Are You KIDDING Me With This???

Sunday, May 07, 2006

New Jersey, Part The Second

So. We get to the house and knock on the door. YooHoo answers. She's the Wicked Witch's home health assistant. We all introduce ourselves and dump our luggage and then...there she is. The Wicked Witch. Who takes one look at us and starts thanking me up one end and down the other for coming to help her and proceeds to ignore that Mama Jo has even entered the house. This would be the first step in her process of systematically refusing to see that Mama Jo is breathing the same air that she is. I start fuming. I've only been in the house for five minutes. I think this might be a new record.

It's not just that the Wicked Witch refuses to acknowledge Mama Jo's presence. It's that Mama Jo had to reorganize her life and sacrifice FAR more than I had to in order to make this trip, and to not only ignore that sacrifice, but go so far in the other direction as to praise ME for everything I've had to do to be just bugged. But whatever. We were in the house; we got settled; life went on.

The next couple of days were spent trying to figure out what exactly we were supposed to be doing in the first place. MOU was supposed to have left us detailed instructions of what he wanted us to accomplish. We found his instructions, but detailed they were not. His letter mostly consisted of vague ideas of what he thought might possibly be required before they moved, but certainly nothing concrete, and he was, sadly, unavailable for consultation for the first couple of days, due to a problem with his cell phone. *cue the rolling of my eyes* So Mama Jo and I decided that the first order of business was to go grocery shopping (as the last time Mama and Papa Jo had been to New Jersey, the Wicked Witch insisted on eating out every day, but steadfastly refused to recognize when the check arrived because she's "not rich like [you] people".) (Side note: I should mention that the Wicked Witch has more money in her regular bank account than the rest of the family combined, and yet, insists on acting as though she is on the verge of poverty whenever something comes up that requires that she spend money. UNLESS, of course, that thing that requires her to spend money is the newest catalog of whatever random flotsam catches her eye this week. THEN she has all the money in the world.)

With the grocery shopping accomplished, we moved on to the more pressing order of business: organizing the house based on what needed to be moved, what needed to be donated and what needed to be thrown away. This was no small task. Every square inch of that house was CRAMMED full of all of the aforementioned catalog finds. And naturally, it was in no way organized. I don't think I can adequately explain how depressing it was to go through every nook and cranny of that house, never feeling as though we were making progress, and finding so much junk that HAD to be kept (at least, according to the Wicked Witch.) It was not only the enormity of the task that was was all of the waste. And not just the waste, but the compulsive buying.

Just to give you an example, we went through every room in the house before we even stepped foot in the Wicked Witch's bedroom. We found her clothes in every single room, except possibly the bathrooms. In going through those clothes with her, we ended up with 7 full boxes of summer clothes that she insisted on keeping. BEFORE WE EVEN STEPPED FOOT IN HER BEDROOM. It would not be an exaggeration to say that she had enough clothes to wear a different outfit every day of the summer, without ever having to do laundry. She had 30 coats. Mama Jo convinced her to donate 5 of them, and even that was a struggle. She has 25 coats she is taking with her. And she NEVER leaves the house. She has severe arthritis in her feet, which has gnarled them and disfigured them to the point that very few shoes fit her. But she insisted on taking all of her shoes (even though she only wears maybe 2 pair), which consisted of at least 20 pairs. I went through the purses with her. I would say she had at least 40 purses. She donated 12. Did I mention she never goes out?

Mama Jo works in healthcare, and not long after our arrival, she mentioned that in her professional opinion, the Wicked Witch suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. I was skeptical at first, but the more we were there, the more the evidence mounted. In the end, I had to agree with Mama Jo...It doesn't excuse her behavior, but it certainly explains a lot.

Anyway, the BEST day was the day we started going through the kitchen. And when I say "best," I'm counting on you to read the implied sarcasm. I started in the pantry, Mama Jo started with the cabinets. We figured the best way to approach things was to start with two boxes. One box for the items that could be donated, and one box for trash. We were mostly looking for food well past its expiration date and things that the Wicked Witch wouldn't eat, but had bought anyway. It took us a few hours to go through the pantry and all of the cabinets, but at the end, Mama Jo looked at me and asked me how old was the oldest item I had found? 1996 was the expiration date, if I recall correctly. She snorted and said she had me beat. I quirked my eyebrows at her. "1981," she said, "and I have you beat for the second-oldest with another item from 1986." To put this in perspective, you need to understand that the Wicked Witch used to live in Arizona near us, and actually moved back to New Jersey in 1996. So those items that Mama Jo found? Had to have expired in Arizona, been packed to make the move to New Jersey and unpacked once they were settled in. Do you understand yet why I felt the need to drink so much?????

All of this, and I STILL don't think I can adequately convey to you how hard we worked or how depressing it was to do all of this. Some of this you won't understand simply because you don't know the Wicked Witch and can't really grasp what it's like to have her talk AROUND your mom, and subsequently you, because you get so pissed at the idea that you and your mom are here, taking time away from your family and your friends and your LIVES, and she is still so self-absorbed as to think it's perfectly okay to treat your mom like trash. Some of this you won't understand because you don't know what it's like to look at a house and see all of its beauty and potential wasted. Mostly, you won't understand because I can't explain it. But it was heartbreaking. And I'm glad I will never have to do it again.

Mama Jo and I stood outside the house before driving to the airport on our last day. She looked at me, and said, "The next time I come here, it will be for the Wicked Witch's funeral." I looked back at her and said, "I don't even know if I'll be back for that."

But that's not to say that it was all bad. When MOU arrived, we found a lot of things to laugh about, because somehow, against all odds and despite his horrible role model, MOU managed to grow into a man with a sense of humor on par with our own, and a world-view that is very outwardly focused. He's a good man, and we had some good times together. But those are stories for another day.


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