My name is Amy and my mom is a hoarder. She has been a hoarder for as long as I can remember, but through the years, has varied in her level of control over her affliction. The house was livable when I was young – I have (fading) memories of family gatherings and slumber parties…the happier years. While those memories cease to exist at about age 14, I feel fortunate to have even had them. Many children of hoarders, including my younger sisters, haven’t been so lucky.
I am in my 30s now and have long since left “the nest”, choosing to let go of the anger/disappointment/disgust/etc. that I’ve harbored towards my mom and her hoarding. It took time, therapy and a lot of soul searching for me to get to that point, but I really thought I had reached a Post-Hoard Nirvana. That is, until a recent family tragedy brought all those feelings back in an unexpected instant.
Out of respect for those involved, I won’t get into specifics, but essentially my youngest sister (12 years old) was in a very tragic car accident with two other family members, one of whom did not survive. My sister’s condition was critical and her status was changing it seemed almost every minute. To say it was an extremely stressful, uncertain time would be a gross understatement.
Once we passed the critical stage and things were looking more positive, it was decided that my sister would be moved to a Children’s Hospital where staff were better trained to help someone so young through such a traumatic ordeal. My mom rode in the ambulance, leaving me and my other 2 sisters to make the 1.5 hour drive from the original hospital to the new Children’s Hospital.
Sounds fairly “normal” so far, right? Well, this is where the hazards of hoarding come into play. My mom is a compulsive shopper/hoarder, and it is not uncommon for her 7-seater SUV to be filled with her most recent purchases. This day was no exception. Her car contained so much stuff that, out of 7 possible seats, only the driver and one passenger could fit. It would be impossible for me and both of my sisters to ride together. “That’s what happens when you try to use a hoarder’s car”, one of my sisters commented.
In that instant, I felt all of the negative emotions from my youth come flooding back. How unfair that, at a time like this, my sisters and I were left yet again to deal with my mom’s problem. Normal people would be able to drive together without even having to think about it. Not us though. Our family isn’t anything close to normal.
Fortunately, we had two family friends who volunteered to drive one of us to the new hospital. They didn’t complain about the 3-hour round-trip this meant for them, or the fact that it was 1am and they had to work the next day. It was a true act of selfless generosity, and somehow I found myself apologizing. Not for anything I had done, but for my mom’s hoarding and the side effects it had on them. And then I got angry. Angry that my 30-something-year-old self somehow found herself back to square one.