The fire trucks are gone. The windows are open. The cat is safe. The humans are safe. The burned mattress no longer smokes in the front yard.
I awoke at 6:00am trying to find that alarm clock that keeps going off on random days that my parents can’t hear because they’re deaf and are sleeping. I start downstairs and hear it’s actually the smoke alarm and my mother yelling FIRE! Call 911!!
I ran to my room, grabbed my phone, dial 911, all the while running back upstairs to the fire extinguisher which I couldn’t find because my mother uses it as a hook to hang her plastic bags, talking to 911, running back downstairs trying to grab my mother and drag her out of the house, running upstairs to wake my father, getting him out of the house, talking to 911, still trying to get my mother out of the house while she’s taking a burning pillow across the basement to the bathroom, spreading flames everywhere. All this time I’ve got my cat in my arms. Which is a miracle because she doesn’t let ANYONE hold her. But she let me this morning.
A neighbor brought blankets and bathrobes, another neighbor tea, another neighbor brought me a cat carrier, I sat on the next door stoop and watched and waited and called my brother. He’s still not home, 9 hour time difference. Called my High Priestess. Called M. Called M because his initial is really C. and I was going down the phone list as I’m taught in AA. I start to loose it, go shocky, and start cracking up because the paperboy walks up the street past the firepeople, past the hoses, past the smoldering mattress, lays the paper on the front lawn, and walks away.
The fire was caused by a pinched wire to the baseboard heater my dad leaves on 24/7. The box spring was pinching the cord and with it on all the time it fried the wire insulation and eventually got so hot it started the fire. My brother was going to be sleeping in that bed this coming Wednesday night. It was the guest bed. The thought of his head on fire freaks me right out.
What I remember as I came running into the basement was seeing my mother pulling the bedding off the bed. Feeding the fire with oxygen as she made the sheets accessible and created a draft. I can see the burned wire, I knew the source immediately. There is a foot high bank of flames the width of a double bed, smoke is really starting to accumulate. When I come back telling my mother to get the first extinguisher the flames are higher. I know how fast this can just take off. She won’t come with me. I got to get dad and the cat out of the house because all this time I’m on the phone with 911 and they’re saying “GET OUT NOW!!!” and she won’t come. I go down to get her out because she’s still down there and now it’s dark because the fuses have blown and I start to really freak. And see her carrying a burning pillow into the bathroom with pieces of burning cotton falling to the floor. I’m pulling on her and pulling on her and she won’t move.
The white stuff is from the fire extinguisher. See all the paper by the bed?? the empty paper boxes?? I just can’t get them to see the trap they’ve created.
“NO I have to put out the fire!!!!”
“Mom we have to leave NOW!!!! We could die!”
Shit I don’t actually know how we all got out but we all did.
My brother is still coming but now he has to stay in a hotel because his guest room is destroyed. The house reeks but is getting better but the basement is appalling.
The garage was so bad that they couldn’t bring in a stretcher for dad last Monday when he has his stroke. My mom was moving boxes from around my dad and told my brother that I lied, that she was moving stuff, they could have got the stretcher in but she’s seriously separated from reality. They tried. They had to walk him out of the house and put him on the stretcher the minute they got him out the front door. To do that one person pulled on his arms and two people moved his legs one at a time up a flight of stairs.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But at least finally this house is going to get cleaned out. The insurance company will insist on it if the fireman’s warning wasn’t enough.
It took the cops to get my dad to stop driving and now it’s taken the fire department to get my parents to seriously consider how they bizarre hoarding and mess is going to kill us dead. We can’t even check all the outlets in the house because we can’t get to them. My brother and I have been after them for years about the state of this house. The treat us like we’re the biggest stupidest children and how could they be so burdened to have such nags… It’s become quite clear that what I’ve suspected for some time, mom isn’t thinking much clearer than dad is true. I’m going to get their church care committee phone numbers today and call the head lady and see if they can help my parents find some connection with reality. The fire began at 6am by 8am I had them agreeing that we need to get this house cleared of clutter so we can do an inspection and by 10am my mom’s saying we don’t need to do that and dad is going “what’s going on?”
The fireman? His name is Dan. We are now on a first name basis. We’ve met suddenly twice this week. As my cousin Corrina said this morning, “Christ on a crutch Cynthia!”
Miss Mitty is back under the bed, the folks are going to church, and I’m writing in my blog. The world must be back to normal right?