I-don’t-care-itis: Death of a small town

I-don’t-care-itis: Death of a small town

I-don’t-care-itis: Death of a small town.

As part owner of an aging home in a small town, I’m interested in its upkeep as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

On a recent visit I found the house in a rather sad state. Dead leaves and mown grass littered the driveway. Weeds flourished in the cracked cement. An invasive vine had once again begun to creep across the porch.

More dead leaves combined with layers of dust coated the garage floor. One half of the space is taken up by a clutter of tools, a useless refrigerator, and a hodgepodge of abandoned equipment.

Inside I see a toilet off its moorings while the seal is being fixed. This turns into a two-day project for me and the occupant of the house. The small shower sprouts orange mildew across the floor. I try not to gag.

In the living room there is a ladder with a pile of debris beneath it courtesy of scrapings from the popcorn ceiling. How long has that been there, I wonder. Has the ceiling been leaking again? It shouldn’t, because the roof has been replaced fairly recently.

The living room is pure sub-floor. It’s been waiting for years for new wood floors which were installed in the hallway, kitchen, and dining room.

The exposed sub-floor in the second bathroom has bothered me for years, but it was an improvement over the carpet that was once there.

I didn’t think it was possible for that bathroom to look any worse than it did on my last visit, but I was wrong.

The old, blue-flowered foil wallpaper has been torn down. So have all the square white tiles that surrounded the bathtub and vanity. Now the walls show beige-y brown wallpaper backing and mastic. Everything is gone. Towel racks, toilet paper roller, soap shelf.bathroom

“I told her not to do that,” shrugs the house’s part-owner, referring to his on-again/off-again live-in girlfriend. Perhaps he should have said it louder because clearly, she didn’t listen and didn’t bother redecorating before she left.

My daughter says, “Grandmother would be so upset if she saw her bathroom now.”

Stymied by what to do about the state of the house which once belonged to my parents, I take a walk around this town which is where I spent every summer of my childhood.

But much like this house, the town seems to have given up. Everywhere there areabandoned house abandoned houses and many that look abandoned but aren’t. There are tumbling-down barns and sheds. Long-ago-discarded cars and trucks and farm equipment. Overgrown lawns littered with sad toys.

The only signs of life are penned dogs excited by a lone passerby and the occasional hen looking for a meal.

The city park is silent. The swimming pool abandoned. Sidewalks and roads have been left to crumble.

Buildings in the town square that used to bustle with life beg for either new tenants or to be torn down.

This town is dying, life choked out of it by residents who no longer care, just like the weeds choke the grass.town square

Maybe it’s simply the age of the average resident. Ill health or addiction. Poverty. A generation that doesn’t want what the previous one offers.

I wonder about the cause as I blast a leaf blower to clear the dead leaves and grass off the driveway. As I clip back the choking vine and yank up the invaders in the cracks of the driveway.

My visits here are rare, and I don’t know exactly why, but I still care. About this house. About this town.

©2023 Barbara Meyers