Caring for Matt

It’s been at least a decade since I took care of my autistic brother Matt in my house. A few things precipitated this change. Initially I stopped providing weekend respite care for my parents after Matt was violent towards my daughter.

There may have been a few times I took care of Matt and my mom took my kids although it wasn’t much of a break. It was difficult raising 3 little kids without having much for family support. My mom had to take care of Matt. My brothers didn’t live close. My mother-in-law could barely handle raising the one child she did have, my husband. I found myself bitter towards parents that could dump their kids off and get away every now and then.

But the biggest change for me as a care provider for Matt was when my parents placed him in a group home. I was no longer needed to help out, until now that is. Matt’s group home was closed since the virus started. It is now open but if he goes back this month, he is not allowed to leave.

Originally my mom wanted me to stop by the house every night to make sure Matt was okay under my dad’s care. I told her it would be easier for me to have him stay with us for almost a week which is longer than he has ever stayed with me before.

I told my kids that Matt was coming to stay here for awhile but they wouldn’t have to adjust their lives around him. If it didn’t work out, Matt could always go home and I could check in on him everyday. One of my kids called me selfish for saying that our world didn’t revolve around Matt.

As a child my whole life revolved around Matt and if I had to tiptoe around him in my own house it wasn’t going to work. No other family member is willing to step up and offer to take him in for almost a week. That should count for something.

The whole experience went better than I expected. Although Matt is no longer violent, caring for him is not easy. He is on a special diet. I needed to make separate meals for him. At certain times of the day his medicine needs to be ground up and put into applesauce. He doesn’t have table manners. He farts and belches at the table. Sometimes he gags on his food especially if you bring a napkin near him.

He has poor hygiene. He is a messy eater and soils his clothes. He often wears his clothes inside out and/or backwards. He doesn’t change his clothes often. He refused to shower which he would need assistance doing. He wouldn’t ask for help after using the bathroom and made a mess on the floor. I had to floss his teeth and big clumps of food came out of his mouth which made me feel nauseous. He made a total mess out of the bathroom he used. In all honesty, it did trigger feelings of hopelessness in me.

Not only are my parents hoarders, but they rarely cleaned the house. Cleaning up after Matt would be like fixing up a house before you knew a tornado was going to hit. I didn’t even feel completely relieved that everything was clean after I cleaned once he left. I can’t always clean up messy feelings inside by cleaning the filth in my house.

I felt guilty when I wasn’t spending every minute taking care of him. Most of the time he would sit on the couch and stare off into space when I wasn’t interacting with him. I felt the ingrained need to please him because his life is so sad.

I found his favorite movies and put them on for him to watch. We went on walks together. I talked to him about the shared good memories from childhood. I talked about places and loved ones that long since passed. I talked to him about the things only a sibling would know. All these things helped ease his separation anxiety from my mom. I think things went really well, as good as I could have hoped for.

As a sibling, I worry a lot about what life will be like for Matt when my mom is no longer here. My parents are getting old. It is comforting to know that maybe he will adjust with my help. Matt will probably never be easy to care for but I think he would do well with me. I was impressed with how well he adapted to his new environment. It felt good to be able to help my mom out. In some ways it was nostalgic and strangely comforting for me as well.

 

Deadbeat Dad Greeting Cards

Today is my dads birthday. I thought of creating a new line of greeting cards as I searched for the perfect card at the grocery store. I know, grocery store. I should’ve went to Hallmark. But that would’ve probably been a bigger waste of time. I could’ve spent hours searching every single card and still go home emptyhanded.

Maybe I should’ve just said the hell with it. My dad never sent a card or called me on my birthday. He never took me out to eat for the said event. He never bought me flowers. Yada, yada, yada. I bet he doesn’t even know when my birthday is. Yes, he was a bad dad and doesn’t deserve recognition.

I am reaching out to him because I am a good person.

The first card I opened had a greeting that said something like this…you are the reason why I am who I am today. Yeah, you are the reason I am in therapy. Nope! Next!

The next card…you are the perfect role model. Yeah, for how not to be. Nope!

Card after card spewed the most ridiculous sap. After I’ve exhausted all the dad cards, I looked at cards for step-dads, like a dad, and grandpa cards. It was all the same over the top scribbled dribble.

I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

After I rejected all the dad related options, I started looking at other cards. The funny cards are no better. Seriously, poop cards never have been funny. They just remind me of all the crap you put me through.

Cards for guys with hot ladies….yeah, why not piss off my mom too.

Cards with a get out of jail free card inside…Might be acceptable for an incarcerated dad.

Cards that make fun of old people…that’s just wrong!

Cards about drinking, sports, or golf…That might work for some dads. But my dad isn’t into any of that.

I ended up getting a birthday card with nothing written on the inside. That’s just as bad. So I wrote something generic in it. Happy birthday Dad! Enjoy your special day.

Now most of you are probably wondering…Why not text? My dad has a flip phone and does not get texts. Darn! Why not call? I haven’t seen or talked to my dad in almost three months. I don’t want to break that streak. (I have valid reasons)! I hate talking on the phone anyway and even more so if it is awkward small talk.

I think the obvious solution here is starting a new business. The Deadbeat Dad Greeting Card Company. There will be various levels of cards. I could color code the envelopes on a scale of one to ten to correspond with the cards. A one would be for the worst dad all the way up to a ten for the perfect dad. Then you wouldn’t have to waste your time reading all the cards. You pick your number and find the envelope with the corresponding color.

Now the cards don’t have to be just for dads. They could be for your wife, kids, siblings, teachers, etc… People could even find the perfect card for their ex. Win-win. Now I can still be a good person even if you don’t want to be.

I never wanted the dress

Last week the girls and I went prom dress shopping. I didn’t expect it to trigger emotions in me, but it did. I am so easily triggered now it seems.

My mom and I never went prom dress shopping together. One day she just brought home a prom dress for me. It was the ugliest light pinkest thing you ever did (or in this case, you didn’t) see. I hated it, but wore it anyway.

That evening at prom a “friend” told me another girl wore the same dress last year and that my boyfriend was planning on breaking up with me. I should have never went out with this guy in the first place. He was a complete jerk. During study hall, he would sit at a table in the library with his friends instead of me. I guess that wasn’t a big deal. But sometimes he sat at the table with a girl “friend” he flirted with constantly. She was way out of his league and had an obsession with polka dots. After that I hated everything polka dots when I should’ve hated him.

But anyway, sometimes when your dad doesn’t care about you or who you are dating you pick guys that are emotionally distant like your dad. The night of prom started out rough. Now I can’t totally blame it on the dress. Or maybe some would. My boyfriend’s step-dad really liked my dress and grabbed my ass when no one was looking. The whole night was a nightmare.

Then after prom, my boyfriend and I were headed to a party but got into a huge fight instead over the rumor he was going to break up with me. It was raining and we were pulled over at the side of the road arguing. Several people stopped to see if we were okay. It happened so many times that my boyfriend just told the concerned citizens we were fighting.

Why don’t normal things ever happen to me??

But anyway, the dress. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t pick the dress out. I didn’t even like it. I felt guilty for wanting something else, so I just wore it. My mom did spend a lot of money on it.

I felt that way a lot as a teen, though. I didn’t have any choice, although it seemed like I did. When my autistic brother Matt was home bound, my mom pulled my younger brothers out of school as well. I was entering 8th grade when this happened. She told me I had a choice between homeschooling and going to school. What I heard was…are you going to choose your family or your friends? I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I had to pick family.

Instead of spending my last year of middle school with my friends, I stayed home in isolation. Then I spent my first two years of high school at home as well. The chasm widened between my friends and I, my peers and I. For three years I rarely left the house. I became a recluse. My mom became my best friend. My mom was jealous if I had other friends beside her. It’s still the same today.

When I turned 18, you might think I would’ve left home as fast as I could. But I didn’t even consider it as an option. How could I leave behind my best friend when she needed me? But I don’t have any regrets. Do you know why?? Because I never lived. I was never allowed to be a child, a teenager. I had to be an adult when I was a child. I had to emotionally support my mother. I had to take care of my violent autistic brother.

Mom didn’t want me to play the piccolo, so I played a flute instead. I wanted to take singing lessons, but got piano lessons instead. When mom didn’t like my boyfriend, she set me up on a surprise date with an ex-boyfriend she did like.

When I wasn’t perfect, I was punished. I couldn’t be perfect, but I could be manipulated and controlled. I could be guilted into doing things I didn’t want to do. I hated not having any control over my life. My mom even read my diary. She was mad at me for the things I wrote in it. I never felt accepted for who I really am and for the decisions I made.

Part of it was my fault. I thought it was selfish to live my own life. I never stood up for myself. I never said I didn’t like the dress. I never said I wanted to go to school. I just wanted to be independent and live my own life.

I wanted to play piccolo. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to choose my own clothes. I wanted to choose my own boyfriends.

I have a hard time as an adult making decisions and having choices. I sometimes still feel selfish doing what I want to do. But if I learned anything from this experience, it is to let my adult children live. Let them have their regrets. Their lives are not mine to control. But I will give unsolicited motherly advice.

Good Girl, the fixer

It didn’t start well and probably won’t end well either.

They got married almost 50 years ago on a cold February day in front of the justice of peace. That evening the bride cooked supper for her new groom and sponsors. Then her husband walked out the door for his 3rd shift job as the freezing rain started to fall from the heavens. The bride spent her wedding night alone.

He wasn’t the same after the war years before. She wasn’t the same either after watching her mother die while he was away. The husband spent many long hours staring off into space holding a gun. Many a times he wanted to pull the trigger. He flew into awful rages that one time left his bride with bruised ribs. She wanted to leave, but he said he would change so she never did.

Soon after they had several kids. First came the Good Girl followed by the Wild Child, then invisible, and ended less than 5 years from the first with Baby Boy.

The husband didn’t really change all that much. He still was depressed and flew into rages. Good Girl wished her dad loved her. She wished she was as beautiful as the girls in the magazines her dad loved. When she was very little she stared at the glossy photos of the girls on the center page. She showed the pictures to others little girls who told their parents which got Good Girl into trouble.

The wife never told the husband she would not tolerate her children seeing the magazines he left laying around the house. She buried her head in the sand. She was always working. After the wedding night, the husband didn’t want to work that much. Plus Wild Child was always taking up her time. Wild Child physically attacked all of his siblings. He hurt them then they were sent away to mend their own wounds because they were normal.

The mom screamed and confronted anyone that posed a threat to Wild Child. Even if he was hurting someone, the mom yelled not to hurt Wild Child as he was pulled off of them. The mom yelled if Wild Child was not treated like royalty. He was sacred and meant to be worshiped. Everyone should know that their world revolves around him. There was a list of rules to be followed in the sacrifice to him of their childhood.

Meanwhile, invisible was invisible. Baby Boy acted like Wild Child so he could get attention. Dad was fond of harshly disciplining him. He called Baby Boy lazy and stupid. Dad liked to scare Baby Boy so he could laugh at him. invisible laughed along with dad and dad protected him. Good Girl acted like she didn’t care to stay under the radar. Dad neither hugged nor hit her. He just said mean words. She felt bad for Baby Boy, but instead of protecting him she hid so she wouldn’t get hurt.

Mom complained, but didn’t do anything. She wasn’t cruel herself, but didn’t protect the children from Wild Child or dad. She cried louder than the children so they would take care of her. The mom was a martyr and Good Girl became the fixer.

One day everything changed. The children grew up. Good Girl stayed close to home to help fix. Wild Child became Mild Child. But still the mom raged. They didn’t brush Mild Child’s teeth good enough. They don’t exercise him. They don’t make him the right foods.

invisible moved far away in the middle of nowhere. Baby Boy left too. He told his parents how much they hurt him. Then he left home, got married, and joined a healthy family so he didn’t have to come back to his broken one.

The mom and dad grew old. Still the mom did nothing, unless she had to yell at someone about Mild Child.

Then one day the mom decided she wanted to confront the dad about all of the bad things he has ever done. She asked the Good Girl to come with her. This made the Good Girl feel upset and stressed out. She asked the mom why she wanted to confront now and not 25 years ago. The mom said she couldn’t then because invisible would disappear forever if she did.

Good Girl did not want to be put in the middle of the mom and the dad as missiles were being fired. She wanted to be the Bad Girl and say ‘no’. The mom’s family was calling up Good Girl to be the fixer. They tried to make her feel like a bad daughter for not helping the martyr so they did not feel guilty living their perfect lives.

Good Girl is very strong because she built a fortress around herself, but she is crying to be let out. No one sees that.

Good Girl no longer wants to be a fixer and will not go. Good Girl never wants to see her dad again unless he is calling with an apology. Good Girl is done and just wants to live her own life. She thinks her parents should be helping her, not the other way around. This makes her sad. It is hard for her to move on because it never seems to end.

 

forgotten

One of the hardest parts about being a special needs sibling is being forgotten. It’s like I don’t even exist. Forgotten, no one would miss me if I was gone. It’s hard to get over the voice in my head that is on repeat saying that no one really cares about me.

Yesterday I went out to eat with my mom. At the restaurant, my mom noticed our previous dentist sitting near us. He lost his license to practice dentistry over a decade ago. He wasn’t the first provider that we had lose his license either. Let’s just say when traditional medicine didn’t heal my autistic brother, my mom went the alternative medicine route and some of those doctors were quacks.

My mom went over to talk to our dentist about Matt. She showed him all of Matt’s most recent pictures. On the way out, we said good-bye. I told my mother that the dentist probably remembered me. After all, I was the patient with the small mouth that no dentist could numb for fillings. My mom talked to the dentist some more about Matt, then asked the dentist if he remembered me.

The dentist said that he did not remember me. He had a very large practice and wasn’t expected to remember every patient. I was in his office so often that I still remember his secretary’s name. It was like a kick to the teeth. The polite thing to do would’ve been to lie. Yes, I remember you. How are you doing now? Instead he asked for my mom’s phone number because he would like to schedule a time to come out and visit Matt.

I told my husband about the interaction and he was rather appalled. But I told Paul this was the typical response.

As a teenager, the rare time I was with family friends or family, they would pepper me with questions about Matt. They asked how my brother Matt was doing with the same sympathetic frown on their faces. I was barely holding it together, but no one ever asked how I was doing or how my other brothers were doing. Yeah, just trying not to swallow a whole bottle full of pills here. But who cares?

As a child, I wanted something to be wrong with me so that I would be loved too. My babysitter told me if I wore her thick glasses and looked in the mirror, I would need glasses too. I wore her glasses looking in the mirror with a metallic gum wrapper covering my top teeth with a paper clip. I wanted to be special too.

I had a lot of stomachaches as a child. I could barely eat I felt so sick. But I wasn’t as sick as Matt. I didn’t need to go to the doctor. Matt’s valve between his stomach and intestines closed, and he almost died. What was I bellyaching about? I just wanted attention.

But as I am currently facing health issues, I wonder if I am just being paranoid. Maybe it’s just me wanting attention. Maybe it’s nothing and I am just crazy. I am probably just being selfish to focus so much on myself. Look at Matt.

It was always that way. It will probably always be that way. Seriously, who cares anyway? My thoughts and feeling don’t matter. I don’t know why I even bother.

I remember a special occasion with family several years back. We were supposed to go around the room and share something special that happened in our family over the past year. My mom spent 20 minutes in tears talking about all of Matt’s medical needs. She did not once mention that my brother Luke, who wasn’t there, got a HUGE promotion at work that year.

We are the forgotten ones. It makes me feel both sad and angry, hurt. But it was always like that. I should be used to it by now.

I didn’t feel that way about my dad. He pretty much checked out altogether. But in my mom’s life, the sun will around revolve around her special son Matt. Our accomplishments don’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Matt hurt us or our children. We should all work together to worship our god Matt because his life sucks.

My mother is a great person, a martyr perhaps. I feel guilty for my disloyalty. But the one thing that grieves me deeply, far beyond the memories of the physical pain of being attacked by Matt, is being forgotten. It’s hard to get over feeling like no one cares about me. Sometimes it’s hard to be caring towards myself. I feel selfish for sharing my wants and needs.

Forgotten.

 

Finders keepers, losers weepers?

A couple of years back, I found a wallet alongside the road while I was running. I had a couple of choices of what I could do. I could keep running. I could take the money and run. Or I could take the wallet home and try to find its owner.

I have never been the kind of person who does nothing, so that option was out.

As for option number 2, I am not the type of person that steals things. Although there was that one time in 2nd grade. There was a boy that sat in front of me in class. He had this miniature soda can that would look really good in my doll house. He would sit at his desk and pretend to slurp out of this little can like it contained the best sugary substance in the world. A can that I thought would look great in Barbie’s hand while she entertained Ken in her kitchen.

One day while the boy was leaving his desk, he bumped the little can off his desk. It rolled underneath my desk. Finders keepers, losers weepers! I took that little soda can home to Barbie. For years, I felt guilty every time I played with that little toy. Five years later, I decided to return the toy that I “found” in his locker. I wonder what he thought when he saw it. Maybe he forgot all about it, but I certainly didn’t.

I don’t think that I could live with myself if I chose the finders keepers, losers weepers option. There was around $200 in the wallet.

So I chose to take the wallet home and do a little detective work to find the owner. First, I had to pick up all of the credit cards that were strewn into the ditch. The first thing that I saw was a driver’s license. Great, I had a name and an address. I rummaged through the wallet for a phone number. How many people do you know that carry their own phone number in their wallet?

I snooped through every inch of that wallet without turning up any more clues. The whole time taking guilty pleasure in searching through someone’s personal belongings.

When Paul got home, he took a look at the wallet. He said that he knew the guy that the wallet belonged to. He was able to find the man’s number and return his wallet to him. Coincidentally, we ended up running into that same man later on in the week at a local restaurant. He came up to me and thanked me for returning his wallet. He also gave me $40 that I didn’t want to take. He refused to leave unless I took the money. He said that if I hadn’t returned the wallet to him that he would be out $200. Plus he would have had to get a duplicate driver’s license and cancel all of his credit cards. What a hassle that would’ve been!

One thing I can say about this crazy running hobby of mine is that it often takes me on some interesting adventures. 

Letting go of a broken wing

Yesterday as I was heading back to work after my lunch break, I noticed a peculiar sight. There was a robin hanging from a tree branch in my front yard. At first, I thought she was dead. Then I saw a flap of a wing, a bit of a struggle.

I noticed a nest starting a few branches higher. But something went terribly wrong. There was a black line, like fishing line, wrapped around the tree and around the wing of the bird. Every time the bird tried to break free, she wrapped her wing around the small branch again and again.

I approached the bird in a panic wondering what to do. I was afraid of the bird. The bird was afraid of me too. I spoke quietly panicked F words to the bird. I went back inside the house and grabbed a scissors. I started to cut away the line entrapping the bird. As I cut closer, the bird shrieked loudly. Panic took over my body. The tunnel vision started, my stomach acid built, and I started shaking. I was terrified to cut closer to the bird’s body, but I couldn’t leave it there to die.

So I did the next best thing after wimping out. I found someone to help me free the bird. He cut the line that was wrapped tightly around the wing. The bird fell to the ground and quickly ran away too injured to fly.

Then I started ruminating about horrible things. I thought about the nature shows I’ve watched where sea animals are caught in fishing nets. Or of all the animals that I hit with my car. Maybe some were pets. The dog that looked like mine that I saw dead along the highway years back. The pets that I lost. The fish that swallowed the hooks.

By far the worst thing that happened was a few years ago. I almost hit a deer at dusk. I slammed on my brakes just missing the deer. He ran quickly past me to the woods that was surrounded by a fence. The deer hit the fence at full force and did a flip. It was kind of comical at the time so I laughed. It felt good to relieve my nerves from the stress of almost hitting the deer. The deer was stunned from hitting the fence, but seemed to be  fine. So I left.

A few weeks later I was driving down the same road when I looked over at the area where I almost hit the deer. I noticed a dead deer that was tangled up in the fence. I knew it had to be the deer that I almost hit, that he didn’t end up being alright after all. I felt so horrible. Maybe I should have stayed longer to make sure the deer was okay. I felt guilty for my laughter. Things didn’t turn out okay like I thought they did at the time. It had to be the same animal, right? I NEVER would have left that animal there if I knew it was hurt or in any pain. It really bothered me.

Today when I came home for lunch, I saw the injured bird. Paul armed himself with a fishing net and I carried the cat carrier. We trudged around the neighborhood in attempts to capture the injured bird. I want to tell you that we caught it and brought it to the wildlife refuge like I planned, but we couldn’t catch it. The bird escaped into a muddy field. Now it probably would’ve been amusing watching us chase a bird in knee deep mud, but we had to give up. We couldn’t even catch it while on solid ground.

I can sense the storm approaching. The temperature dropped and the winds are ferociously howling. The ominous threat of a blizzard lingers. By tomorrow we are supposed to have a foot of snow whipping around in 40 mph winds.

I can’t control everything. I can’t protect everyone. I did the best I could. I am just going to have to let this go…

 

Disabled family cohesion

Yesterday was my daughter’s last high school holiday choir concert. My mom went and some close friends. You can really tell how close your friends are if they offer to go to see your child perform. I really appreciate that. Our family is a little more sketchy. My mom makes it out to 99.9% of my kids events. My mother-in-law says she is going to 50% of things and usually would cancel out last minute and make it to 20% of things. I think that not showing up at all is better than saying you are going and not showing up or giving a lame excuse not to go. My dad and brothers are very sporadic about showing up to events.

My kids all have late spring/summer birthdays, so year after year I would throw a family party for them all at one time. A couple of years back I decided to cancel the family birthday party due to lack of interest. I felt very frustrated and angry about the whole thing.

Then a couple of days ago I really started to examine the reason why there is this lack of cohesion within my family. Then I remembered every time that we went on family vacations together, all of the times that we went out to eat as a family, the hugs, the laughter, the times that my whole family came out to see my concerts, my graduation. Then I realized that none of that happened. No family vacations, I can’t remember ever going out to eat as a family when I was young. Those things didn’t happen.

This is what REALLY happened. My mom had to find someone to take care of my brother Matt to come to my events. Lots of times my dad would stay home with him. Matt has autism and Tourettes. Taking him out in public to an event such as a concert or graduation was nearly impossible when he was younger. He would often have a melt down in public. He was hyper with a lot of anxiety that he would have a melt down. His anxiety caused his tics to be worse. Tics included hand flapping, eye twitching, and throat clearing. At the very worst, he would injure himself or others and had so much anxiety that after going to an event he would be nervous and throw up for two days afterwards. People were a lot less sympathetic towards those behaviors back when I was young.

So my brothers and I grew up living separate lives. We went to separate schools. We did not support each other. We never learned how. Luke didn’t go to my college graduation or party that followed it because he chose to be with his friends instead. When Luke graduated from college, I went but had my husband stay home to help take care of Matt. When Mark graduated from high school, I didn’t go and went to work that evening instead. Mark never went on to school and I missed his only graduation. It was only later that I learned that family events are important but I can’t go back.

But I can move forward. I can show my children how important it is to support their siblings. I can encourage them to attend their events. I tolerate them saying that they are bored. When is it going to be over? Is it almost done? I am trying to teach them this lesson now so they won’t have to learn it the hard way like I did.

It took me a long time to get over the hurt, depression, and worry involved in extended family events. I can finally say that I get along with my parent and brothers the best that I have ever gotten along with them. I do see my brothers, especially Luke, making more effort to have a relationship. Matt has an easier time going out to events. Things are finally coming together in my story.

 

 

Hoarding, clutter, and cleaning freaks

I am knee deep in fall cleaning right now. I thoroughly clean my house twice a year, once for spring and once for fall. Spring cleaning is the big event of the year where I scrub the whole house with a toothbrush. Fall cleaning is more of a hairbrush clean. I used to thoroughly clean my house after every season, but I really hate dusting. Talk about a useless task! I dust everything and within a half an hour new dust takes over. Then I sneeze for 3 days.

I threw out and donated many items to the point of guilt. I come from a very long line of hoarders. When we sold Aunt Grace’s house, we moved everything into my grandma’s house. When we sold grandma’s house, we moved stuff into my parent’s shed. Now their very large shed is full. Time to build another shed! We did get a large dumpster for my grandma’s house which was emptied 3 times. We made multiple trips to Goodwill to the point where they didn’t want any of our crap anymore. Did you ever hear of anyone getting turned away from Goodwill for over donating? Yeah, me neither.

Yesterday I went to my parents house and watched them struggle to maintain their property. There was a pipe that was leaking into the basement. Mom took me downstairs to look at the damage. There was some water that pooled around food items that expired in the 1990’s. I feel overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning it all out someday. My mom has always been a food hoarder which she attributes to growing up poor.  She has 4 freezers and 2 refrigerators. The cupboards are full of mostly expired food. There are grocery bags sitting on the floor with new food. Downstairs the situation is worse. Multiple peanut butter containers that expired in the 90’s, homemade canned food items from the 80’s, glass containers full of stale grains, corroded cans, juice separating in bottles.

My parents also hoard other things like cars, magazines, paper, newspapers, clothing, blankets, wood, books, movies, old toys, candles, soap, empty jars, tools, and parts. My dad collects electronics, broken parts to fix other broken parts. The floor and chairs are stacked with papers. The dining room table is never clutter free and neither is the kitchen counter. Nothing is thrown out even if it is expired, broken, or useless. Paul’s mom and step-dad are hoarders too. They have 2 refrigerators in their small kitchen. One doesn’t work and is used for storage. Both of our parents have given us some of their junk which we throw out for them. Thankfully Paul and I share the same motto of when in doubt throw it out. Looking at my kids rooms, I think we may have a few future hoarders on our hands. 

As a clean freak, the clutter overwhelms me. I can’t breathe. I feel a lonely emptiness in a room stacked full of clutter. It rises within me a feeling of absolute despair which I cannot explain. It feels hopeless. I want to throw everything away. I want my house to be clean, but no matter what I do it still feels dirty and messy.

A few years back, my brother Luke and his wife brought her sister to my parents house with them for the weekend. Luke’s sister-in-law told my brother that my parents house was so messy that she would never stay there again. Luke told my mom. This started a big fight with a lot of tears and stress from my mom. Luke was hoping that my mom would throw things out like he does, but instead they built another shed. My mom gets very attached to items and needed a lot of moral support to throw out my brother’s baby blanket a few years ago when he was well into his 30’s. We also did not want our old baby clothes for our children. Why do items attach so much hurt for the people who don’t want to part with them and the people that don’t want to keep them?

I have helped my parents countless times in the past. It is so overwhelming to me. It is like emptying a lake with a cup. I feel guilty for not helping them more. I’ll be totally honest, I can’t handle it. It elicits such a strong negative response within me that is unbearable. So I scour every corner of my house. After cleaning I still see all of the streaks in the windows, all the stains on the carpeting, the little yellow rings that don’t come out of my sink and bath tubs, the grease that lingers around the oven, the little spots on the walls, and the cracks in the linoleum. Will we ever be free from cleaning or hoarding? Will we be forever haunted by earthly treasure or trash?

Waiting….for bad news

Waiting…I sit here waiting. Worried. Waiting for bad news. I know it is going to be bad. I think of all the times that we didn’t get along. The guilt of feeling annoyed by you most of the time. You aren’t a bad person. You just talk before you think. My daughter called you rude the last time we saw each other. You commented that my hair looked terrible. Did I mean for it to look so bad? Did my finger get stuck into a light socket? I told you that I wasn’t offended, that your comments about my hair didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother me. What did bother me is all of the empty promises you made to my kids your only grandchildren, the times you said that you would show up and didn’t. 

Now I am thinking that you might not be here to see your granddaughter graduate next year. I feel terribly saddened by this. When I saw you last weekend, you did not look good. You were out of breath, wheezing, and coughing. The cough that lasted over a year. You have been continually sick for months at a time with head and chest colds. Your doctor thought that it might have been some of your medications, that once he took you off of the offending pill that you would get better. But you got worse. Now you are in the hospital, waiting. We worry and wait, wanting the distraction of work but have difficulty focusing. What do we tell the children? That the doctors think that you have lung cancer. So we sit here waiting, waiting for the bad news.