Wednesday, April 5, 2023

February Showers Bring Mold Flowers

So in part 1, I talked about how March beat the crap out of me politically. In this part I'm going to talk about how it abused me personally, but it's going to take some backtracking in order to set everything up. 

As I've mentioned before, my father was a hoarder on the low end of the scale. He didn't save trash, but he kept boxes of every bill he ever paid and every pay stub he received, going back as far as the late 1960s. He also collected items of dubious value, like cheap knives from BudK and anything with Ronald Reagan on it. When he ran out of room, he'd stack them in piles on the floor. When we eventually got him into the VA home, the only part of the floor we could see was a footpath from the door to the bed and the bathroom / walk-in closet. 

Cleaning all this out and throwing away what is junk and trying to sell/donate what is not would be a full-time job, and neither mom nor I have time for that, so we've been working on it piecemeal. In the year-plus he's been in the home we've cleared out the junk and are working on selling or donating the nicer things. In an effort to have more room for me, the first things we did was to clear out the bathroom and closet so I could have those. I continued to sleep in my bedroom while we worked on clearing out his. (Also, I wanted a new mattress, because he was both kinds of incontinent. Ick.)

First, a quick sketch. 

Walk-In Closet    |   Bathroom        
Linen Closet

The linen closet is separated from the bedroom by an archway. It's important to note that carpet covers the entire walk-in closet, half of the bathroom (where the lady of the house would put on her makeup) and the interface area linking all three rooms, including the bottom of the linen closet. The pipes for the shower are in the shared bathroom-closet wall. 

Around the first of February, I was putting something away in the bottom of the linen closet when I noticed that the floor was damp. I knew this was Not Good, so I hauled everything out of the bottom area and noticed the entire carpet was like that, and there was some mold growing on the back wall of the closet. Fortunately, nothing in the closet was damaged by moisture. We called in a plumber who said there was a pipe that had been leaking into the shared wall, and that there was mold everywhere in that space. Joy! Still, things weren't too bad, and even with my allergies I wasn't affected by the mold, so we relegated this to the category of "We will deal with this when it becomes necessary." This was likely a mistake. 

About 2 weeks later, when I was packing up for my trip to Utah, I was getting clothes out of the closet when my bare feet stepped in wet carpet. My reaction was "Well, FUCK." I then spent most of the time that I had set aside for packing instead hauling things out of the wet parts of the closet. 

Unlike the linen cabinet, this was bad. I had boxes of books and collectible trading cards (Magic: the Gathering) stored there which were not only damp and stuck together, but also had mold growing on them. This, as you might imagine, destroyed their collectability and so I ended up pitching a longbox worth of cards. I'm pretty sure I didn't lose any of my super-nice ones but I have no idea of the value of what I lost, and frankly I didn't want to know. The books were less heartbreaking, but it still pained me to throw away formerly nice hardback books. 
If you're going to leave a comment saying "You shouldn't have thrown them out, there are things you could have done to save them," please don't. They are long-tossed and you telling me that would only cause me more grief. 
Once the boxes were out, it was clear that there was mold growing not just on the walls but also on, or maybe even in, the carpet. Apparently the water which had leaked into the linen closet had also leaked into the walk-in. The weird thing, the part which was completely unexpected, is that the walk-in closet wasn't wet near the linen closet; instead, it was wet in the far right corner, and had spread along the back to the far left corner. Apparently there's a slight incline in that wall, and water follows the path of least resistance, so naturally it pooled in the far, out of reach area instead of in the area where it would be sensible to check (because, well, I did check when I discovered the linen closet mold). 

What followed was the usual circus:
  • Contact homeowner's insurance company to make a claim.
  • Insurance company sends out mold testers.
  • Mold testers agree there's mold and water damage and people need to come out and tear crap apart (the term "total demolition" was used).
  • We find a mold remediation company to come assess the situation. 
  • They give us an estimate, we run it past insurance. 
  • Insurance says yes, cuts us a check, we hire mold techs to come out. 

On March 27, we got a phone call from the mold techs that said "We'll be out there bright and early tomorrow morning. Have everything moved out of room by the time we get there."

So, because dad has a bunch of crap and we have nowhere else to put it, mom backed her car out of the garage and we started stacking things there. When we ran out of room, we stacked things on the dining room table, and then on the floor. 

Mom and I worked for over 12 hours clearing that stuff. We were exhausted, my back was screaming, and we still weren't done. So Tuesday morning, mom did the "I'm just a little old lady, I couldn't move all this stuff" routine -- which isn't a lie -- to convince the mold techs to help us move the rest of the stuff. After 90 minutes or so, everything except the big furniture like bed frame, dresser, chest of drawers, etc was moved out of the bedroom, the techs have taped off the bedroom like it's a hazmat cleanup (which I guess it is), with a zippered plastic sheet over the door and industrial air purifiers running in both the bedroom and the dining room, and my back hurts so much that I'm legitimately worried I might have injured myself. (Thankfully I hadn't.)

For the next three days, the techs were in and out, tearing everything up and hauling it out, starting with all the carpet and then the moldy drywall. The big furniture which couldn't be moved out was put up against the wall after they'd torn up the carpet, and then had a plastic sheet taped to the wall over it like a giant plastic cocoon. 

Thursday we had to leave the house for an hour while they filled the house with ozone for some reason. Fortunately the weather was nice and we took the dogs to a nature walk, which they enjoyed. 

Friday they were done, and they had the mold sensor people come back to take readings throughout the house to determine if the techs had done a good job or if they'd missed some mold and would have to tear up more of the house. 

Monday, April 3, we got the first bit of good news in a long time: they'd gotten all the mold, so the techs could take their stuff and go. 
Now we have the space back, but it's completely unlivable, and we have schedule a different work crew from a different company to restore/renovate the suite so that it can be inhabited. Then, and only then, can we start moving stuff back in, and maybe if I'm lucky I'll be able to move in there. 

You're looking through where the linen closet used to be, into where the shower used to be. 

I say "maybe" because around the time this was happening (a week ago as of this blog post), mom received a phone call from the Veteran's Administration Nursing Home where dad is that he's basically dying. Keeping in mind that I only know what mom summarized for me (I wasn't on the call) but he has some kind of bronchial infection, plus because of Parkinson's he can't swallow, so while they can give him IV antibiotics he can't take his other meds and refuses to eat, partly because of the difficulty swallowing and partly because everything needs to be pureed for him to eat it and he's probably sick of that. When I had my face mauled by the family dog back in 2017 I couldn't open my mouth to chew for a few weeks, and by the time I had my stitches out I was sick of eating soup and applesauce and other runny foods. You don't realize how important texture is to food until you have to eat the same texture over and over again. 

Before you ask "Why isn't the VA giving him his over meds via IV or whatever?" it's because he's hospice care. 

So when he dies, mom loses a significant chunk of income: half his Army pension and all of his service-related disability, plus I don't know how much of his Social Security. Given the financial hole he put us in that we haven't dug ourselves out of, plus the state of the economy in general, I don't know if mom will be able to keep the house or if we'll be forced to sell it. 

I'm not worried about what happens to me. I have friends and I have skills. But mom is 83 and doesn't want to leave her home, her garden, her memories acquired over decades. But that's a problem for Future Erin, because right now Present Erin has way too many problems already on her plate. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm a lot behind on everything social because of work, but *hugs*.


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