Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hoarding family portrait: Dad (or, the post in which I foist wedding photos on you)

Ever since I realized that my mom is a hoarder and my dad is a compulsive saver I've tried to figure out what made them the way they are.

What's their backstory? Well, my grandparents lived on $50 a month right after they got married, or so grandmom says. Dad didn't have a crib at first, he had an orange crate. My great-grandparents were no financial help to them at that point because Grandmom was Anglican and Grandpop was Polish Catholic, two religions that were like oil and water in the 1940s. The marriage was horrible thing in their parents eyes. Their parents didn't acknowledge my grandparents' existence for a while.

But my grandfather went on to become a pediatrician, so we're not talking about life-or-death frugality here, certainly not for any length of time.

 My dad's mother is the grandmother of mine who can't bear to see any object leave the family. She gets quite upset by this. I didn't know my grandfather for very long, but I knew he was obsessively careful with money. He would drive down to Delaware from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to go to a grocer where he could save 10 cents per pound on butter. But he didn't seem obsessed with objects.

My dad's mother is the grandmother of mine who can't bear to see any object leave the family.Which I find really strange, because her house looks as though Martha Stewart's clone lives there. The only photos I have of the place are our wedding pictures that we took in her bedrrom (my portrait) and in her spare bedroom (the hubs'). Note: Grandmom didn't clean, organize, or tidy up in any way for these pictures. Her condo is *always* like this.

So where in the world did my father get the traits that lead him to save so many scraps of wood that his woodshop is unusable? To buy so many boxes of vitamins on sale that most of them are expired before we can use them? To purchase enough aluminum foil the year my parents were married that we used up the last roll more than 5 years after I was born? (And my parents took 10 years to have me. That's a fifteen year supply of aluminum foil. No kidding.)  But he has always been able to emotionally let go of objects when pushed, unlike my mother.

My only guess is that the chemistry of my dad's brain plays a role. He's struggled with severe depression and terrifying anger management problems since his mid-twenties. His anger was the "release valve" for his depression. He did not use objects for emotional security, only financial security.

Unfortunately he only got treatment about five years ago, after my mother and I compelled him to accept medication and psychotherapy. He seems to at least consider the implications of buying a literally ten-year supply of decongestant now. He may only buy a couple years' supply. But this is obviously the person from whom I get my desire to buy multiples of things so that I can either save money or avoid running out of the item later.

Up next, the sister.

1 comment:

  1. This makes one ponder the difference between a pack rat, a saver and a hoarder, and what makes each one what they are. "They" say hoarding tends to run in families, but maybe one person's full-on garbage dump hoarding is another's 15-year supply of foil. Not saying that your grandmom was a compulsive cleaner, but wouldn't that be the opposite side of the hoarding coin?


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