When I was a kid I lived in the attic. Don’t worry, it was finished & had it’s own half bathroom. Summers sucked up there, but winters were nice & the privacy was awesome. Sure, by the time I got into high school it was uncomfortable, six-feet & one-inch people don’t fit well in a bedroom with a five-foot nine-inch ceiling. But wen you are in high school you want privacy the most. It was formerly my parent’s bedroom. I inherited it because I was a heavy sleeper. I used to have the bedroom on the ground level across from my little sisters. One night, when my sister was still a little girl, she fell out of bed & stopped breathing.
My parents heard the thump. They came down to investigate. They saw her on the floor. They saw that she was not breathing. They started screaming. They called 911. They screamed some more. The police & fire department came. Then the ambulance. Then they took my sister to the hospital.
Then dad came home & woke me up & told me what happened.
It wasn’t long after that that Mom & Dad came to the conclusion that they would move me to the attic of the small house. If I could sleep through all of that & my little sister could stop breathing for no apparent reason, they thought it was best if they had the room across from her. Just in case.
I couldn’t complain. More privacy, personal toilet, OK view. Isolation. When you are living with my family, Isolation is like water in a desert. You really can’t spend too much time with them in one sitting. They will eat you alive. So yeah, it was a nice place to live, it granted me escape from my mother.
But in that up stairs fortress of solitude there were two lists posted on the door. The first, three page long, were my daily chores. These I could get done in around four hours. The second, which was eleven pages and took up one & a half columns, was the Saturday chore list.
I always hated Saturdays as a child. I was generally left alone to watch my sister & then there was the deep cleaning. My sister is now living in grandma’s old house, but due to unemployment, I’m back with mom & dad. Little sister might be gone, but the Battle of Saturday is still here.
The cleaning starts at 7AM & if I move my ass I might have it done in twelve hours. When you were a child & lived through that, Saturday’s sucked. You didn’t really want to clean out the oven, or dust off the light bulbs on a Saturday morning when you’re ten & can hear your friends on the street out side.
When you get to high school It’s not bad, you have a weekend job to escape most of it, but by the time you get home it’s almost done & you still have the night to play.
Yeah, as a child it sucks & with the amount of cleaning & chores that are done in this house on a daily basis I often wondered what was the point of the fanatically weekend cleanings. But I dared not question it, you don’t do that when you’re dealing with someone with that level of OCD.
I mean, four hours a day are spent cleaning Monday through Friday? Why do we need to put in that much effort on Saturday?
Saturday was & still is the day for the odd chores. Dusting light bulbs, windexing the inside glass on the picture frames. Dusting the inside of the bookshelves, organizing the closets by color, white to black in descending colors: Black, Purple, Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow, Red, Pink, White.
There is a new one. This one spawned from the Christmas dinner we just had…a month ago. The kitchen table had been polished twice a day for the past decade. However the leaf for the table had only been dusted & used maybe twenty times in that decade. This Christmas mom noticed that the color no longer matched, the table was far darker than the leaf. One of the new Saturday chores is to polish it fifty times in an attempt to bring the wood to match.
I know my mother. She does stay up at night with twisted & horrible thoughts about the shame & disgrace she will suffer if her friends knew her leaf insert no longer matches her kitchen table. She has a lot of odd paranoia’s.
Did I tell you about how we have to separate towels based on gender of the last user when we put them in the laundry room? That one has always been my favorite. I use it all the time.
You think your mother is insane? Sit down kid, let me tell you about the towels.
Do you know why I have the time to type this up? Because I don’t know how to dust. The Battle of Saturday is a ritual & thus has to be completed in a set order, otherwise the world will end.
I never mastered the art of dusting. There is a specific way one must move their hand in semi circle clock-ways motions. I could never do it just right. Only Mom can dust, I get to sit this one out until we can advance to the next task.
The windows always have to be open & the heat turned off for the Battle of Saturday. It really sucks in the winter, especially when Chicago is in a deep freeze. The house gets seriously cold with all the windows open. Especially now that they live in a town house in the suburbs & there aren’t any buildings to block the wind.
It’s thirty-degrees in the house at the moment & we can’t wear shoes. My feet are fucking freezing. We can’t wear jacket’s either during the Battle of Saturday. Jackets can bring the contamination of the outside world into the house….& yet the windows are open.
There are a lot of contradictory things that come with OCD. there is a lot of organization that comes with it, but the “compulsion” part of the disorder doesn’t follow any real logic. Structure, order, & method are high on the disorder & even if one task directly contradicts a second it still needs to be done.
The windows need to be opened because fresh air kills germs. Everything needs to be dusted because dust is dirty.
But not the vents. If you clean the vents you are contaminating the air with whatever cleaning product you use to remove the dust from the vents. Do NOT let her catch you cleaning the vents, no matter how much dust you see on them. It simply isn’t safe.
500 people die in America each year because of clean vents.
There are a lot of other things that come with it as well & I am almost certain many of these come from the fear segment on the nightly news. We still can’t have aspirin, remember when it was poisoned all those years back? It still could be, despite, you know, recalls & expiration dates. We’ve always had to sneak our pain killers when we had a headache. If we didn’t mom would have a panic attack.
She’s crazy, but her family is NOT going to die because of poisoned pain killers from the early eighties.
Water bottles are also strictly forbidden. This one I agree with. We have to use canteens instead. Water Bottles, according to one news report, are filling America with litter. The same used to be true with mom & plastic & paper bags, there was no way she was going to be responsible for making America dirty. But then we are watching a baby every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday, & now plastic bags are tools to wrap shitty diapers.
Sometimes necessity trumps OCD. Or it could just be because she stays up at night thinking about the shit in the garbage can.
But there are other extremes that I have witnessed forming in her as she was watching the news. You hear about something potentially fatal in an everyday household product & you can see her storing the information & permanently filing it away. The next morning the product mentioned will be in the trash. It will NEVER be purchased again.
She used to love tomatoes & spinach. I was working a temp job when there was a recall due to some type of food poisoning. She called me up at around midnight to warn me about it. She hasn’t had either since.
Living in this house, growing up in this family made me intensely curious on how the human mind works. I don’t buy into psychology, mom doesn’t have a problem a psychologist can solve. The brain is a system, it’s a machine, and instrument, a tool. Talking about this for how ever many hours isn’t going to do anything but line a psychologists pocket. There is a problem in the brain & it has to be chemical. You have to treat it like you treat a machine, you don’t talk to your car & try to convince it to fix itself, you change the alternator.
I don’t see how you can look at this behavior & blame it on nurture. She might have been an army brat, but it’s certainly not a product of grandma & grandpa being enlisted. It’s not a stability issue that was caused by a family that moved from base to base to base. She comes from an Irish family, there are a lot of brothers & sisters that would have ended up the same way. Believe me, they are no where near OCD.
This has to be chemical, it’s mechanical. Save psychology for the saps that can’t take being bullied in school. This problem needs to be addressed like you would address any other machine.
But anyway…I have to go, the dusting ended & I have to clean the inside of the picture frames.