Monday, February 11, 2013

The Visit: Time to Clean Up and Close Doors

I am going to visit my parents.

My parents had been visiting my since I live outside of the US on a regular basis. Two years ago they stopped. My mother had sprained her ankle while walking to one of the gate's in the airport, and was now hesitant to make the journey. My father has had a number of dementia episodes, and while saying he is fine, he outright eliminated visits to see me and my family (and even his grandkids).

Nevertheless, they insisted on compensating for their lack of visits. They would send us lovely packages of clothing and toys for the children. The first package never arrived, after they seemed to not write the address correctly. Then a package arrived where most of the stuff was from the clearance rack that my wife just wanted to donate straight to clothing drive. Then a package arrived that went to the customs department and I had to take time off from work to have it released from customs and prove that the items inside were not worth taxing.

I told them it would probably be better if they didn't send anything. I had tried the approach of asking them to tell me what they wanted to send first. This didn't go anywhere. The rejected this, claiming they would prefer to surprise us.

Finally I decided to go and visit my parents.

I deliberated a lot on what my goals should be in visiting my parents. My first thought was to clean and dump. Take on the refrigerator, piles of garbage, old newspapers, junk mail. I was only going for a week. My visit would be more of an investigation, a review, an opportunity to see first hand how they were living.

My sister had insisted that she was concerned about our father's dementia. So she presented her plan:

Step 1: Find them a comfortable safe temporary dwelling.
Step 2: Go in and separate out things we want kept (pictures, family heirlooms) we need to decide together.
Step 3: Possibly getting an auction house in there to sell off the rest and clear out the house.
Step 4: Get moldy bathroom gutted and remodeled with senior soaking tub and handles by toilet.
Step 5: Get ramp installed with safe handrails for front access to house.
Step 6: We (my sister and her husband and her children) would relocate and live in  the house with them.

I didn't get involved with this plan. I didn't see realistic time spans attributed to these tasks. I saw this plan as taking years, and all the while not taking into account our parents reactions while having they home forced-cleaned, gutted, refurbished, and then have a family move in with them.

Cleaning Up (a bit)
I thought maybe with my short visit I should set a moderate goal. Maybe I could just clean up a certain part of the house. Where would that go? How long would that last?

My next visit wasn't planned for the near future. So what would come out of this. A friend reassured me saying, "Won't they just hoard over and conceal any impact you may have?" It felt like a sisyphean task, with no end.

So I eliminated cleaning up. I immediately felt relieved. I had also felt the bit of parents rejecting my assistance, blaming me and raising a fire of denial.

This left the option on the other side of the spectrum, to observe. I could see to what extent my parents had hoarded. They hoarded while I lived there and made the basement, several guest bedrooms, and a living room to be virtually unusable and  not-presentable, now that they lived on their own it only grew more serious and worse. The clutter grew more severe. I did not look forward to watching, with my hands tied, and not really doing anything.

The other side of this situation was not dealing with the hoard, but with the hoarders. I could be the one to hold a mirror to them, questioning what they had in mind with their lifestyle where this was going. I had a lot of internal resistance to this. I imagined them attacking me, and my short visit turning into a disaster, like I would go away with their rage upon me, questioning why I even came. I also wondered in terms of  goal what would come out of this? I did not have any ultimatums to present and I wasn't going to play any ever present role to remind them of this situation.

Closing Doors
So I really don't know what to do. I was coming for a short visit. Maybe this would be my last visit with them. Any ideas?

No comments:

Post a Comment