Another Sunday in The Park

Another Sunday, another ‘day in the park’, excavating Mom’s house.  Snippets… as i can barely keep my eyes open.  They are itchy, burning and raw from the hour i spent in the hallway closet, hauling out first aid supplies from the 1960’s, scores of mismatched pillowcases, and about two dozen tubes of EXPIRED toothpaste, still in the box.  That’s right.  Expired.  It lasts about 10 years.  Most of these expired somewhere between 2001 and 2004…

Overload:  Mom is clearly overwhelmed.  She’s resigned to the process.  She knows it all has to go.  We are being patient, and trying hard to let her ‘touch’ everything and assign the disposition (keep, yard sale, church rummage sale, trash).  We quit early today because she stopped talking…

Progress:  The two-car garage has been completely excavated, and BJ is putting insulation/drywall on the exterior wall.  Amazing.  i haven’t seen the floor of that garage in 30 years.  There is hope.

Treasures:  Dad’s notes for his memoirs.  Found them.  Had a chance to look through them and there are some new items, and a few surprises.  Unfortunately his handwriting was bad, so it may take awhile to decipher them…  And most amazingly?  His tenor sax.  FOUND.  It was buried under boxes of trash in the garage.  Major victory in the excavations.  i take back all most of the nasty things i suspected about my niece’s first husband…

Estrogen:  My car was at the back of the driveway when BJ needed to make a run to the gas station for cigarettes.  Rather than play ‘drive-way hokey pokey’ and move the two cars blocking in his truck, i just tossed him the keys.  Returning, he handed the key back and said “What is that CD you had in?  Indigo Girls?”  A little embarrassed, i said “no, just some mellow chick stuff i was listening to – to keep me calm on the drive down”.  He said “Well, it made me want to go buy a gallon of ice cream and watch ‘The Notebook'”.  Not only is he functional, he’s funny as shit…

Need to go pour something medicinal in my eyes.  i think it was the mouse poo dust that got me today.  Or the mold spores.  Or the cat dander – from two cats ago.  Or…

Scratching the surface

How much stuff can be crammed into about 1,000 square feet?  We’re still not sure…  the archeology continues.

Mom was less snippy today.  Last week, when my niece DQ was throwing fuzzy, expired food away from the fridge, Mom said “I’ve had it! I’m going to bash someone in the face…”.  Definitely less theatrics today.  Since i’m just back home, after about 7 hours of excavations, i’m just gonna ‘hoark’ a bit…

Sainthood:  BJ, my niece’s husband, is a hero.  He was laid off from his construction job last week, and used his time off productively.  Spending at least 10 hours a day at the house, he has sorted, organized, hauled and manhandled at least 4,000 pounds of shit.  All the while, he has shown patience that the rest of us can’t muster with Mom.  Reassuring her that all boxes marked “keep” will be kept, and that we won’t throw away anything she needs…  He is a good human.

Hoarding:  i am not confused about this – it’s clearly a form of mental illness.  i remind myself “she can’t help it” when she tells me to “throw out those pickles, but save the jars” as i balance on a broken chair in the garage, up to my armpits in plastic yogurt containers from the 1980’s.  She’s verging on panic when we spread out in different rooms and she can’t watch every move we make.  She wants to touch each item.  Tell us what it is, why she saved it, why it’s valuable. “These newspapers are worth a lot of money – they’re from the start of the Iraq war…”.  Wondering if upping her Xanax might help…

The cost of chaos:  So far, we’ve found a dozen automotive ice scrapers.  She no longer drives.  Multiple boxes of plastic cutlery, some still in the grocery bags with receipts.  Paper napkins – THOUSANDS of decorative napkins – still wrapped, with the “75% off” tags intact.  Unopened cleaning supplies, purchased with the best of intentions, inaccessible under boxes and bags and buckets of ‘stuff’.  As we were working today, she said “I can’t afford to replace all this…”.  Made me sad.  If she’d have bought what she needed, as she needed it, or even FIND it amidst the rabble… But the result is a stockpile for Armegeddon.  She could have probably saved thousands of dollars over the past decade or so…

But of all the tales from the front, this one perhaps best captures the scale of the disaster area that is my mother’s house…

HazMat:  In the 1960’s, feeding a family of six on a tight budget required taking advantage of sales, and buying in bulk.  A chest freezer in the utility room was Mom’s best friend.  When all six of us were there, she was in and out of the freezer on a daily basis.  But as we moved out, and home cooked meals became smaller and less frequent?  It was an albatross.  But a fully loaded albatross. 

The last time we seriously tried to excavate the house – 10 years ago – we considered the logistics of getting the damn thing out of the house.  Not a small appliance – 4′ wide and 6′ long.  i took a stethoscope to it to see if it was still running – a gentle hum said the electrons were flowing, but we had no idea if it was cooling.  Those excavations aborted, the freezer sat for another decade.  Unopened.

Last week, BJ collected a crew of his biggest friends, and they took the side door off the house and hauled that thing out.  It was sloshing, so they knew there was nothing frozen inside.  As they lifted it to get it past a planter, a black, slimy sludge sloshed out – releasing a horrific odor.  One friend puked, another ran off.  Mom’s neighbor had been helping with the final push, and went home to grab a respirator.  He was able to get the freezer sealed up in plastic.  But not before the stench was released….

Now that it was out?  How do you get rid of it?  Can’t take it to a dump (freon), can’t have it picked up on bulk trash day (suffocation hazard).  Never mind that it was loaded with liquefied rancid animal flesh.  Craig’s List Curb Alert?  Why not!  It took a couple hours, but finally a truck showed up.  They wanted the scrap metal, perhaps worth $100.  They knew what was in it, and even spilled a bit of the goo loading it up.  But they took it… 

Un-fucking-believable to me that anyone would voluntarily take a 500 pound metal tank, full of festering rotted meat.  For free.  But this conclusively demonstrates the blessings of scavengers.  Here’s to the buzzards and dung beetles of the world…

We’re not done yet.  Far from it.  But there is access to every window in the house so that measurements can be taken for new windows.  A 20′ long flatbed trailer was filled with trash, to be taken to the dump tomorrow.  Progress…