My aunt decided to come by to babysit once. Whenever we had houseguests, my mom would typically clean up the house. This meant they usually had no idea anything was wrong. (Those were usually the times when my mother would go back to throwing dishes in the trash.)
Other shit would get thrown into random places. Sometimes she would do full cleaning runs; other times, it was a half-done version. This particular day, she must not have had it in her to do a full clean (or hiding). I remember thinking it was “pretty good” though. However, that version of “pretty good” was mortifying to my aunt.
Molding dishes were mounted up in the sink, for one thing. My mom also had a habit of taking all dirty laundry and throwing it on the floor in the laundry room. The problem is the laundry room was probably 13 feet x 7 feet, so it provided a lot of floor space to throw laundry and let it pile up. The room would turn into a hoard. Our version of laundry usually involved having to climb through the piled clothes and dig for the items you wanted washed. Then we would wash our outfit for the next day or a few towels if we were short. So the laundry room was piled high, and my aunt saw that. Surfaces weren’t cleaned. My brother and I had messy rooms, and she saw all the stacked and disordered closets where things were stuffed to hide the mess.
I remember my aunt going through every cabinet, drawer and closet. She was bothered by the lack of “regular” food for us to eat. We went through a phase where the majority of food in the house consisted of snacks (ex. potato chips, Chicken in a Biscuits, Better Cheddars, Combos, etc.), along with microwavable meals. Fast food from Dairy Queen or McDonalds were our dinner a few times a week, and there was pizza delivery on Fridays.
My aunt wrote my mom a strongly worded letter, outlining her concerns about the house and the situation that me and my brother were living in. She told my mom that if these things were not corrected, she was going to report her to the Department of Child Services. I remember feeling a sense of both fear and relief at the same time, and I felt guilty for that same sense of relief.
My mom was hurt and angry over the letter. She, of course, thought the sentiment was misguided and that my aunt had overstepped. I can only guess, but my mom probably thought occasionally getting things in order and redecorating rooms at times was enough. Never mind that these cleaning sprees would be followed by periods of chaos, messiness and filthiness in the home again—through what I suspect were deep bouts of depression.
At one point, my mom had a serious boyfriend, who moved in with us within a year or so of the divorce. He was totally worthless in hindsight. He worked at a bowling alley where they met and would just spend his days sitting in front of a computer. He was living with his parents when he met my mom and I think just liked the idea of having somewhere to live that was not his parents. Although I was indifferent about him, he was nice enough to me.
I remember the house being cleaner during the period he lived with us. He did not like my brother though. I think it was more my brother’s age than his actual personality though. It was a frequent tactic to keep my brother locked up in his room, ordering him to play by himself rather than letting him out of his room in the living areas where we were.
When the relationship ended, I remember he and my mom were having a conversation in her car inside the garage—for hours. I thought that was a strange place to talk for that long. Eventually, he came inside and to my bedroom. I’m guessing he asked my mom if he could say goodbye to me alone. My mother, probably thinking he had the best of intentions, agreed to let him talk to me and stayed in the garage for our entire conversation.
He shut my bedroom door and sat down on the bed by me. He told me he was moving out because my mom had broken up with him, and it was “our” fault that they broke up—“our” being me and my brother. I was a little sad he was leaving, but more so, I had a similar and strong emotional reaction to someone disappearing again. It stirred up those feelings when my dad was coming and going. How was it somehow my fault again?
I remember sobbing when he left. My mother dropped him off at home. (No, he did not have his own car.) She was irate when she came back and I repeated what he’d told me. She explained to me that him blaming me and my brother was his last stab at trying to indirectly hurt her. In her words, “This was ‘his’ issue, not ‘our’ issue.”
Flaws or not, I still took it hard. I was just so tired of crying and feeling abandoned. I was also tired of feeling out of control and dealing with all this pressure after my parents’ divorce. Keeping secrets and feeling alone had grown very old for my young mind.