Everyone is shocked except the daughter who lives near enough to visit, but doesn’t.
The couple survived sickness, deaths, a struggling business and other challenges, but couldn’t survive the unrelenting, accumulating, behemothic piles of trash.
Larry is a hoarder. He has a compulsion to collect useless things. He can’t throw anything away in fear that he’ll need it some day.
It is more than a “yechy” problem. Every bedroom is filled to the ceiling with junk. At first, the beds were filled with magazines, then boxes of things.
Den and dining room furniture is submerged by newspapers, advertising circulars, letters — trash.
An heirloom rocking chair of five generations in the guest bedroom hasn’t been seen in years, along with pictures, keepsakes, letters.
The kitchen? Forget it. It is a verminous place, sticky with insect droppings.
Framed footprints and photos of kids and grandchildren in the hallway disappeared under mountains of papers, piles of clothes and more junk.
A narrow trail from one door leads through the only accessible part of the house.
Every room in the house is unusable. It is unsanitary for human habitation, but an ideal home for insects and mice. The house is a fire trap, with no escape route and filled with flammable filth.
Trash spills out the front door and on to the porch. The garage is full.
Gwen stopped being embarrassed by the tall grass and piles of junk in the yard, but she winced at the cars that wouldn’t run, and he wouldn’t give up. They served a purpose, after all, holding more trash.
The roof is decades old. Whether or not it leaks is anybody’s guess because an inspection of the ceilings and floors is impossible.
The added weight of the tons of refuse causes unknown stress on the floors and foundations.
Home maintenance problems are unrepairable because Larry won’t let anyone into the house.
She gave him a choice when she “set up” in the small trailer house.
He had a limited time to make progress in cleaning out the house. If he emptied a couple of rooms, she’d move back in; otherwise, her first stop out of his life was the trailer.
Larry, typically, became defensive, maintained there was no problem, or if so, it was “personal.”
People don’t choose to live in unfit, unhealthy or dangerous conditions; it accumulates one newspaper at a time.
A closet fills, then part of a room. It is a creeping accumulation. Not dealing with it is a choice.
Larry made the wrong choice.
(If you have a hoarding relative or neighbor, contact your community health department and/or county fire marshall.)
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.