“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things”
It was the first month of 1985 and I already felt like a caged animal. The hoarding at home was at its peak and I didn’t know how much longer I could continue living in what felt like constant chaos and imprisonment. All I knew is that I had to get out. A few months later, I would finally have the courage to leave.
In a very surreal moment, I felt myself hugging my Uncle Joe goodbye. It was the first time I had seen him cry since my grandmothers’ funeral. My pain and emotional turmoil was unbearable. I knew I had to leave in order to have some semblance of normalcy in my life. It hurt deeply to leave the family that loved and raised me even though it felt like a matter of survival. I knew the love was there and I knew they did their best for me. What I didn’t know is that some day there would be a mainstream name for what I was experiencing – hoarding.
When I left, my aunt was angry and hurt. I know she felt that I was abandoning her and the rest of my family. For that generation, a young female leaving home to live alone wasn’t often viewed as a good thing. When it was cross-country to California, it was even worse.
It took years to repair the damage my move created and for my family to come to terms with the fact that my decision was a positive one. We called each other on a regular basis and finally made peace.
In July of 1988, I made one of my weekly calls home. I spoke to my aunt first and after we caught up, I spoke to my uncle. I was taken aback by his voice. It’s hard to explain, but I knew immediately that something was wrong. His voice sounded weak and almost frail, as if he had aged years in just a week’s time. It scared me enough to book a flight home. As sad as it is to say, it would be the first time I’d be home since the day I left.
I didn’t tell my aunt or uncle why I chose to come home at that time. I just listened to my inner voice and did what I felt needed to be done. I didn’t get much resistance about visiting other than where I would stay. It never occurred to me that my uncle wouldn’t want me to stay in my own home when I returned. He chalked it up to the neighborhood not being safe anymore. I suspected the hoarding, but never in my wildest dreams or nightmares did I anticipate what would happen on that visit.
To be continued…
In the meantime, what was your experience with going back home for the first time?by