The headline read that for the second time in a week Portland Fire Fighters were stymied by home clutter fighting a fire and most recently a man died in his burning hoarding home. (more here)
My mom didn’t have a fire or near miss as far as I could tell. She sat in her filthy basement, in her soiled, worn chair wrapped in blankets, clutching a heating pad for warmth. No furnace. She was lucky, I think….so was I.
My hoarding Auntie did have a fire some 11 years ago.It burned a major portion of her house. She survived. My mom, who was there suffered permanent damage to bottoms of her burned feet via her melting tennis shoes. Major renovations were in order. Did my Auntie learn her lesson? Nope. When I rescued her in April 2010, hypothermic, lying beneath a mountain of cascaded stuff on her dining room floor, she also had fried fingers wrapped in gauze and badly blistered. How? That heating pad that had days before burned up as she sat clutching it on her couch…the front of the couch has large burn marks from the fabric melting. Was I lucky again….yes.
But, in the end the blessing was my Aunt’s broken bones and dementia. Because really it was ludicrous to imagine her cooking in that dangerous kitchen. I lucked out…I didn’t have to make the hard decision.
Luck would have run out….for me too. Because in the end, each of us as children, family, friends, case workers caring for those purposely putting them selves at risk, will have to ask what their (your) responsibility is if you ignore the risk.
Why do you ignore the danger? Short answer: you are a coward, you are lazy, you are afraid of the sometimes ferocious and exhausting battle (coward). Harsh? Harsh is them burning up in a house or consumed by gases.
I lucked out. I was lucky to not have to answer the lingering question: why did I not do what a responsible person does to take care of those at risk? I have waxed on here before about the mental journey one goes through whether they are dead or alive while cleaning up their hoarding mess. It is a very hard journey. It would be doubly hard if they died because you were afraid to make the hard decisions.