We return to what I’ve come to think of as The House of Dust. Two years unoccupied. We opened the windows to air the house out when we arrived on Friday. I vacuumed on Saturday. Why does the house smell even worse? Steve says it’s that vacuum cleaner. He’s certain if I empty the canister I will probably gag. On Sunday morning I take the vacuum outside and empty the canister. I’m afraid he is right. I didn’t realize the canister is stuffed full. Mostly of dog hair but also of dust. I put on the cheap garden gloves I bought at the Family Dollar General store to move things out of the storage unit. I clean out the canister and decide to leave the vacuum cleaner in the garage.
On Saturday we had turned on the air conditioner. I’ve been spraying air freshener around continually. The house hardly smells at all. We do laundry on Sunday night. I wash the sheets on the bed I’ve been sleeping in, knowing that for two nights I’ve been sleeping on linens covered with two years of dust. I couldn’t bring myself to care. The task of cleaning out the storage unit and doing some cleaning in the house, going through boxes of what turns out to be mostly junk and clothes is almost overwhelming.
I realize I won’t be able to clean the house the way it needs or the way I would like. I don’t have the time or the energy. Every drawer and cabinet I open seems to be packed with decisions. What to keep? What has value? What to throw away, sell, donate? I am only able to part with items I am certain are worthless. I fill three boxes and two garbage cans with trash.
In my dad’s bathroom, the toilet tank has been leaking. There is a sodden towel underneath it. Steve says it needs a new gasket. We will turn the valve off when we leave.
The rubber backing on the rugs has stuck to the linoleum. I throw the one surrounding the toilet away. I throw them all away. I find newer, cleaner rugs and put them down.
In my mother’s bathroom I wonder for the thousandth time why anyone carpets a bathroom. This carpet has been here for as long as they owned the house. Maybe it was here when they bought it. It is pink, grungy, stained. Neither Steve nor I want to walk on the floors in this house even after I vacuumed. If we lived there we agree the first thing we’d do is tear up all of the flooring. The linoleum in the kitchen is curling away from the edges under the counter.
I open bathroom drawers and cabinets. I find a tube of toothpaste still in the box. It expired in 2009, but I can’t see how toothpaste can go bad. I take it with me. I find duplicates of almost everything. Vick’s Vaporub; Band-aids; Vaseline; scissors; cotton swabs. Some may have belonged to Kevin, but there’s so much stuff I close the drawers after removing only a few items. I try to imagine how many Q-tips the average person could possibly use.
Another drawer is filled with cotton bras. Surely my mother’s but why so many? Some of them look like they’ve barely been worn. In her closet hang clothes. Purses are stacked on a shelf. More odds and ends linger on the floor and in the corners. I have no idea where to begin. Most of this needs to be carted to Goodwill or some place like that. I don’t have the time.
I think whatever has caused my mother’s memory issues has been coming on for a long time. Years even, back when her and my father were doing rather well for senior citizens. She had become increasingly forgetful and rather vague at times. She has always had a mild hoarding issue which I attributed to growing up in the Depression. You never knew when something might have a use so you saved everything.
I go through the boxes we’ve moved into the garage, many of which are not labeled. There are things of my father’s I want to find. Nothing special, just some collectibles I’d taken note of before he died, things he liked. I know where they were before he died, but I can’t find them now. I wonder what Kevin did with them?
I do my best to throw out what I can. I can’t believe much of the stuff we moved was saved, let alone stored. Why? I keep asking myself. It’s junk, junk, junk! But I’m sure Kevin didn’t feel it was his place to throw anything of my mother’s away so he saved it all and put it in storage.
I’ve told my aunt if she knows anyone who wants any of what we’ve left in the garage to give it away or sell it. Except for the boxes I haven’t had time to sort through. I’m still hoping my Dad’s things are in there.
Back in the house I look at the room I’ve been sleeping in. I notice the cobwebs in the corners. I know I can’t clear them out this trip. I think cobwebs and dust are like memories. Once they’ve accumulated, you’re never entirely rid of them.
To be continued…look for Family Therapy in The House of Dust, Part Seven coming soon.
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