Cleaning, Chores and self diagnosed OCD


My father always had a list in his head of the chores that needed to be done around the house on the weekends.  This list was never shared verbally, nor was it written down.  He knew it and kept it to himself.  The problem with this was that we, the children, were expected to participate in the chores.  He never gave us a schedule of what was going to happen or when, nor did he verbalized his expectations of our participation.  We were supposed to be there, where ever he was, and be ready to help.

My father would awaken early on  weekend mornings, and set off  to accomplish the items on the unknown To Do list.

He would go out behind the house, where our bedroom windows were, and start the lawn mower, or rev up the chainsaw or bang the ladder against the house to awaken us.   This was supposed to be the alarm clock for the sleeping teenagers upstairs, it was revelee.   We were supposed to come running out and be ready, willing and eager to help.

Once we did awaken, if the chore was still in progress, we were lucky, we still had time to pitch in, if he had finished, we were up shits creek without a paddle, and we would pay for it.

He would begin with not speaking to us.One would think that was a good thing, not in our house, it was an omen.   As the afternoon wore on, and as the beer was consumed, the real trouble would begin.  We would be verbally berated, sworn at, and insulted.

I would often be invited to spend the weekend with my best friend at her father’s cottage.  I would ask for permission to go, and it would be granted.  On Sunday afternoon when I returned, I would step into the house, and the abuse would begin.  While I had been away, enjoying myself, tress had been cut down, logs needed to be carried, and wood needed to be stacked.  I was a piece of shit for not helping, and I heard about it for the rest of the evening.

We  had mandatory house cleaning  every week, it was always on Sunday.  Each of  us were assigned a specific chore, vacuuming, dusting, or cleaning bathrooms.  Of course, as children and pre-teens, cleaning the house was the last thing that any of us wanted to do.  My father being so militaristic in his child rearing, he shined on  Sunday mornings.  Once we had determined that our  specific area was done, my father would do an inspection.  Couches would be moved to see if they had been vacuumed behind, items would be lifted to see if they had been dusted under, and bathrooms would be inspected.

Invariably,  wanting to shortcut this annoying weekly event and get out of the house to join our friends, we each did a shitty job, and most of it usually needed to be redone.  This caused mass resentment among the ranks, as well as blistering anger from my father.  I can recall redoing many chores while my father verbally berated me, calling me a loser, and idiot and telling me I would never amount to anything.

We  had daily chores.  Since my mother had returned to work, we would get home from school to a daily list of things that needed to be done.  Fold the wash in dryer, load the refrigerator with beer, unload the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen floor.  Of course, this was also met with mass resentment from us, yet we would  begrudgingly do what was listed, but not to the best of our abilities, ever.  Again, this was met with fury from my father, and another evening would go to the dogs as he would rage. The anger was fueled with evening cocktails, followed by evening beer.

My father drank one beer every fifteen minutes all evening long.  He would sit in his chair, watching television with the beer he was drinking on the side table, and the next one on the floor ready to pop.  Some evenings were quite, but most ended with one of us being the target of my  fathers pent up anger.

Not only was he verbally abusive, he was physically abusive as well.  We got the belt, he would hit us, and once he even punched me.

We never knew what was going to set him off, but we did know not to expect any assistance from my mother.  She would either sit and ineffectively say stop, stop, or she would go and hide somewhere else in the house. Neither tactic stopped him, and we stopped looking to her for help.  She was an enabler and she was as scared of him as we were.

The effects of this abuse were that the house became spotlessly clean.  Whenever we felt the aura of an explosion coming on, we all began to clean like rabid animals.  We offered to help annoyingly and frequently.  We were all behaving in survivor mode.  Keep things  clean, keep the yard neat, help out before being asked,try to keep Dad happy, happy Dad means peaceful house.

I find now, in adulthood, that whenever I get upset, or have had an argument with anyone of emotional significance to me the thing I turn to is cleaning, or yard work.  I compulsively work, as though I can fix the problem and make the person happy by providing a clean home or a manicured yard.

My reward for all my hard work was always wine.  Hard work equals hard drinking, I learned from the master.

Now I have a new reward to work hard for, sobriety.


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