Thank You, Family Feud

Posted: October 16, 2011 in active neglect, childhood, hoarding
Tags: , ,

Okay. So it’s true that I complain about things my parents failed to do as much (or more) than things they did do. Today in the “stuff they didn’t do, but should have, and it should have been obvious” category, I offer proof from an unlikely place: the Family Feud.

That’s right, the game show.

Not the original, 70s-tastic version hosted by Richard Dawson (unfortunately).

Today, on a 1990s-era rerun (thanks Game Show Network!), contestants were faced with the following survey question:

“Name a home repair that is necessary no matter how broke you are.”

Hmmm. I struggled thinking of possibilities…in my experience, we just never fixed anything. This has made me hypersensitive, so now even little things like light bulbs get insta-replaced in my own house.

Eventually, the contestants gave all four correct results:

1. Plumbing

2. Leaky Roof

3. Refrigerator/stove

4. Hot Water Heater

Interesting.

Breaking this down, my parents go 0/4.

0/5 if you count the refrigerator and stove as separate items.

1. Plumbing. The plumbing in my childhood house went out when I was in grade school. We had raw sewage running down the side of our house and driveway for over a decade, because instead of fixing the septic tank, my dad just disconnected it. My mom, brother, and I had to throw our used toilet paper in a trash can (because apparently it was more sanitary if we just flushed the poop). My dad couldn’t live with that, of course, and continued to flush everything to its final resting place directly out my brother’s bedroom window. No wonder he left home at 16.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the super-classy picture of when the chain in the tank broke, and there was a fire poker stuck in there for flushing.

Moving on…

2. Leaky Roof. Small potatoes. Try having the living room doors leak and soak the entire carpet every time it rained, making it necessary to wear shoes indoors just to get to the bathroom, unless you wanted to walk in mud. The roof in our entry room did actually partially collapse due to a leak when I was about 14. I have pictures, but I need to scan them. Proof from the eventual patch job that happened 10 years after the fact though:

It’s hard to get a clear sense of it here, but the floor was so wet for so long, the book case actually warped away from the wall. You can also see the mold line on the back wall marking how far upward the moisture wicked into the walls. Classy.

3. Refrigerator/stove. To be fair, the refrigerator actually did work until I was 16. 3 of the 4 burners on the stove did work, but the oven went out when I was about 8 and was never fixed. My brother and I determined to purchase my mom a new stove when I was 16 and had a job; in a freaky coincidence, the week we slated for a Home Depot trip, the refrigerator also crapped out entirely, so we ended up buying one of those as well in the same trip. It’s like even the appliances knew my dad was never going to fix them!

d-con in the kitchen? Sure. Why not? No fire hazard here, either. Safety first.

Which brings us finally to…

4. Hot Water Heater. I’ve complained a lot about the water situation at my house growing up. In case you missed those posts, our water came from a box spring, and emerged from our (very dirty) taps in roughly a 40:60 mud and silt to water ratio. I used to have to ring mud out of my hair after every shower. Gross. Showers in themselves sucked, because our hot water heater was dysfunctional, and had to be reset on an hourly basis. Taking a shower meant going into the front room, tripping the reset button, and waiting an hour for a whopping 5 minutes or so of water that was either lukewarm or scalding. Generally, I jumped in, got wet, turned off the water while I lathered, and then rinsed as fast as possible, because the longer I stayed in, the more mud I had to contend with. How we never had a fire in this house I will never, ever, understand.

The entry room where our water heater was located was always very inviting…for rats.

I like that this question included the line “no matter how broke you are.” Because even the survey of 100 random people understood that certain maintenance things aren’t negotiable. Failing to fix one of them is bad enough…failing to fix all of them is almost incomprehensible. How my parents could have ever thought it was okay to raise kids in that would be a lucrative and interesting study (take note, Family Feud question writers…)

What really hurts me is the reality that a new stove, refrigerator, and hot water heater cost significantly less than the price of one tractor. My dad had friends who could have fixed the roof for a minimal cost, and we had a neighbor who offered to fix the septic tank. My dad turned them down because of the cost. It was literally better to let us live in squalor than give up the chance to buy another D-4.

When should children be removed from a home?

Before this happens.

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