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What About Mary, part two

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

 This is a continuation of the previous post. If you haven't read the first one you may want to start here so you're not lost.

We had our job cut out for us. How in the world were we to complete a remodel on a home that was filled with garbage and a woman that wasn’t likely to allow us to take anything out? Leave it to Mr. Get It Done to come up with a not so great solution. He rang the bell that signaled a family meeting.

Each child filed up the stairs not sure what was going on. Usually when the bell rang someone was in trouble. Eyes were everywhere trying to discern just what was about to happen. The kids took their seats and looked at their father with uncertainty.

“Everyone look at me and listen up. We have to clean Mary’s house, the entire house, before I’ll have any sub-contractor begin work. There’s no money in the budget to call in a Haz-Mat team, we’re it.”

He was looking directly at me. I was avoiding his stare. The four oldest kids collectively let out sighs of relief and readily agreed to what they thought would be an adventure. They had no idea what they were really in for. I knew and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“Teri, look at me. You need to be on board. I know it’ll be a hard, dirty job, but I need your help.”

“Jeff, you hate me don’t you? You know I’ll throw up continually.”

“Teri, we don’t have a choice.”

“Ok fine, I’ll do what I can tolerate.”  I began thinking of what I was getting into and it triggered my gag reflex. I pictured the filth, I could smell the odor. I saw that damned dog scooting across the filthy floor. I excused myself from the family meeting and promptly vomited.

The next day Jeff began calling subs to arrange to meet at Mary’s. They were going to have to see the house in it’s current condition and we had to make sure they were up for the job.

When the day of the meeting arrived we got to the house about an hour before the subs did. That’s when we saw a part of the home that we hadn’t seen the first time, the basement.

We walked down a small path left on the bare wooden stairs. The path took us to the dark, dank basement. The stairs were covered with items old and new, clean and ravaged. It seemed impossible but it was worse in every way than what we had seen a few nights before.

There was a tiny kitchen that was completely filled with stuffed garbage bags and black trash bags of used cat litter.  Moldy dishes were stacked around the counters, they nearly reached the ceiling. There was a small, food covered refrigerator, a microwave with hundreds of aspirin packets spilling off of it and onto the pots and pans that had developed a life of their own.

Jeff had the bright idea of opening the microwave. I thought I had seen it all in this house. The microwave appeared to have never been cleaned. There was burned food inside that was clinging to the top. It was hanging down like a stalactite. It was about 6 inches in diameter at the top and hung down nearly reaching the bottom of the blackened appliance. On further inspection that was the largest stalactite, there were smaller ones around it.

I retched as I screamed at my husband,

“Close that NOW or I’ll file for divorce first thing in the morning!”

Jeff began hysterically laughing at my reaction. He was bent over convulsing, with tears streaming from his eyes, when there was a knock on the basement door. It was our painter, Tony. Still laughing, and dabbing at his eyes, Jeff opened the door. Tony stood there with a wrinkled nose and contorted face.

He yelled out “What in the hell is that smell?” He then quickly covered his face with his thick flannel shirt.

Jeff was laughing as he said to Tony, “Come in here you have to see this.” Jeff went to open the old refrigerator door.

Tony screamed, “Don’t do it Jeff, I mean it! Don’t open that door!”

Jeff was now doubled over with laughter. He was laughing so hard that he couldn’t breathe. Neither Tony or I saw any humor in the situation.

Through his flannel covered mouth Tony informed us he’d wouldn’t be able to give us a bid until the house had been cleaned. I covered my face with my hands, lowered my head and slowly shook it from side to side. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Curiosity got the best of me after Tony left. Jeff was preoccupied with discovering new life forms in the minuscule kitchen and I decided to poke around the basement while we waited for the rest of the subs to arrive.

In between dashing outside for fresh air and being nosy I found that there were three organs, dozens of cases of batteries, and exploded cans of food everywhere. As I looked around at decades worth of hoarding the same question bombarded me. How were we to accomplish our mission with Mary in the house?

Soon the other contractors came and went with the same reaction as Tony. Some entered the home, others declined, all covered their faces with what ever was handy, whether it be a clipboard, clothing or just a hand. They all left with twisted faces and shaking heads.

After the last sub left, we climbed the bare wooden stairs back to the top floor. We needed to talk to Mary. As we reached the top we could see her sitting on the barely visible couch. She was eating a can of soup with a plastic spoon. As soon as she heard us approach, she tossed the can behind the couch and slid the plastic spoon beneath the cushion.

“Teri,” she whispered, “I have some tests in the hospital tomorrow. I have to stay the night. Can you pick me up and bring me home the next day?”

“Of course I can. Call me with the time and I’ll be there.”

Over the next two days Jeff worked on getting the budget put together and I tried to come up with a game plan to clean the house. I bought disinfectants, mops, sponges, potions and lots of gloves and masks.

The day came that I was to pick up Mary. I got to the hospital and was informed that Mary’s paperwork was taking longer than originally thought, it was going to be at least another hour. I was led to her room to wait with her.

As I neared the room my nostrils burned as the familiar odor escaped the hospital room and immediately attacked my nose. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and opened the door.

Mary was still in the bed. She had not yet changed out of her hospital gown. There was a tattered brown paper bag filled with her belongings on the window seat. A pair of slippers shaped like “scooter” the dog was at the foot of the bed.

Mary was livid. She wanted out. She wanted to go home.

That’s when a sight I’ll never be able to delete was seared into my brain. In a rage Mary threw back the blankets. Her gown was twisted tightly around her waist. She was wearing nothing under it. She then swung her left leg out of the bed, raised her right leg and placed her foot flat on the mattress. There before God, and everyone in the room, was the reason I could never be a gynecologist. All talk ceased as everyone stopped what they were doing and stood frozen staring at the cavernous spectacle. As my shock waned I turned my back and a nurse scurried to help her out of bed and into her well worn sweatpants and “scooter the dog" slippers. 

It was at that moment I realized that there would be more surprises, more shock and more reality checks in the weeks ahead.

to be continued...


MissCrystal November 9, 2010 at 9:10 PM  

The perverse medical person in me NEEDS to know what you saw between her legs!!!
This story is better than watching Hoarders!

Unknown November 9, 2010 at 9:46 PM  

Miss C, I was thinking the same thing. To be honest, I'm more than impressed by this story so far and your ability Teri to cope with such surroundings. I'm not sure whether I could have done it. Just looking at that picture up there made me take a xanax. I will never understand how people become this way. Does she not have family? Do they not care, that is, if she does.
A part of me feel's sorry for Mary but the other part of me is just disgusted. Hurry the hell up and tell us what happens, I'm not one to endure suspense very well. Tata for now----Ang~
P.S I CANT watch Hoarders, it makes me have anxiety too bad.

MarkD60 November 10, 2010 at 4:40 AM  

Ditto what Miss C said

Unknown November 10, 2010 at 7:19 AM  


These posts are like a train wreck and it just won't stop!

I couldn't have made it out of that house without throwing up - guaranteed.

Pat November 10, 2010 at 7:58 AM  

Oh come on, don't leave us hanging! This is like an accident I can't look away from!

The Bipolar Diva November 10, 2010 at 8:05 AM  

Ang~ She has no family at all, and no friends.

The Bipolar Diva November 10, 2010 at 8:07 AM  

Well I wasn't sure how to write what was there. Let's just say it was big, gaping and had sparse gray made me type that!

Hart Johnson November 10, 2010 at 8:41 AM  

Ohmygawd, this is heartbreaking. We have a neighbor down the block that the country basically forced to let them clean out her house--she is, I believe, a paranoid scizophrenic, but a hoarder of this kind of proportions. Fortunately, when the county forces it and has you declared incompetent for self care, they pay for the dumpster, but it is SO SAD. Your family is very good to have taken this on. (it's honestly why we still need to institutionalize some people in this country... sadly, the institutions are gone.

Unknown November 10, 2010 at 9:14 AM  

Is this story really for real!?! Even if it's not I'm reading!

Mrs. Indecisive November 10, 2010 at 9:42 AM  

oh're braver than I!

Monkey Man November 10, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

I could have gone all day without that visual being burned into my brain. Ack.

Mimi November 10, 2010 at 3:30 PM  

I really have no words that seem appropriate...


Christy November 10, 2010 at 3:59 PM  

It is a sad state. I am moving on to the next installment.

Claudya Martinez November 10, 2010 at 9:34 PM  

Seriously, I am disgusted and fascinated at the same time.

Daisygirl November 11, 2010 at 8:30 AM  

Wow, you are a better person than me because with the first wiff of stench I woulda bolted faster than a marathon runner and never looked back.

The microwave killed me....your words were so descriptive that I felt like I was looking in a cave!


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