Monday, April 4, 2011

Points of View

When Tara came by the other day she brought a CD of old pictures of the yard that she'd scanned in; today I walked around outside, to get some pictures from the same points of view for comparison.

When I look at those old photos I am actually shocked. Which you really think I wouldn't be; after all, I lived here, and in fact was living here when most of these pictures were taken. I really should remember it.

I said in a comment a couple posts down that I've blocked it out, how much of a horror this yard was, but that's not quite it; it's that, back then, I didn't know how to see. Not, even, that I was inured to it or had simply grown used to it, though that is probably part of it, but that I was unable to see that it was wrong in the first place. Or rather, I was unable to see the degree to which it was wrong, abnormal, sick, even. Because I did know it was fucked up at the time, even if I was nowhere near being able to articulate how fucked up. Never mind why it was.

And if I'm not remembering the yard as that bad, then I'm not giving myself (and Tara) anywhere near enough credit for cleaning it up. And yes, part of that is that it has been fairly gradual; this has taken us more than a decade now. Well, I say 'us'; really in the first few years, back when our father was still here, it was Tara doing most of the work, at least as far as the cars went, since she for some reason had the patience to deal with Dad. Or maybe that's just another way of not giving myself enough (in this case, any) credit, who knows.

It is always good to pause for a moment in the middle of a project and see how far you've come. Though, really, we are well past the mid-point, I think, at least as the cars go. If there were seventy-eight here originally, and there are only ('only,' ha) twenty-one left, then we are 73% of the way through that part; and as far as the pure junk goes, I'd guess from the pictures that the percentage is about the same, if not greater. We've even made some major strides with the indoor spaces, like the garage, and though the shop is still pretty full, stuff has been moving out of there. So we're, really, I'd guess, something like three quarters done. And that's pretty damned amazing.

So let's see what it looked like then and today. Here's one looking towards the back yard, taken in September of 2001. This was yet another pile of wood, this time piled up and around a large rock. On the left there is a mound of dirt, left over from I'm not sure what, perhaps digging the foundation for the garage in the sixties. When we were kids it had been there for so long that the trees there were big enough to build a tree house in. Said trees are now long gone and the pile itself flattened and used to fill in what was ostensibly a pond my father had dug out, but was mostly an overgrown, damp marshy spot intermittently filled with runoff from the road.

And today. That haphazard pile of wood on that giant mound of charcoal will shortly be burned, just like the rest of it.

Here's the back of the garage again; this is a slightly different picture than one Tara has run before, from May 2001.

And today. Incidentally I put those walls in myself a few years back. One of my strategies upon moving here was to claim previously carred-up and junked-up spaces for new gardens. That way my father couldn't just put another car back in the same spot.

Here's one looking towards the shop, also from May 2001. I'm pretty sure Tara was standing on something, probably a bus roof, to get this. I guess it held; honestly I'm a little surprised.

And today. It's not quite taken from the same angle, but it's close. There are still several Beetles over there, the damned things.

And then one taken from a little further over to the south, and pointed at what were the pen and the pond, from late October 2002:

And today:

That's quite a lot of empty grassy ground exposed, isn't it? And still, I look at that and think What an impossible mess.


The Writing Goddess said...

You sisters have done an amazing job.

It's true, when things are in a certain place for a long time, they become invisible to us. There have been times I've done laundry and put a stray sock on top of the TV, so I can mate it when the other one shows up... Three months later, somebody may ask, "Why do you have a sock on top of your TV?"

Be proud of yourselves, regardless of who did the lion's share when. (Probably should make that lioness's share, they're the ones who do the major work, aren't they?) Impressive, totally impressive.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Holy cow! You've whipped that yard into shape! How good that must feel!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an amazing job you and your sisters have accomplished. I think taking photos is a great way to keep on keepin' on.

Anonymous said...

WOW--Hard to believe it's the same spaces...What a difference you two have made. Have you two ever had friends over to help the clean up?

I know you Dad is in a nursing home. Does he know what you two have accomplished? How does you mom feel about you two cleaning all this up?

And, two final thoughts: Do you two both have updated tetanus boosters? Have you considered using a metal detector on the ground once you are done to insure that no potentially hazards are in the grass.....(I can only assume you never run barefoot thru the or when kids)

Keep up the great job. Cheering you on long distance.

A reader from the Chicago area

Thalia said...

Thank you everyone. It is really good to hear.

Tara has a friend who has a construction-type business; when he lived nearby (he's sinced moved to another part of the state) he'd let Tara borrow some of his equipment like his trencher which we'd use for dragging stuff around or digging &c. He also had a ramp truck he'd let her borrow to take cars out of here. He's a nice guy, that Jim. I baked him some banana bread once in thanks. :)

My mom is glad to see it cleaned, definitely, though I think she's a little weird about it here and there, too. But it is a change, and she is rather an old dog by now.

As for my father, there's not a whole lot left of his brain. He doesn't remember anyone's name, and has lost most of his words, though that doesn't stop him from trying to have a conversation. It's amazing, really, how much of a conversation is just the inflection and rhythm of it.

The thing is, if he were in his right mind, never in a million years would he see what we are doing as an accomplishment. No way in Hell. He'd consider it a violation, actually. It's his stuff, after all, and none of us have any right to even touch it, never mind get rid of it. I mean I know that before he had his stroke he was letting some of it go, but I can't imagine he'd see a clean yard as a good thing. It would not have even occurred to him that it was something desirable. And yes, that's after years and years of the rest of us telling him we wanted the yard cleaned up.

I believe I've had a tetanus shot fairly recently; I can't speak for Tara, though. I should ask next check-up, eh?

Anonymous said...

thanks for the updates to my comments/questions/thoughts!

Cheering you two, a reader from the Chicago area

Rosa said...

It is amazing, really. Like a whole different place.

It is really easy as you make progress to not even notice it because your standards are rising to match the new cleanliness. So glad you have the photos!

NanaR said...

Wow! Just Wow!

That you've stayed with it over time is amazing. It is easy to lose momentum when a task takes years or even decades.

The pictures tell the story. Thanks for posting them, and thanks for telling your story. Keep up the good work!

Sidney said...

Isn't it ironic that you can't just drive those cars out of the yard?

Thalia said...

Yes, iron-ic, har har.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to comment on the truly amazing and back-breaking job that you both have accomplished.

I ran across your blog several months ago when looking for something else, but it struck a nerve. My sister and I tried several times over almost 20 years to help our mother "clean" her house and yard. We would designate a weekend and both of us would do as much as we could together - occasionally dragging along a older grandchild or two. It was always an uphill battle and usually wound up with her unhappy although we tried only to throw out things that were TRULY trash. We discovered over the years that we had to completely destroy or haul away immediately anything that "could be repaired" in her opinion. She would go thru the bags of trash that we left and pull out "repairable" stuff. I threw out a leaking water hose and found it back in the yard on my next visit, never mind that she had 3 other perfectly good longer hoses. I finally got rid of it by cutting it into 5 pieces before placing it into a trash bag on our next cleanup spree.

I think the biggest fight was over a dead riding lawn mower that had sat under a tree so long that soil and leaves had completely encased the rotten, flat tires and part of the mower deck. One of the grandchildren had to bring over his truck, hook a chain to the riding lawn mower and actually drag it from it's soil tomb since no amount of manual labor could get it to move. Thankfully he brought a couple of friends and they helped us load it on his truck to be hauled immediately to the dump.

Luckily, even though she had hoarding tendencies, it was only a mild case. While she was in the hospital early last year, when we still expected her to get better and come back home, the whole family pitched in to clean, paint, and repair her home. Again, like some hoarding situations, some things were much past the time that cleaning / repairs should have been made. It was a very large task, nothing like yours, but SHARED among 3 children and their families. Since we got the main house and the immediate yard mostly in order before my mother passed, my elder brother has undertaken the final sorting of the 8 large chest of drawers containing documents, pictures, report cards, etc and the one bedroom that we decided to leave until later because nothing actually needed repair in it. There is also a small shed (10x10ish) of old tools and equipment that need sorting, but we did make a quick foray into it to remove any immediately identifiable junk including old paint, chemicals, etc. that needed to be taken to the county hazardous waste disposal site.

Having partially dealt with 5 room house, smallish shed, and almost 3/4 acre lot that was a real problem but never at the health-code or junk-lot condemning stage, I can only marvel at the humor, tenacity, and work documented in this blog. You and your sister have truly worked hard and done an amazing and impressive job.

Tara said...

Oh, that riding mower story sounds all to familiar! I can't even remember how many push and riding mowers we removed in the course of cleaning the yard.

Anonymous said...

We only had to remove the one riding lawnmower. I think we unearthed (literally in some cases) and hauled away 3 push mowers. My parents, especially my mother, grew up poor and making do, so I kind of understand not wanting to throw away anything repairable. However, when you can't fix it or have it repaired for less than a new one costs - it is time to donate it, recycle it, or get it to the dump. But as you are well aware, logic doesn't exist in a hoarding situation.

Suella said...

I love checking in with you to see your progress. You and Tara are doing an amazing job. I can't imagine how proud your mother is of you.

Well done!