Friday, September 28, 2012

A Christmas Conflagration

I'm always excited to hear that another child of a hoarder has started to blog, but I was downright giddy to learn that a friend, Lisabeth Grey, has started blogging over at Not My Hoarding Mother. To welcome Ms. Grey to the blogosphere, another friend of mine, Sidney, from the fabulous My Mother-in-Law is Still Sitting Between Us blog, and I are both featuring excerpts from Not My Hoarding Mother on our blogs this week.

Over at Sidney's blog, you can read the tale of "The Derecho and the Elderly Hoarder." (A "derecho" is a powerful, straight-line wind storm that can leave as much damage in its wake as a tornado.) Here, I'm happy to share Lisabeth's all-too-true story about a fire at a hoarder's neighbor's house (as opposed to the more typical fire at a hoarder's house). The setting is Christmas Eve, but instead of calling the story A Christmas Carol, let's call this, "A Christmas Conflagration."

Without further adieu, I yield the soapbox to Ms. Lisabeth Grey:
I called [my hoarding mother] the evening of Christmas Day (which is her birthday as well) to wish her a Merry Xmas and Happy Birthday. She received my cards, and our conversation was normal for us. A little background... I took the geographical solution after high school, and since moving out of state in 1999, I have only been home two times, and to the same town maybe three times. Our contact is now limited to phone for my self preservation. Anyway, I hear this loud pounding noise [through the phone] and she whispers, "Did you hear that? What is that?"

Like I know!?!?

Long story short, it is her neighbors, trying to kick her front door in, since her next door neighbor's house is on fire, vehicle gas tanks are exploding, ammunition is going off, and her grass is on fire. Now, her property has had no mowing for months, no raking, and her fence is locked, double storms over the windows, the water hose is shut off from inside, and she disconnected the doorbell because it scares the cats—11 nearly feral cats inside—and the front door is completely blocked off, goat paths only and stuff piled at least waist high to ceiling high EVERYWHERE. The neighbors are stomping fire in the yard, throwing stuff on her roof to put out burning leaves, and desperately trying to get her attention and get her out.

She opens the side door and sees the neighbors house, and I can hear her reaction, and she finally tells me what is happening. I tell her to "Call 9-1-1! NOW! NOW! NOW!", to turn on the water hose, and then I hang up. She lives in a rural Appalachia, no fire hydrants, on a dirt road, etc. The closest fire stations are four miles and seven miles respectively. The Cliff's Notes on the situation: the folks next door had just sat down to holiday dinner when the homeowner heard something, opened the garage door, and saw fire. He got his wife, two daughters, and three grandkids out. Barefoot, no purses, no wallets, they lost all vehicles, including those in the driveway... And the house is a total loss. Burnt flat. Several houses nearby have fire/heat damage, and the grass in my mother's yard is burned within ten feet of her house. She has siding and roof damage, but her roof was already trashed from hail a few months ago...that she has been delaying repairing.

In the two days since... This is where my angst comes in...
  1. It has become all about HER and her INCONVENIENCE of it all, and her fear and drama
  2. She is obsessing on it, yet does not acknowledge the level of danger that was incurred by her HOARDING and paranoia
  3. She is now firmly ensconced in the museum of petty grudges, as she and the neighbors who lost their home have not spoken for nearly 40 years (and guess who initiated THAT???)
I have posted on my FB about it, and when I find out who is collecting for her neighbors, I plan to send a donation and post that too since many of my FB friends are in that area. My HP is against this and has:
  • pointed out they don't speak and it was their fault
  • criticized their child rearing
  • criticized the woman's decision to be a stay at home mom
  • criticized the woman's pride in her yard
  • criticized the woman's choice to color her hair at 60 something years old
  • pointedly stated that they did not contribute to the flower collection for my father when he passed in 1989 (she nastily, and in the most ugly way ever, REFUSED IT anyway!)
The list goes on and on. I informed her that none of that matters, and they could be the worst people ever, but they LOST EVERYTHING, and I am doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Now in every conversation, I can almost hear her mind working, trying to figure out how to control my donating cash to them.

My heart breaks for the neighbors' family. They raised their kids and are helping raise their grandchildren. Just nice folks.

Narcissism sucks. Hoarding sucks. And I am flatly just sick of it.

—Excerpted (with minor edits) from "My Worst Fear Was Almost A Reality", by Lisabeth Grey.
Thanks for sharing your story, Lisabeth, and welcome to the blogosphere!

I hope that all of my readers will pay Lisabeth a visit at Not My Hoarding Mother, and I invite any other COH bloggers to get in touch with me if they would like to be a guest author here at my little corner of the neighborhood.

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