Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Legacy We Leave

The mess in my parent's house is more of a symptom of their emotional condition rather than the main problem. The house can be cleaned, but its the people that need to want to help themselves. Unfortunately both of my parents carry deep emotional scars that they have not known how to deal with. These issues have burdened them their entire lives, and enslaved them to their traumas. The mess and clutter they have collected is a reaction to these demons - perhaps even a form of control. Yet they are stuck in this cycle and unable to extract themselves from this existence.

If anyone needs to be felt sorry for in this story, it is my parents. My sister and I survived living in their world and successfully built new, and very different lives, challenging the affects of this upbringing. My parents on the other hand continue to sacrifice their lives to issues that they have not worked out and allow a psychological condition to direct their decisions. It is not so much a question about whether my parents  want to clean up the house, but that they simply can't. The time required to clean up the house would have to be proceeded by intense clinical therapy to unknot all their issues that have burdened them for the better part of their lives. So, like the old saying goes - You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks - and with people into their seventh decade, it is very hard try to show them a new way.

Feeling Sorry
I was angry and frustrated by this situation, but now I really do feel sorry for my parents. They have missed out on so much, and continue to suffer. They are lost in an endless loop, unable to connect to a reality that could be better for them. The lack of love and warmth that they missed out on while growing up has stifled them emotionally, leaving them sunk in a quicksand of irrational behavior. The tragedy of it all is that these things are treatable.

The matter of the state of the house started soon after we moved in back in 1979, when boxes cluttered the house. For years, as children, we were told 'We're still moving in'. Years later, when the clutter continued and grew worse, we were actually blamed for interfering. With graduation and moving on, we were told to leave them alone and that we (the children) could clean  up the house when they die.

A Sad Tragedy
Did that make me mad? Of course, but now I see their lives as a sad tragedy. Due to emotional issues which they felt and saw as being beyond their control they have sacrificed their well being, relationships, family, community, and other connections on an alter of frenetic self-preservation. In this light, I hope you can see, that the small strides my father makes in cleaning up are actually huge steps against a tidal wave of emotional baggage that he will never unpack.

We leave legacies for our children. Some are heirlooms, or great stories, others are debts and other burdens. The house is my parents legacy - a great monument to the power of childhood scars and emotional handicaps. The house will be cleaned up - some day - but more importantly the psychological issues that created the condition in the house will not pass on. My children will not know about the house, and will enjoy a new legacy.

(This was  part of a letter I wrote to my parent's neighbor - Nov, 2009)


  1. That was so well said it could be in a textbook.

    1. Thanks for that feedback! I am often in doubt how to relate to this experience - whether people will believe, if they think I am exaggerating, or if I should just forget and wipe the slate clean.

  2. Reading your well written post was somewhat chilling for me, I echo alot of your feelings in my situation. I have slowly realized my mom has some scars, deep issues woven into her family tapestry. I can only geuss at them, because like the hoard, her true feelings are also never to be spoken of. There is just an emotional hoard crust growing like some scab over a cut.
    I feel very strange when I read or speak about this topic, I feel very disconnected from myself and somewhat panic-like. I feel panic because I may never really know my mom, and no one on the planet is getting any younger. I feel panic that my mom may really love her hoard more than me.

    1. Thank you for coming forward and sharing, despite the anxiety. Yes, I understand how this is a sensitive area.

  3. What led you to write to the neighbors?

    1. That is a good question. This post relates to how the neighbors discovered the hoarding behavior
      After that the neighbor reached out to me to show support that I went through a hard experience. This was how I explained my perspective.