My Husband Used to Live in a Tent

Mom’s house was on the market two days when it received an offer. We’re wrapping up the many things that have to be wrapped up when you sell a home, so occasionally, I still have to go back there, which I don’t like.

To me, being at that house feels like I have a stain on a favorite shirt that I can never get out, only more emotional. I love it, but I am repulsed and aware there’s nothing I can do to salvage it, and I’m better off throwing it away and forgetting about it soon as possible. Separation and disassociation are near.

We hired an estate sales company to help liquidate the items in the home, which was owned by a pudgy old man with a friendly voice and walrus-like facial hair. He came over to look at our stuff at the same time we had our real-estate agent over and the two immediately began collaborating and discussing a timeline.


The adventure of trudging through Mom’s stuff and home began, and in the middle of the process, the estate company called to say we didn’t have enough value attached to our stuff to run an estate sale. It turned out our family silver was fake.

Walrus ended up ‘cutting a deal’ with me, because, Walrus said, he felt bad for me. He was very apologetic, and agreed to clear our house of it’s items for $600. He would take Mom’s stuff to his barn/warehouse until he found auction houses to sell them to, then we’d split the proceeds after knocking off 20% of what it’s sold for at the auction.


I watched him pull the objects and things I grew up with out of our home. It wasn’t as devastating as I thought it would be, though there is one object I’ve been obsessing about: a wood carved chickadee perched on a piece of driftwood that used to sit on top of the piano. It was a chubby little wooden bird. I never gave it much thought before, so I don’t know why all of a sudden it means something to me.

The things Mom obsesses about are the china cabinet and all her china.

“But that was supposed to be for you,” she says.

“There was no place to put it Mom, we’ll buy prettier stuff to replace it later,” I say.

Mom should have said something about that china cabinet before all of this happened. I never knew she cared so much for it or that she had intentions of giving it to me. That’s the hard part with Mom’s sickness, I can’t tell what she’s thinking, what’s real, or what’s a fabrication of the disease. Sometimes she’s okay with everything that’s going on with sale of the house and all her things, sometimes she’s upset and angry with me, and sometimes she assures me that although she’s upset, she knows I am doing the best I can.

I’d like to think the last of these variations of Mom is the most authentic to the way she is feeling.

The truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing and if I’m doing the right thing.

Before we left Mom’s to come home this past weekend, I caught Bill taking a picture of the hallway. When I asked him why he was taking that picture, he said it was because he wanted to remember the place where he first met my mom.

He was taking a picture of the same section of the house where I last saw my dad before he moved to Texas. It was early in the morning when he left, still dark. I woke up to the commotion of a sad goodbye and went out into the hall to see Mom, Dad and E. standing there.

Mom turned to me for help, “Anna, ask him to stay.”

I didn’t. I hugged him goodbye and went back to bed. I remember thinking he would come back.

This is also the same section of the house where the police officers stood when Mom would call them on me or E., for whatever reason it was at the time, as they talked on their CBs and filled out their reports.

Mom loved to call the police. I remember the first time she did was because I wouldn’t do the dishes. I was 12. The reasons for Mom calling the police became more extreme as time went on, until the day the police arrested Mom too.

Mom didn’t call the police again after that.


Bill’s Threshold Experience With Mom:

Bill and I had just arrived and were chatting with my brother in his room. Bill leaned his shoulder up against the doorframe and looked around. It was his first visit to my childhood home. Mom walked to the threshold of the hallway, caught sight of Bill and stared him down.

Bill, in his friendly way said, “Hi Mrs. Stone, I’m Bill, Anna’s boyfriend.”

Mom said nothing, only continued to stare before she swiped her hand down, shooing him, with a “pshh!” noise before she walked off.

We found out later Mom thought he was homeless, hence the death stare and dismissive “shoo” of her hand, not that that is any excuse to treat anyone, homeless or not. But on a scale, this was a good introduction to my mom. Ask anyone who knows, Mom was not nice to my friends, especially not to ones that look like drug addicts, who in Mom’s opinion, was everyone I brought by to meet her.

So, why did Mom think Bill was homeless? I had introduced Bill to my brother a few weeks before. I took him to Bill’s apartment which he shared with roommates. Because of a lack of walls, Bill had set up a large canvas army tent in the middle of the living room to serve as his room.

When Mom asked E. about his trip to visit me, he told her, “Great. I met Anna’s new boyfriend. He lives in a tent.” I guess Mom didn’t ask any more questions about Bill after that. She certifiably thought he was homeless and was pissed.

It took a long time for me to convince Mom otherwise, and now with Mom’s disease, sometimes she reverts to thinking he used to be homeless again. She pities me and tells me I deserve more than a homeless man. I usually try to explain to her again that Bill was never homeless, but lately I haven’t.  I’ve stopped because it’s exhausting. Also, I don’t get as angry about this as I used to. It used to be important to me that Mom knew exactly what was going on and how wonderful Bill is. Now, I find it easier to just let it be. Her thoughts run wild like boars and grow many versions and variations, like tusks. I allow her to think what she wants, within reason.


The house is set to close before the end of the month. It will be spring by then. Soon winter and the hallway will be a dream.

What seeds have you or do you plan to plant this year? I planted a seed that will grow into the wonderful truth that I will never have to clean Mom’s basement again. I hear it provides adequate shade in the form of time, good for relaxing with the ones you love and iced-tea.

About clutterheart

You don't know me, but you will.
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5 Responses to My Husband Used to Live in a Tent

  1. Kathi Miller says:

    Hi Anna
    Good for you for letting all the stuff go! I hope your mom is living in a place that is manageable for her and where she can get the care she needs.

    • Thanks Kathi. Yes, hiring the estate sales co. was good advice that came from you! After that experience, it has me looking around at all the stuff I have and acknowledging that I have to get rid of it or someday someone might have to go through the same terrible experience with my stuff that I did with my mom’s. It’s so hard! I just ordered a book called, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, in hopes that a spiritual approach will help me embrace letting go of stuff more fully.
      Mom is staying with my cousin in GA until I graduate in the spring. I’m still trying to find a nice place for her here, but yes she is safe and being well taken care of which is a huge load off my chest.
      Nice to hear from you Kathi. Hope all is well with you too.

  2. Shari says:

    Reading this breaks my heart, Anna. You write with poignance.

    • Thanks Shari. I know it’s sad. I am trying to mix it with humor and happiness though. That’s my goal anyway. Must work on that:).

      • shari says:

        No, no. It’s not you. It’s the unfortunate situation. Don’t change your beautiful writing. I really enjoy your stories with your humorous perspective!

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