she remained in our family until they could take her. I just knew after this crime her real parents and grandparents would come to sweep her up and everything would fall in place, but that has not happened. A part of me feels guilty for not giving my 100% because I was holding on to this belief before the breach, the divide of who and what I know is my family.

I was holding on to the ways of ancestors whose documents read on the census that they were caring for a child of an absent family member until they came back from the North seeking a better life. Basically being foster parents followed by adoptive parents when the family member doesn’t return and not because of the reasons parents do not return now, they were killed on “The Road Less Traveled” by either KKK, the police, weather and nature, but always leaving the door open for them up until their very own death. They would always keep hope alive, always reminding the child that their parent would be back soon, they never gave up on them, and I held the same standard in this particular case because it was family…

I’m disappointed for believing in the foundation of family, especially when the roots of our family tree were left uprooted, tradition was gone with the passing of the older generation, and it was as if we acted as if we initiated our own form of gentrification, because I should have been more than Auntie Dee all this time.

We run away from places only to find that we carry the issue within us, we blame our lives on others and continue on the same path that we have traveled, following our own footsteps instead of leading the way. I’m so ready to go back to New Orleans, because I am broke from paying bills in two cities, barely living in either, I see a decline in my social media engagement because I’m not in the town being NOLA Chic and I have lost out of several opportunities.

But I wanted y’all to know that I have not returned, because I not only have the duty or responsibility for this young lady that I adopted, but I have the honor to be here for my daughter who survived a monster. I hope to see you soon, New Orleans, but I can’t run away from this place that I once sought out for security and comfort. Minnesota gave me the same life my Daddy said would have been no different than living in New Orleans.

I honestly feel that Minnesota owes me, moving here destroyed my family, it stretched us too far out and turned our hearts to the ice for one another. And maybe that’s why I longed for New Orleans every day since I departed in the 90s, I felt the loneliness that came with knowing the government will care for you in this cold-hearted land. The lack of the struggle, calling on family and the sense of it takes a village was not and is not in place anymore. The family gettogethers, and family reunions are just about nonexistent, but there is hope, well I hope there is.

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