I hope to give some uplifting words to people who are being lied about, or gossiped about, or bullied.
If evil people are maligning you, you must be living right.
Just stay above it and keep on track.
I wanted to include this excerpt from THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN.
I am so glad I documented all this right as it happened, because when I look back now, I still can hardly believe it went down this way.
In one of the most atrocious actions my sister “R1” has ever pulled off, she called the police when I took Amanda to the movies, and told them I had kidnapped her.
R1 at the time was Amanda’s temporary guardian. It was shortly after the death of our dad.
This scenario, in my opinion, is a perfect example of how our justice system fails people with disabilities.
I feel sorry for my siblings, actually. It must be so exhausting to have this negative energy, grinding away at you day after day.
I have recently tried to get down in it with them, and I just can’t. I am no good at it. I don’t want to hang around down there.
I admit it’s hurtful that, after all I did for every one of these people over so many years (you know who you are) they would put so much energy into trying to tear me down.
There is not a single one among them (save Amanda) who has stood by me through the hard times.
Not. A. Single. One.
But that is fine — I just have too much to do to worry about it.
I really like our book, Amanda. I wish I had gotten a professional editor to look it over, but I guess we did okay.
I probably won’t try to revamp it. The story is told — it was a very important phase in my life.
I do not know the answers to the problems that our legal system faces in scenarios like this. But I do know that people with disabilities need better protection from predatory family members.
Here is the portion of the chapter about the “kidnapping.” (We actually went to the movies.)
The North Side of Down, Chapter 10 – Excerpt
I met R1 to pick Amanda up after an appointment. We met in the Wendy’s parking lot and R1 got out of the car and stood in front of the passenger door as if to block Amanda from getting out. She handed me her cell phone. “Here. Rose wants to talk to you.”
I took the phone. “Hi. What’s up?”
“Can you please go to the credit union and talk to them about Dad’s account?” she wailed. “They won’t give me any information because your name is on it.”
“It’s gonna close,” I said. “By the time I get there it will be after five.”
“Not if you hurry.”
I sighed and looked at the clock. “Okay, I guess we will do our matinee tomorrow.”
I was looking right at R1 when I said it. She just stared at me.
We hung up and R1 finally permitted Amanda to get out of the car. “See you later,” I said cheerfully.
Amanda and I took the hour’s drive, listening to our music and laughing.
“I hate driving fast when I’m this tired,” I said. “My judgment is like the weather: A little cloudy.”
“It’s not THAT bad.”
“Aw, thanks Manda!”
“I meant the weather,” she said.
“Ha, ha, ha. Very funny.”
I turned the music up. “Sister Golden Hair” was playing on a CD my friend Steve had made for me. Amanda said, “Nancy do you get it? Will you meet me in the middle.” She pointed at me.
“Will you meet me in the end,” she pointed to herself.
We were indeed the middle child and the “end” child. I smiled. “Brilliant!”
We pulled in to the Credit Union lot that overlooked the ferry dock. “Wait here. We can go over to Desi’s afterward,” I said.
Dori in the credit union informed me that as estate executor, in order to get account information, all R2 needed to do was submit a copy of the death certificate. I smiled and thanked her, and asked her to print me a copy of the account’s activity. It showed the account was empty, and had been for some time. I kept a copy in case I needed to face any more accusations.
I held the door to the Mainsail open as Amanda crutched up the ramp and inside. I left her near my usual table and went into the restroom. When I came out, Amanda had bellied up to the bar and was surrounded by a half dozen locals. They were all laughing boisterously. “My family is crazy!” Amanda was saying, then she spotted me coming around the corner. “Oops. I guess I better go sit down now.”
There was more raucous laughter from the group. “Nice!” I said, and followed her to the table.
We only had a couple of hours to hang out until R1 was supposed to meet us. But she was running late. Meanwhile, I bought Amanda a late lunch and while I sat there with my computer, Desi came over and said, “Amanda, do you want a magazine to look at?”
“Yes, please,” Amanda said.
Desi gave her a gossip rag so Amanda had some celebrities to catch up on, while I skimmed Facebook. “You can keep that,” Desi said.
“Hey thanks!” Amanda said. She stood up.
“Where are you going?” I said.
“I’m going to the bathroom. And I’m not speaking to my guardianship. I’m going whether anyone likes it or not!”
As the afternoon waned, we sat together and Amanda gave me updates on the celebrities featured in her magazine, and showed me pictures of various people, and who they were dating, and who looked best in the same dress.
Two hours later, R1 finally arrived. “Okay Amanda, let’s go.”
As I unplugged my computer and wrapped up the cord, I watched while Amanda stood up. Her crutches were leaning against the wall. She fumbled with her coat while R1 stood in front of her, making no move to help her. I put my computer in its bag and put my own coat on, meanwhile watching as Amanda struggled with her box of leftovers, her magazine, and her crutches. R1 simply stood there with her hands hanging by her sides, looking on. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Here,” I said to Amanda. “Give me that.”
I carried her magazine, her lunch box and my gear, and held the door for her while she crutched outside. I put her items and her crutches in the back seat and helped her into the car. “See ya tomorrow, Blood Sister,” I said.
The next day I was greeted by a thousand white blobs of petals as the trillium bloomed all around R1’s trailer in the woods. There was a small cluster of daffodils near her front step. The hardwoods were covered in a bright green mist. There was nothing so beautiful as spring in the UP, I thought. Amanda and I drove to the Soo listening to our music. This time it was Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, “The Girl is Mine.”
“She’s mine, mine, mine. Hey! That sounds like you and Raven,” Amanda said.
“That’s not funny!” I snapped. She chortled with glee.
When we came out of the theatre, the sun blasted through the front entrance, revealing a sky so deep I felt we could dissolve into it. The birds regaled us, cheering en masse from their budding heights. Even though it was mid-May, the air was still and smelled like snow.
“Let’s take a drive down by the Locks,” Amanda said.
We drove down the hill, through the aged brick-and-mortar town, past the corner bars and the fudge shops, down by where the ships pulled carefully in to the massive stalls known as the Soo Locks. Tulips bloomed along the walkways, bright splashes of color against the cement.
“Let’s take a little walk,” Amanda suggested.
I glanced at my cell phone. It was a little after 3. If she was getting off work on time, R1 would arrive at her trailer ahead of us. But Amanda still would be back in plenty of time for dinner. I pulled over and parked, helping Amanda out with her crutches. “I just didn’t want to go back yet,” Amanda confessed.
“I understand. It is such a beautiful day for a walk. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Grab one of those little flags I got you, and I will take your picture by the tulips!”
The flags were in a small packet, tucked inside Amanda’s purse. I had spotted them at Wal-Mart and instantly thought of her. Portable patriotism.
Amanda obligingly crutched over by the flower bed. I took the crutches and leaned them against the fence, and aimed the camera. She posed with her little flag, smiling against the backdrop of bright colors.
We walked through the iron gates, into the park by the Locks. I looked up and down the river in both directions. “No freighters today! Dang it! Go figure.”
She was quiet, not her usual buoyant self. She was heading for the stairs of the viewing platform. “They have a ramp,” I said. “Do you want to go up there?”
“No,” she said. “I’m just looking at what this says.”
She had stopped and was facing a square of concrete, an engraved plaque on the wall below the viewing deck. I stepped over and began to read aloud.
When I finished, I said, “Isn’t that nice? They give money to the families of lost sailors.”
“That is great,” she said. We turned and walked along the fence line by the water’s edge.
I nodded toward a grassy area where picnic tables were scattered. “We were here about this time last year. Remember I set up the camera and took our picture? I think we were right over there.”
“Yes I do remember that!” She crutched along in silence for a moment, holding tightly to her little American flag. The young leaves above us moved softly as the Lake Superior wind touched them. Suddenly, Amanda added, “We are gonna be okay, Nancy.”
I looked at her. Her eyes were down, concentrating on her steps. “Yes,” I said. “We are.”
The walk angled sharply and took us back to the gate near where the truck was parked. We followed it reluctantly and climbed back in.
“I wish I could come to your dog class on Saturday,” she said as I started the engine. I would be teaching an obedience workshop at JD Kennels, a new business that had opened up in Cedarville. I was quickly becoming fast friends with Jane Doty, the proprietor.
“I know you’d like to be there. You can ask Raven. I would come and pick you up. But I am sure she has plans for you Saturday.”
She looked out the window. The corners of her mouth turned down a little. There were tiny lines on her forehead, long and fine as hairs. It was hard to see her looking so sad. I was developing a new appreciation for people forced to share custody of their children. I thought it ironic that, even though I wasn’t a parent, I was enduring this kind of separation, possibly the same type of pain. The difference, of course, was that Amanda was an adult. The law had stripped her of her freedom to make choices; even choices as simple as where to spend her Saturday.
“I don’t know how you do it,” I said. “I don’t know where you find this strength.”
“I don’t think I am strong.”
“Well, you are. You are so composed. You are so calm.”
“But on the inside, I am not.”
I knew it wasn’t the weekend that was bothering her. It was the whole business. It was the idea that a mere sister, who should have been her peer, had complete control over her every moment. It was degrading. It was depressing. She had to be wishing that Dad would come back and set everything right. There had to be some way to make these next few days easier for her. I searched for something that would help. Suddenly, I knew the thing.
“Do you remember what I said to you, at the meeting following the hearing? When you started to cry, and I was hugging you, and I whispered something in your ear?”
“No, I don’t remember what it was.”
“I said to be brave. And you stopped crying. Do you know why I said that?”
“Do you remember the Special Olympics creed?”
“Oh, yes. Uhm… Let’s see. ‘Let me win. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’”
“Yes. Do you remember the time I was waterskiing? And I had lost a ski and I was getting scared, floundering around in the deep? And you and Marcus were in the boat?”
“Oh, yeah!” She was laughing now, amused at the memory, so confident in her own swimming abilities. “You are really scared of deep water.”
“That’s right. I was starting to panic. And you called out, ‘Be brave, Nancy, be brave in the attempt!’”
“Oh yeah. That’s right.”
“It really helped me! So, that’s what I was thinking about when I whispered in your ear that day.”
“Okay. But Special Olympics isn’t the same. That’s not what they meant.”
“That’s true. But it still works. Because there are all kinds of bravery.”
She was silent for a bit, pondering this. Finally, she said, “Okay, I know what you mean. But I still don’t want to go back there.”
“I know you don’t. But just think. Tomorrow is Saturday. On Sunday, Ted is flying in from Arizona.” I knew R1 would keep Amanda to herself all weekend. The dog class wasn’t going to happen for her. She needed something to look forward to. So I added, “On Monday, Ted will be here in Michigan and on Tuesday is court. It’s supposed to rain on Monday. That could be our next movie day! We could see the new Star Trek movie.”
“That would be good!” She brightened visibly. “Thanks for taking me to the Locks. You sure made my Memorial Day.”
Memorial Day was still a week away. “I did?”
“Yes. Giving me the flags, and then reading that sign down by the Locks, about the lost sailors.”
“Oh, yeah. That was a good Memorial Day thing.” I hadn’t thought about it. She was right, though. If she went with Ted, they would be flying out the Sunday preceding Memorial Day and she wouldn’t be able to visit Mom’s grave, or see any parades, hang Dad’s flag out, or enjoy any of her other rituals. A simple walk by the Locks for me had been something much more significant for her. She was seizing the moment. She had been thinking of our Dad, our fallen Merchant Marine, and carrying her little flag in his honor.
“I’m glad I could help,” I said.
“You still have Dad’s flag, right?”
“Yes. It is in a safe place. But you can have it back now if you want it.”
“No. You keep it until May 21st.”
“I was just checking up on it.”
We drove on, along the road lined with misty green trees, through the woods spattered with clouds of white trillium. We pulled up in R1’s driveway. Her car was parked there, long and black, like something a dour reverend might be driving when he shows up to deliver the worst kind of news. We got out of the car and I helped Amanda hobble slowly up the steps. I ran back to the car and got her coat. As I trotted back with her coat, R1 flung the door open.
“Hi!” I said, handing her the coat.
R1’s face rumpled into an ugly scowl. “Nancy, I am gonna be straight with you.”
“No. Don’t be straight.” Whatever this was about, I wasn’t going to allow it within Amanda’s earshot, especially with her fragile state of mind. Amanda put her head down and crutched through the open door past R1. I turned around and walked back to the car.
“Come back here!” R1 yelled.
I waved. “Have a nice weekend.”
Nearly an hour later, as I headed back into the tenuous cell phone range of the Cedarville community, my voice mail chimed in. It was R1. “If you don’t call me back within five minutes and tell me where you are with Amanda, I’m calling the sheriff!”
I hung up. She should have known we were out of range. Cell phones were useless throughout most of the Eastern U.P. I forgot about her threat as I pulled in at Jane’s and proceeded to walk around her kennel, discussing our plans for Saturday’s class. Later that night, my phone rang.
“Uhm, is this Nancy Bailey?”
“This is officer West from the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department.”
I stifled a laugh. She had actually done it.
“Hi,” I said.
“Are you in Sault Ste Marie?”
“No, I am closer to Cedarville.”
A half hour from him. He hesitated.
“Can you pick a time to meet me, or if it’s okay, can you discuss something with me over the phone?”
“Sure, we can do it right now.”
“We had a call from your sister, uhm – “
Better known as R1.
“Yes. Raven. She said that apparently you had taken your other sister to the movies?”
“She said that you did this without her consent, and she is the guardian.”
Temporary – God willing, knock wood, cross your fingers – temporary guardian.
“Well, I just called to get your side of the story. I did talk to your other sister, Amanda, who said- “
“You talked to Amanda?”
Great. Just great. The poor girl had obviously not suffered enough. I immediately started thinking of ways to help her deal with this new punishment. I decided that slapstick would be our best defense. Blood sisters at the movies. A felony. No, a Miss – Demeanor. De more movies we miss, demeanor we get. We were going to have a field day with this one.
“Yes,” he said. “I talked to her. She said she looked forward to Girl’s Day Out. She said that you went to the movies and took a walk down by the Soo Locks.”
Fun at the Soo Locks – sue me!
“Well, you do understand that you need Raven’s consent to take Amanda. I don’t know if you could get proof, or whatnot. But she has the paperwork and you could go to jail.”
“Oh yes, I understand.”
Girl’s Day Out turns to Girl’s Day In – in the slammer, that is.
“Do you have anything to say?”
I sighed. Why bother? Was the whole thing even deserving of a response? It was ludicrous, but, to at least one person, this appeared like a rational course of action. Maybe the best thing to do was clarify it, for the record. “Yes. First of all, I want to apologize for you having to spend time on this trivial issue. I know there are other things you could be doing. Raven is lying. She thrives on drama. She absolutely knew I was picking Amanda up. I told her yesterday that we would be seeing the earlier matinee, because we missed yesterday’s movie. I did it out of consideration for her work schedule. We have a court date pending on the 21st and she is getting panicky. I think she is angry because I was an hour late taking Amanda back and then I wouldn’t stand on her porch and listen to her squall about it. Now, it’s her word against mine, so she’s decided to do a little chest-thumping.”
“Okay,” his half-distracted voice told me he was writing. “So you say she’s a drama queen?”
I laughed. “Yeah, put that.”
“Well, you know it is your word against hers.” He was polite, and sounded completely unbiased. I could tell he was young. I thought an older cop would have said something like, “Yeah, I agree it’s crazy, but just cut me a break and play along.”
“And Amanda has no say in the matter?” I asked.
“No, none whatsoever.”
“So unless you have some documentation, or whatnot, proving that you have Raven’s consent to take Amanda, if it happens again, you could go to jail. Do you understand this?”
“Oh, yes, I understand very well.”
Hit the Soo Locks, then throw away the key.
I thanked him and hung up. It immediately occurred to me that, in a normal community, this wouldn’t help R1’s case at all. I was starting to think that maybe she needed to be on some kind of prescription medication. Her behavior was becoming more and more blatantly irrational. Poor Amanda! I knew that strange things could happen in a courtroom. I didn’t have a lot of faith in this judge, based on what I had already seen. I could only hope that what was glaringly obvious to me – that being in this person’s control was very unhealthy for Amanda – would be obvious to Judge Temple.
First thing Monday morning, the day she could talk freely, I had a voicemail from Amanda. “Hey Nancy what’s up? I just wanna find out how you’re doing this morning. I missed you the other day. You know why, the other day, because Raven’s been calling the cops! And I was scared. And she approached them in the house. They asked me the questions. I wondered why they asked me the questions about you, Nancy. Ugh. I can’t handle this. I was scared. So I hope you get my message. This is your baby sister. I hope you call back soon. Bye.”
My reaction to this phone call was pure, unadulterated rage. I thought I could feel blood swelling up in my ears. It was as if R1 was now inventing ways to further traumatize Amanda. I realized her actions were due to her own agenda. But the fact that she had no inclination to put her weird impulses aside at a time like this, even for Amanda’s sake, infuriated me. I had decided to treat the situation with humor, but Amanda didn’t have a full understanding of why the police were involved. Apparently no one had bothered to explain it to her. And really, it defied reason. It was no wonder she was confused.
The first thing I did was forward her voicemail to Ted, thinking he may need it to help his case. Once I had calmed down enough to where I could make light of the situation, I called her back. “Hello? Amanda? It’s me, your blood sister. I’m in the klink. They gave me one phone call. Can you come and bail me out?”
“Oh, very funny!” she said. But she was starting to laugh.
“Can you believe she called the cops because we went to the movies?”
“I can’t believe it!”
“Was the cop at least a good looking guy?”
“Hot cops! Okay, that’s good. Was he nice to you?”
“Yes. He was very nice. He said his wife has horses.”
“Oh, you told him about Clifford?”
“Yes, I did. I told him my sister was an author, and artist, and trains animals, and does dog shows.”
“Nice! Thank you!”
“Well, you know why she called them, right? Did they explain it?”
“I think so. But I still don’t get it.”
“Actually it doesn’t make much sense to me, either. But what happened was, Raven got mad for whatever reason. Who knows. Maybe because we stayed out too long. And then I didn’t call her back, because we were out of signal range when she called.”
“So she called the cops and told them that I didn’t have permission to take you to the movies. Because she has a court order stating that she is your guardian – “
“Temporary guardian,” she corrected me.
“Yes. She showed them the court order saying she is your temporary guardian. So she has the legal right to keep you from going to the movies. If she claims she didn’t give permission, the cops could take me to jail.”
“Yes. It’s not their fault. They are just doing their job. But they have to do what the court orders.”
“Yes. When I picked you up at Wendy’s on Thursday, I told Raven we would see the earlier matinee on Friday. So she knew we were going to the movies.”
“Yes, I remember that! Nancy. Do you know what she said to me? She said, ‘I forbid you to go to the movies!’” Amanda’s tone was angry. She was practically spitting the words.
“Yes! ‘I forbid you!’ she said! How can she forbid me, Nancy?”
“I do agree that is pretty extreme. It’s a good thing we will be in court tomorrow. We need to get this straightened out.”
“Yes, we do.”
If you read the whole thing, thanks for sticking with us. If you like the story, you can order it on Amazon. It is also available as an audiobook. Amanda and I split the royalties. It is her life, her story…. Our story.
I hope those who read it will see that all people, in fact all living things, deserve respect.
Just because a person has a disability, it should not make them a tool at anyone’s disposal. Amanda is not a child. She is not a house pet. She is a person: A super smart, funny, generous, loving and sometimes exasperating person.
She is the best sister. I am lucky to have her.