“I’m not feeling too well….will you do the dishes?”

For the last year, before my Auntie ended up in a Foster Care Facility in June of 2011, we visited my aunt in her hoarding home. I have recounted quite a bit about that in older posts. It was a process of gaining trust and eventually clearing some chairs off to where we could have a comfortable visit. 

We were allowed to clear trails through the stuff and in time we made them a little wider, trying to eliminate some trips/falls hazards. I can only imagine how many times the little elf tripped and went down and we never knew. The doctors said she had numerous, healed fractures on her spine and limbs. Who knew?

So, yesterday my aunt came to and focused and gave a twinkle to her eyes and raised her wobbly, skinny arms to my face. She clasped my face, stared into my eyes and uttered ‘I’m not feeling too well. Will you do my dishes?’ ‘Of course I will love’……..

During those many visits in her home, she would sit, arms folded, and fuss about this spot and that spot needing cleaning. The sheer volume of accumulated (hoarded) stuff weighed heavy on her mind. One spot in particular bothered her and that was the kitchen sink. It was a sordid spot. A plastic tub inserted into the right side of the sink held old water and dirty dishes, often coated with swarming fruit flies and the like. The smell would make you gasp if you disturbed the brew.

We would endeavor to make a trail through the kitchen, but that was frustrating for her because we were rearranging her stacks and as always happens avalanches would ensue and she would become all a thither with the possibilities of damaged stuff. The sink just never quite got done often enough, but try we did to wash and store stuff. We bought paper plates and bowls as a way to reduce using old plastic bowls and tin plates that were never quite clean. There was no where to store and organize beyond placing/balancing the object atop the piles.

So, the request to do her dishes, that pesky, nagging task she could never quite get done with enough frequency, was surprising. But, was it? The hoarding mind often suffers from that repetitive, obsessive focus on one spot, one task, one object that in the massive scheme of things matters not a twitter. Those dishes mattered to my aunt, and apparently still do. I will have to let her know I washed the dishes.

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