Sunday, August 30, 2009
This is a tough blog for me to write. My wife and I just dealt with the death of a relative who was killed by a drive who fell asleep and caused a head on automobile collision. I arrived home from taking a walk to find my wife in tears after she had been called with the news. We immediately arranged an airline flight and flew the next day to Los Angeles. The following morning we drove to the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office to pick up personal effects from the accident. We were surprised that our relative had a large amount of cash on him at the time of his death but there were no keys to his condo. I called the California Highway Patrol and they quickly determined that the keys were with the car in the towing company impound area and arranged to have all the keys except the car keys released to us. The next stop was the mortuary to make arrangements then on to the towing company to pick up the keys. The key chain we were given had a dozen keys and we hoped one of them would open the condo since we needed to find personal papers, financial records and any will. The sight of the front end of the car looking like an accordion up got to my wife. My experience occurred an hour later when we arrived at the condo. After much trying of keys, I got the door open. It would only budge two feet. I stuck my head through the door and had my shock. The condo was piled three to five feet high with trash. I could see no furniture and no appliances in the kitchen as all surfaces were covered with trash. I squeezed in and found that the whole condo was covered with trash. A pathway on top of three feet of stuff wound through with larger mounds to the side. It took my wife, daughter and me two hours to clear junk away enough to open the front door completely. We had never been invited to the condo and had no idea our relative had become a hoarder. Since then, I have read about hoarding problems. It is a well-defined disorder that affects many people. The novel, My Brother’s Keeper, by Marcia Davenport published in 1954 is based on the Collyer brothers who died in over 100 tons of trash in a brownstone in Harlem in 1947.