Sunday evening, 10 pm. I am so exhausted.
Sunday evening 10 pm. I am so relieved.
Last Thursday I had a 20-yard dumpster delivered to my mother's house. I have spent the last 3 days cleaning holy hell out of her home.
I have been sorting through 50 years of her life: 40 years of her marriage to our father, my own and my sister's childhood, and 30 years of a daycare business—and 10 years of dementia—all packed into a small, 3-BR ranch.
It was my job to decide what must go and what must stay, with a primary goal of restoring order and safety to her home.
It was not a job for the meek. My mother, always sentimental, developed a hoarding disorder in her later years. Her home was was littered with blatant signs of her oncoming dementia. As she always catered to 2-year olds, it was sometimes difficult to sort out what, in her home, might have had a legitimate purpose (a small tin with cherry pits, for children to plant), and what, in my mind, absolutely no sense:
No matter; I have been a tornado in my mothers home for the last 3 days. I have emptied rooms that were stacked to the ceiling. I have sorted, tossed, and saved.
I have mopped floors, washed walls, scrubbed furniture, stripped beds, dusted cobwebs, moved furniture, and laundered countless bedclothes.
All of this with one thing foremost, in my mind:
I did not want to undo my mother with the changes I made in her home. I needed to pitch acres of stuff with minimal upset; her home should have, essentially, the same look and feel as it did Thursday afternoon, before I began.
The most unsettling aspect of the cleanup was tearing out white carpets that left the original dark brown tiles underneath. Clint helped me with the carpet removal, and with shopping for bright rugs to splash about, to absorb some of the shock.
Most furniture is returned to its original spot. Shelves, cleaned out, are still filled with her belongings, which leaves room to put comfort items out where she can see them: Stuffed animals on her headboard. She loves them.
I think I did a damned good job this weekend. I feel infinitely relieved that things are in order. Or, falling into order. I have some more rooms to work on, and Clint's son and friends are tackling the jungle that used to be the back yard.
Now that we're working on it, I realize what a tremendous amount of guilt I've felt that her home and yard have gotten to their current state.
But I also know that she has resisted all of our attempts to set these things straight in years past; she was unwilling to let us step in and move or toss Dad's stuff, Dad's space. Anything set right was restored to its chaotic state, broken lamps brought in from the garbage, and placed back into the corner from which we had carried them.
I sucked at tough love with my kid, and I suck at it with my Mom.
I was waiting for her permission, and she finally gave it to me.
We both feel better.
At least, I do.
I really hope she does.