One of Those Days

Posted: October 2, 2010 in childhood, hoarding

Pretty much the only good thing about yesterday is that it’s over…

Trying to find a healthy balance in dealing with my parents is like a constant high-wire act. Yesterday was definitely one of those days where I could really use a safety harness.

Mom and I had a chat over lunch about the impact of my dad’s hoarding. It’s hard to know sometimes how much of what I’m trying to articulate mom gets, and how much she smiles and nods over because she hates disagreement. It’s also hard to know how much of what I’m saying really sinks in, and how much she translates into what she wants to hear.

The problem with trying to find a healthy balance in my relationship with mom is that it’s been such a co-dependent one for such a long time. Growing up, I learned very early on that what bonded me to mom was the fact that we were both miserable. And I learned that one of the few ways I could make her feel better was to put her on a pedestal by reiterating over and over how hard she had to work to make up for my dad.

All of that was true at it’s base. My mom went back to work when I was five. At first it was only on Saturdays. I quickly went from having mom there for my all the time to feeling abandoned and relegated to grandma’s house where I mostly looked after myself. Looking back as an adult, I think it was the combination of factors that was so traumatic. I started school, so I was already separated from mom on weekdays. Then she started working and I lost Saturdays with her as well. Add in church on Sundays and the fact that my dad mostly stayed home on those days, and essentially all the one-on-one time I had with mom disappeared overnight. Maybe in a more supportive family situation it wouldn’t have been so big of a problem. My situation was different.

The older I’ve gotten, the less sense it’s made to me, and the more apparent it’s become that my dad failed at even the simplest tasks of parenting. There’s no reason he couldn’t have stayed home with me for those half-days on Saturdays when my mom was working. He didn’t have a job to go to…in fact, I’m not really sure what he did for the majority of those years when I really think about it. He was supposed to be running a tractor repair shop. As far as I can tell, all he’s done for the past thirty or so years is hoard them. I’m sure he thinks of himself as a “collector,” but for me the line between collecting and hoarding is crossed as soon as the items become the seminally important thing in life. I’m fairly certain my dad, intentionally or not, would have let us starve before he’d part with one of his “collectibles.” I’ll discuss the particulars of his hoarding in another post. For now, suffice it to say that he’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars collecting things that are rusting in fields in two states (and possibly more that I don’t actually know about), but I was solely supported by my mom’s income from ages 5-18.

Back to mom, it’s hard to know how to find a balance now that removes the unhealthy co-dependence, but preserves a relationship that runs deeper than discussing the weather. It’s going to be a process, and it’s a little scary that after three years of therapy, I’m just now taking baby steps. I guess we all have to start somewhere.

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