Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hoarding and guns don't mix

The thing about growing up in a completely crazy family is that, no matter how nuts everything is, it's still your reality. As a child, you don't really have the perspective to know how much your family is different from others, even if you know that it is. And even as an adult, although I am completely aware that my family was waaaaaay far along the dysfunctional spectrum, I forget how weird my stories are until I see the facial expression of the person I'm telling them to.

That is, I forget how weird some of the stories are. The rest of them are completely, gobsmackingly insane. I was reminded of one of the strangest recently, when I ran across this article about a hoarder who got into a standoff with the police. The city inspectors and police escort came out to inspect the home for blight. As they were trying to figure out how to navigate through the front yard to get to the door, the hoarder opened fire.

That story was very nearly mine. My mother's father was a hoarder. He owned a house that was so filled with junk that you could only wind your way through the rooms by sliding sideways through the  stacks of his belongings. Magazines, newspapers, broken musical instruments, dead rats, moldy food -- you name it, it was piled in the house. The front yard was mostly occupied by a collection of automobiles in various states of disrepair. I don't remember what all was in the backyard, although I'm fairly certain that it was the barrels of gasoline from the 70's oil shortage that caught the attention of the local authorities. Oh, and did I mention that he also had a propensity for collecting unregistered guns?

You can see where this is going. Eventually, the city seized his house as a health hazard. The night before it was scheduled to be demolished, my mother told me that Grandpa had called her, raving about government crooks and persecutors. He told her that he wasn't going to stand for it. His plan was to lie in wait for the bulldozer driver, who was coming in the morning, and shoot him on sight.

My reaction to this piece of information was to insist that my mother call the police. My mother's reaction was to insist that he'd never really do it. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I've been accused more than once of being a pessimist. I'm just saying that when a man beats his wife and kids, assaults police officers, and has been in and out of jail on weapons charges, you should take him seriously when he threatens to off someone. After some serious pressure from me, Mom finally agreed to call the police. They went out to talk to him that evening, and no one ended up getting shot. The house got bulldozed, my mom continued to live in a constant state of denial, and I got one more crazy story to add to my collection.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad that you wouldn't back down and made your mom call the police. Dealing with her denial is better than dealing with the situation of someone had been killed and you hadn't stood your ground. I understand the kind of strength it takes to do that. I really admire you.

    We had the opposite problem in my house. My mom is the hoarder. My dad's a compulsive saver but does not have nearly the anxiety issues about stuff as my mom does. Unfortunately my dad's anger issues were so bad before treatment that he got violent. First at me, then at strangers. My mom lives in a state of denial about my father's violence. She uses her hoarding to hide from that. It just goes to show how much mental illness is tied up with hoarding. I wish more people were willing to get help.