Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Cousin Roy"

I have a friend I'll call Roy. We treat him like family, so let's just call him "Cousin Roy". Cousin Roy has always been a character. There are few people more generous than he is. Yet, though he's more than 20 years my senior, he always acted like a demented teenager, but is one of the most well-read people I know. Not of novels, but if there is a non-fiction book or article on health, engineering, Christianity, cars, airplanes, etc., especially a terribly technical manual, he's read it, understands it and remembers it. If there is a potato cannon needing to be built, or some other article of teenage boy havoc-wreaking machinery needing to be built, he has done so, can tell you exactly how, has the materials, and probably has a working model, if you promise never to reveal where you saw it.

He is also an incredible packrat.

If you don't know a true packrat, let me tell you it is no joke. A true packrat fills most every corner of their home with...well...stuff. Piles, mounds, stacks of papers, merchandise and junk of all descriptions. Boxes and boxes of electronic components, tools, automotive parts, yacht batteries (we live in Colorado), lumber, odd bits of everything people didn't want at the neighborhood garage sale, stacks of corrugated roofing material, rebar, fixtures of all descriptions removed from houses of friends, neighbors and people he doesn't even know. There will always be a use for the hoarded item one day. These things are so useful that life become impeded by their presence. A couch becomes not a place to sit a weary body and chat with a friend, but storage for boxes o'crap and piles o'junk papers. One need not sit at the dining table when it will hold an extra generator, a compressor, broken picture frames, rc airplane motors, submersible pumps and a case of WD-40. The stove becomes yet another storage place, making it unusable for the preparation of food. The kitchen sink may be unreachable for months on end when a new pump for the well is sitting in front of it.

A true packrat has stacks of items they bought and never used, whether at a garage sale or at the clearance rack at the hardware store. Women packrats may have dozens of unused, still wrapped aprons, bags of linens, blouses spanning many colors, styles and eras, all with the tags still on them. Men may do the same thing, but often they are obsessed with things like radios, power tools, TVs, bags of tube socks, pens, rulers, oil filters, and cameras.

Well, if you need a whazit for a schedingyding, the '43 model, not the '44 or '42, Roy probably has one, and if you give him a few minutes he can probably locate that whazit and the doohickey that goes with it, as well as the schlemlerdinckel that makes it work better, and will be able to tell you just how to remove the ringydingy nozzel to replace the whazit, the doohickey and to add the schlemlerdinckel as well.

Some time back, Cousin Roy told me he had made me executor of his estate. Given the sheer volume of stuff filling his house, garage, screen porch, storage sheds, trailers on his property as well as the stuff stacked against the house, I can remember being both flattered and horrified. Over the last 6 months, Roy has made considerable progress reducing the piles o'crap. I have been quite hopeful that he had finally conquered this compusion.

Alas. Today I was called to come pick up free firewood. It wasn't a good time, but I was told that it was now or never, that the stuff would be gone tomorrow, so I went. I picked up a truck load of firewood, and while I was doing that, I watched as Roy filled his truck with used and excess building materials, including a one-piece shower unit. He has no possible use for a shower unit. None. He told me he had been working loading and unloading for days and had a stack as high as his privacy fence. He has a six foot privacy fence. I am officially horrified. Horrified and depressed.

In the space of a couple of days he managed to undo 6 months of progress. It depresses and overwhelms me with the magnitude of the task should he die tomorrow. There is no flattery in being the executor of this estate.

Also depressing is that the place where we were gathering the free materials had bags of discarded possessions, presumably from a series of tenants of a rather rundown old house. Bags of children's toys were amongst the piles of firewood. We uncovered either two dead birds, or the decomposing spread out remains of one. I also uncovered a broken glass pipe. I don't know what drug turns a pipe black, but I imagine most any would as the substance is burned. Sad to think that there were drugs and children, poverty and misuse of funds involving children. The human despair and the depravity...oh, it just makes me so incredibly sad.

I want to run and clean out something, throw something away, but I realize that just this past week I tacked the laundry/utility room and brought it to some semblance of order, even throwing away some things in the process. Good. The panic attack is held at bay, and is even receeding. Breathe slowly. In. Out. In. Out. Ahhhhh. Must remember to breathe.

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