At the end of 2013, I began a photographic story showing the state of the home I lived in with my father. I received many responses to these pictures. Mostly reactions of horror from people I know, who never really knew the extent of the conditions we lived in. They had never been witness to it. My father was very clever at disguising certain parts of the house and his dangerous eccentricities and careless nature were always well hidden. Friends and family were only allowed in the showy and presentable parts of the house. I however, saw the truth every day.
The kitchen was one of the worse rooms. It also happened to be the largest room in the house much to my father’s happiness (he saw it as his domain). Guests who visited always commented on how big it was; he loved that. But what if they had looked closer? Would they have seen the dirty and crumb filled toaster from,
(See My filthy life – Photo 3)
would they have stepped into our adjoining garage and discovered his hoarding obsession?
(See My father the hoarder – Photo 2)
Would they have walked around and seen the state of the cooker? A piece of kitchen equipment that I used every day living at home with my father. An appliance that I could not do without. An essential aid to making my life as normal as possible, something that would bring me sustenance and provide me with a basic human right. But what if that appliance was spoiled, unhygienic, unsanitary and rank? What if you were forced to use a machine that hadn’t been cleaned for ten years? It was another task my father had placed in my list of chores to do. A list that went up to eighty four. A mental list that I never lost count of and never completed. My father refused to help in any way. It was not his job. It was MY fault it got into that state and MY responsibility to resolve the tainted problem. Except it was too much for me. He gained so much enjoyment watching me on my hands and knees scrubbing his precious kitchen. I could not stand the humiliation and fearing the examination of my work after.
Why did I ever let myself live like this?
I mean, how am I not dead?
[uhn-san-i-ter-ee] Show IPA
; unhealthy or unhealthful; tending to harbor or spreaddisease: unsanitary living conditions.
My father’s favourite insult was to call me “filthy”. Filthy in mind, behaviour and nature. I was a vile creature to him who lived a dirty life. His obsession with order and precision, his love for appearances were the very things that kept his power over me burning so strong. He rarely cleaned the house himself. That was a “woman’s job”. It wasn’t his fault his wife left him so why should he have to take over in that aspect? I was the woman of the house. It was my role to take care of it. Except it wasn’t my role. I had a job of my own, I had a life and I was not about to step into the role of my mother to take care of this abusive man. I had no duty to him, I did not owe him anything. I looked after myself and where I lived to the best of my ability. However taking care of a five bedroom house is no mean feat. Things were missed and under his careful inspection, these mistakes were regularly pointed out. After I left home, my father had to step up. There was nobody to look after him. For once, he had to look after himself. The house fell apart a little. He no longer had someone to dump chores on. It became clear that cleaning the house was a very big job for one person. He liked to think he was on top of things but when I visited, I understood immediately how hard things really were. I dared not say anything. He would see it as an attack and push the blame onto me for “leaving” him. I had learned from previous mistakes to keep my mouth shut. This toaster was a prime example of how dirty he lived, how dangerous he was and how blasé he’d become. My father always boasted about being invincible. Looking at this picture disgusts me. He would often blame me for leaving him with too much work and say (in 2012) that I deliberately caused it. That he had been cleaning up my mess for the last two years.
Look at the way you lived. You caused it. Not me.
How could we ever live this way? When I look at this photo I feel sick. It’s so upsetting to think that these were my living conditions for twelve years of my life. After my mother left home, my father refused to do any housework. The kitchen (as it was so big) became messy and dirty easily. It was an arduous task that needed time. My father expected everything to be done as quickly as possible and he often demanded me to do it. He would never provide any cleaning advice or materials for me, he only ordered that it needed be done to an impeccable standard. It was ultimately my fault the the house had degenerated into the unsightly state it was. I left mess wherever I was. He said he’d always know what room I’d been in. His O.C.D was uncontrollable when we lived together. Any room that looked ‘lived in’ would be classed as untidy. My room was an empty shell (photos to come soon) with no character. I couldn’t keep anything in it, he would just find fault. He did that already, life was so bad.
The kitchen was where he spent most of his time. I liked the kitchen, it reminded me of my mother plus I loved cooking. However, as he was mostly in that part of the house, I avoided it at all costs. I only used the kitchen to make my dinner and of course, to clean it under his watchful eyes.
The dirt and grime on the floor only built up over time. As he never attempted to clean the floor himself and by the time he was assigning the job it me, it had an enormous amount of filth encrusted on it. It became impossible to clean it normally, it needed an industrial machine. When I remarked that we should get a cleaner in, I was told I was a lazy moron who was incapable of such a basic task.
The floor was never back to a glimmering state. I gave up, as did he. For a man who was obsessed with outer appearance his house never reflected that. Why his friends never questioned it I’ll never know.