My dad was part of the Cuban Blockade. My dad was an avid letter-writer. For over a week during the crisis, the daily letters of his shipboard life stopped coming. Stateside, there was a blackout and nobody knew the status of his or her military loved ones.
When my dad left us some years later, Mom gave him nearly all the photos of our family that he was in, and burned every last letter and note he had given her – from their courtship to the ones when he served with the Navy and every letter thereafter.
After my dad left, he would call from time to time to talk to me. Mom didn’t want to speak to him, and in his letters to me he would tell me when he would be calling so I could tell her not to answer the phone. Here is one of the notes I left her, circa 1980-1982. I know this note wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t tucked it away in my own squirrel’s nest of memorabilia.
After my first hoarding blog, the one where I mentioned my triggers about Mom going through the house with trash bags for any uncleanly areas, I received a response from a friend I really care about. She said “You know, I’m glad you called her out on that. My mom is to blame for my hoarding too.”
I was crushed. It hadn’t been my intention to say that Mom was to blame for my hoarding. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I don’t believe anyone is to “blame” for why I’m OCD or why I’m a hoarder. My mom, the daughter of a dysfunctional family herself, the daughter of a family-breaking alcoholic, was in her own life of reacting to her childhood and to trying to cope with heartbreak from the love of her life.
And it wasn’t grandpa’s fault, either. Grandpa, one of three alcoholic sons of a Presbyterian Minister, was reacting to his own demons – both pre and post-World War II.
And when does it end? His father, the Presbyterian Minister, was not spared the rod as a child. His mother died when he was young and his father, unable to cope with a house full of children while he dealt with his own loss, spit-shot a half-dozen children to various relatives throughout the county. That boy who would become the Presbyterian minister ended up with an aunt whose husband was brutally fundamental in his child-rearing strategy. Who knows that man’s story? It doesn’t matter, because it never ends, and the only person really in charge of my behavior is me. I know I can’t control everything, but I also know I can’t function under the umbrella of victim, blaming anyone in my past for who or how I am now.
Really, it’s more like the perfect storm. It’s that combination of brain chemistry and DNA, combined with upbringing, plus unique life events that give the world my neurotic self.
So when I blog anecdotally about Mom throwing out dad’s letters or people squirreling away dad’s journals or wood carvings or any number of things that I reflect on while trying to lift the burden of hoarding from myself, they are stories to engage you, to help you see my thought process and to hopefully connect and relate to some of the things we all share to some degree or another.
No. There is no “blame-game” in my mind, on the page or in my life. There are stories, there may be trigger moments which are there to help me understand and move beyond, but no one thing is the how or why. I believe defining moments are for those who want to be defined by one moment. I choose to remain fluid and changing for a lifetime.
I tried to create an aphorism for today’s blog but realized it would defy the shades of gray I’m trying to emphasize.
So. Enjoy. Comment at will. Blast me if you will. Any comment is worthy if it gets us to think more, talk more, share these crazy-ass moments of self-reflection.