I’ve watched and read too many crime dramas, in my day, yeah, I know. But some things make a person go hmmmm. A case in point.
The house I live in now had previously been occupied by, let’s say, a “different” kind of family. I bought the house and according to the terms of the sale, the family rented it back from me for six months. During the rental period I worked on the outside of the house and occasionally the inside. I got to know the family. Sometimes they told me things I’d rather not know, but people need to talk and what the hell, I’ll listen.
Five people lived in the house. There was the ailing matriarch I’ll call Betty. She was only in her early sixties but suffering with what became terminal cancer from lifelong smoking and hard living. She was an old soul. Twice divorced, she had had three children. A boy and girl in their forties and another girl in her twenties. I’ve previously referred to the grown son as PissMan, read Piss, Puke, and Porn, and you will know why. PissMan lived there with his girlfriend, I’ll call her Diane, a quirky, frail woman (probably ninety pounds soaking wet) who seemed to have some mental disabilities. Her head was too small for her body. That isn’t a joke, it’s an observation, by many people.
The younger grown daughter from Betty’s second marriage, whom I’ll call Lori, and her school-aged son also lived in the house. The boy was adorable, but disturbed. The older grown daughter Gina, lived elsewhere, but nearby. She was the one that got away, so to speak. She held a job, had a home. She had no children of which I was aware, but she had a female friend who was often around her, they may have been a couple. She was a second mother to her much younger sister, Lori, because Betty wasn’t always around for her in those early years. Betty went through periods of never leaving the house, so I was told. I’m sure the family loved each other, but there was a lot of resentment and drama.
You know those people who, without any real prompting, suddenly launch into the most horrific personal stories? Well, this was a whole family of them.
I learned that the matriarch Betty and her youngest daughter had both been victims of domestic violence, and had been in relationships with alcoholics and drug addicts. I learned that the little boy has been in treatment because of his disorders resulting from his violent father and that there were ongoing legal battles over his abusive father’s visitation rights. The little boy’s sick grandmother, Betty, was his best friend. But Betty and the boy’s mom, Lori, mutually admitted that they have never gotten along. Betty and Lori told me so, separately.
I learned that when he was a child PissMan had been in an accident from which he never fully recovered (I think it must have been a head injury). Sister Gina always resented him because Betty babied him and never let him truly grow up because of it. PissMan did grow up to have a drug problem, however — crack, that is. He also has a grown son from an early marriage. This young man allegedly beat his disabled girlfriend. I met them both. The girlfriend had recently decided to give her abuser another chance.
I also learned that PissMan and his current girlfriend Diane had had a child once. Diane was so small, I had a hard time believing that she could carry a child at all. She had the body of a ten-year-old. Diane told me “they” took the baby away. Diane was counting the days until this child was old enough to look for his birth parents. (I secretly hoped that the child never did so.) Diane also told me that PissMan was her “first.” (Let the record reflect that I did not ask for this information.)
Youngest sibling Lori seemed to hate her brother PissMan and his girlfriend Diane because of the way they lived ( like hoarders, cats and all). Plus, PissMan and Diane did not seem to do much. Other than walking to the store or to the bank to cash disability checks, PissMan and Diane seemed to spend hours just sitting on the porch, smoking.
Over the six month rental period, the mother, Betty, became progressively worse, though her mind was still intact. PissMan and girlfriend Diane took care of her. In the last month, youngest daughter Lori had found somewhere to move with her son, and they left. The older daughter, Gina, only visited from time to time. Eventually, Betty was confined to a hospital bed in the front room because the home’s stairway is too narrow to get the bed and supplies upstairs. By the end, Betty could not get out of bed.
Betty was still talkative and seemed to enjoy company. I would sometimes visit with her when I had to be at the house. PissMan and his girlfriend Diane stayed with her around the clock, feeding her, caring for her, even when she became immobile and incontinent. Care did not always include good hygiene, however. Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell? Gina would come around to visit on occasion and help when Betty needed to go to the doctor, since she had a car. But Gina did not make frequent or even regular visits.
Regardless of their shortcomings, it was PissMan and Diane who were there for Betty. They seemed to really care.
The date the family was scheduled to vacate the home was fast approaching, and the family was looking into finding a facility for Betty. They had not had any luck. They didn’t know where they would go, let alone how they would house and care for a dying woman.
One Spring day I was at the house working outside and was surprised when the older sibling Gina came outside. Gina wasn’t often around. She explained that she had come to give PissMan and girlfriend Diane “a day off” and sent them away for the day. Mind you, as I explained earlier, PissMan and the Girlfriend rarely went out much, even before Betty needed so much care. I hadn’t known them to stay away for the day, I hadn’t known Gina to stay around all day. I thought it was strange at the time.
I didn’t go inside. I didn’t stay long that day. Though PissMan and Diane seemed to welcome my company, Gina didn’t seem to want me around.
When I came back the next day, no one was home. Betty had suddenly taken a turn for the worse and had been transported to the hospital the day before, sometime after I left. Having lapsed into a coma there, she was taken off of life support, with her family surrounding her. Reportedly it took hours of watching Betty laboring to breathe before she finally died. It was not a peaceful passing to watch, according to youngest daughter Lori. It was horrible, she said.
I think it was PissMan’s girlfriend Diane who later told me what happened that last day. She said simply that Betty had choked on coffee — and that she wasn’t supposed to have coffee.
I’ve always wondered —
Why did Gina, who wasn’t around often, suddenly decide to give her brother and his girlfriend “a day off” and spend the day alone with her sick mother?
Why did PissMan and his girlfriend Diane uncharacteristically leave the house and stay away all day?
Why, while in Gina’s sole care, did Betty suddenly choke?
Did Gina do something to make sure that her ailing mother Betty would never have move in with her?
Or, to be more direct, did Gina send Diane and PissMan away for the day so that she could kill her mother?
Just Me With . . . suspicions.
I’m just sayin’ . . . .
Postscript: PissMan and Diane asked to stay in the house for an extra month so that they could find a place to live, having been distracted from doing so earlier because of Betty’s illness and death. I gave them the extra month. Ironically, it was Gina who found them a place to live, and it wasn’t with her.
Ah yes, my landscaping work. The back yard was a mess. There was a retaining wall that wasn’t retaining much, there were stepping-stones beneath inches of wet decaying leaves and muck, there was mud. There were bricks, rocks, slate and overgrown I don’t know whats. My raking just to clear the path turned into landscaping which turned into demolition of a retaining wall which turned into completely regrading the yard.
This required digging, and dig I did. I removed pounds of dirt, along with natural stone, and man-made brick and concrete. I made archeological finds — railroad ties, nails, barn and shutter hinges all likely from the 1800’s. I uncovered a mysterious large concrete block with an iron pipe through it — still don’t know what the heck that was, but it was too heavy and went too deep for me to move so I buried it again.
I removed brush and plantings gone wild. Dig around the roots, flip and pull. It was kinda cool. And I was transforming my new home from a very scary place to what I hoped would be a cute little Victorian actually worthy of saving rather than one step from the wrecking ball. The kids were, as usual, and like many of today’s healthy red-blooded children, inside. They were enjoying some sort of technology, while I toiled outside in the fresh air. I was on my own. No power tools. No help.
When I was digging and moving earth I pulled up some trash bag type plastic. Okay, I’d already pulled a lot of this stuff up. The prior owners used garbage bags as landscaping fabric. As I pulled I saw that the garbage bag had something light-colored in it –some white cloth. I wondered, “Now what could this be? A buried treasure, maybe?” I dug and pulled.
Just like with the shrubs gone wild, I dug around it, started to flip it out of the dirt, reached down (with gloves of course) for one last pull . . . and . . .
I’m not usually a screamer.
But when I pulled, the bag ripped open and the cloth fell out. The cloth was stained, had something stuck to it, something . . . that appeared . . . to . . . be —- HAIR !!!! This is what turned me into a screamer.
I ran inside to get a kid, any one of them would do. I needed a witness (well actually, support). The youngest ones were curious enough to venture out into the sun. And we, of course, did the mature thing.
We took a stick and poked at it.
Because, not only was it a cheese cloth like old world material, brown blood stained and showing bits of hair type stuff, it had a bulge in it.
So, we poked some more.
My optimistic child said the bits of hair like stuff was really mulch. Gotta love her — but the stuff was not mulch. I untangled the cloth with a stick, revealed and uncovered . . . some skin, a skull and bones. EWWWWWWW!
I had exhumed a pet of the prior owners. I didn’t need to call in CSI or NCIS or any of the Law and Order folks to figure that out. Thank God it wasn’t the remains of a human. Remember, this is the 150 year old house of Piss, Puke, and Porn — it could have been anything.
By the size and shape of the skull I surmised that this thing had once been a guinea pig, maybe a rabbit, possibly a kitten. It must have been a cherished pet at one time since it seemed to have had a proper burial — complete with a white shroud. And, I presume, it was resting in peace. That is, until I got to it. EWWWWWW!
There is a beautiful contemporary country song, sung by Miranda Lambert, featured on her album, Revolution, called “The House That Built Me.” It’s about a troubled adult going back to visit her childhood home to get grounded. Miranda sings to the current owners of her old house. . .
I bet you didn’t know under that live oak,
My favorite dog is buried in the yard.
Yeah, okay, Miranda. Love the song, it makes me cry. But as the new owner of the former childhood home of somebody, where somebody buried their pet in the yard and moved away — only to leave poor unsuspecting landscaping me to dig it up . . . well, it’s not quite the same sentiment.
More sticks and a shovel were used to dispose of the remains, remains that the kids now wanted to keep. I caved and we left the skull out for the rest of the day. Other critters must have carried it away during the night because it was gone by morning.
Just Me With . . . lots of dirt, a shovel, and apparently — a pet cemetery. EWWWWW!!!!!
This house had some bad mojo, no joke. See, What Happened In My House? Murder?