Sunday, November 16, 2008

Part 1: The Back Story on " Squirrels In The Attic"

The squirrels have it coming. They started their invasion ten years ago. At least. At first I was preoccupied with other things, but I knew they were there. I could hear them at night. I would awaken at three to hear what sounded like bowling above my head. The chittering of squirrelly pick up lines. The scolding of young. I could hear them in the walls. Finally I worked up the courage to look in the attic and found that they had started tearing the insulation off the attic ceiling and had filled all my best boots with walnuts. And not just content with my boots and shoes, they had started to shred my old paintings. Motherfuckers!

After a month or so of cleaning up the mess they'd made, stripping off the rest of the insulation, sweeping up squirrel nesting sites, bagging over a hundred pounds of walnuts, I set traps. Humane traps. Expensive humane traps-- guilted into it by a friend. And as it turned out she also had a trap. I caught three. Tom had stopped by for a month or so, and while he was here he took the trapped squirrels away to release them elsewhere. Then he was gone, back to Costa Rica. And he'd barely pulled out of the driveway when the next family of squirrels on line for life in the big house moved in.

Then came my mother's final madness and with it my own. So dealing with the squirrels was more than I could handle what with the hallucinations. A year or two of changing the diapers of a eighty something year old infant who weighted more than I, had pushed me over the edge. A woman who fought with all her might to keep her poopie diaper firmly on her dirty butt, and who ran howling through the house and then hid her turds carefully in the dryer, Shhhh, it's a secret--well it captured my imagination and the rest of my senses and all my time. Old black men took up residence inside my head, and they sang (if you could call it that) gangsta rap of the vilest sort--not the sort of thing I had ever liked. I love the blues and these well dressed and dignified old black men looked like Blues Men. Gangsta Rap day and night. But it did drown out the sounds of the squirrels for awhile.

My mother was taken away by a friend of mine to a nursing home that would be, sadly, temporary, the day I went into the luny bin that last time. And when I got out, though I'm sure it didn't actually happen, I felt as if I had been lobotomized. And I suppose in a way I had. I do not remember shock therapy, but I couldn't swear it wasn't part of the treatment. But then wouldn't somebody have to have signed off on it? I did after all call 911 on myself. So wouldn't that be thought of as self-commitment? I remember signing nothing, but once they decided that I was psychotic, maybe they didn't need my permission to do anything. And would I remember shock treatments? Probably not. But when I did come out of the hospital, I was lost in a city as familiar as the map of grief etched on my own sad face. I mean lost close to home. Every trip involved taking a directory and street maps. This is a simple place in which to orient yourself directionally. The mountains are to the east. The Great Salt Lake and the Salt Flats to the west. And once you know that, the rest should just fall into place. I started having to re-memorize my place in this world. And I sunk into a depression I thought was going to kill me.

I was taking Depakote, and Geodone, and Zoloft, and Neurontin. But I was not exactly stable, unless a steady decline is called stable. My progress did all go in one direction. It wasn't so precipitous as to feel like I was tipping over, but each day I lost a little more energy and slept a little more.

The cottony sleep of the profoundly depressed is like the sleep of the enchanted. Like an evil spell cast to make you sleep for a hundred years. And when you emerge to pee and weep and drink some water, it's back to bed you go. I could sometimes hear the squirrels in the attic, but I hadn't the energy to deal in any effective way with them.


This was not intended as the definitive work on the invasion of the squirrels, but ten long years of cleaning up after them, and repairing damage they've done, and not being able to insulate the attic again, because why bother, they'll just tear the insulation down again. All the expensive shoes ruined, all the good winter clothes tossed in the trash after they tore it to shreds, and shit in everything. Do you notice the shit theme that is an undercurrent here? Oh god how I hate those squirrels.

16 comments:

Gail said...

Hi Utah-
Wow, your story, or this part of it is profound. I think your sense of humor is a real 'saving grace' and speaks to your keen insight of yourself. I have no where near the eloquence.
As far as the squirrels are concerned? I heard that they dislike peppermint oil and they will leave if it is spread around where they want to set up house-keeping. It eliminates traps and the process that follows and I hear tell they wont come back if the oil is reapplied at least four times a year. Oh, and this also works with mice.

I have been to Salt Lake City. I loved it although I wasn't impressed with the 'pasta factory' restaurant.( is that still around?) Everything else was wonderful. My sister worked at the V A hospital there as a nurse and my brother-in-law received his Masters from the University of Utah
Small world, huh?
Peace
Gail

Utah Savage said...

Oh Gail, I'm so glad I wrote this and so glad you spoke up. I'd much rather pour gallons of peppermint oil around the attic and crawl spaces than spread poison. I'll give it a try.

And yes, The Spaghetti Factory is still in business or was last time I was at Trolley Square, about six months ago. And I agree; it's over rated and over priced.

an average patriot said...

Good one! You do have a way with words! That said after reading that you mad me think of a good "The Squirrels in the attic of my mind"

anita said...

There are a number of elements of your story to which I can relate. Some directly, some indirectly. But the pain and the sorrow of it all is so totally real no matter which direction you are coming from. Thank you for sharing that piece of yourself. Your honesty is, in itself, often quite shattering.

I loved this line:

"The cottony sleep of the profoundly depressed is like the sleep of the enchanted. Like an evil spell cast to make you sleep for a hundred years."

So VERY truly. To be able to completely shut the mind down when things are so very bad is actually quite a miracle, a real escape valve, a life line, something to be truly thankful for, despite its "evil" nature.

Utah Savage said...

Anita, I can't tell you how much I miss you. I saw an Anita, with a link to her name, comment at Randal's and I followed the link thinking it was you, but no... It was some boring married with children bore. Damn. I refuse to remove my Anitaxanax from my blog roll hoping someday I will push that button and there you'll be wearing your Gretta Garbo outfit.

anita said...

Actually, Utah, I've "revived" anitaxanaxnow. Just today. I've only got two posts, and one is a music video, so I'm not going to be posting with a link until I feel like I am actually saying anything. But please stop by via the link on your site. I'll probably be posting now and then, I might even be posting a poem later on this evening (not mine, of course, but a poem nonetheless.)

Utah Savage said...

Well, prayers from atheists are answered!

SaoirseDaily2 said...

I haven't forgotten about the picture. We are in the process of buying a car for M today. Will email picture soon. Promise. If you like them, I will put them into the mail to you on Tuesday.

Slainte

Utah Savage said...

Oh Good. My first xmas present to myself.

linda said...

Utah, you write such hauntingly beautiful ways about depression and the joys of mental illness...for that, I am ever grateful...sometimes I read your words and catch my breath because you have hit me right in the middle of my heart...

the squirrels, like raccoons, detest pepper on their paw pad bottoms because they wash their faces and it gets into their eyes, etc., so you have to spread cayenne pepper all around the boundary of whatever space you are trying to clear...maybe a paste? just a thought to keep it from blowing away....anyway, they hate this stuff and will leave if you keep at it....I would try it because it might work better than anything else...they can smell it once they get the connection and take off for the nearest neighbor's attic! black pepper works well too but not nearly as well as cayenne pepper.

hoping that helps....I'm sorry to hear you have lost so much to these rodents, I hate them and keep them away as much as is possible living in the country...mice on the other hand...sigh....

Comrade Kevin said...

Damned squirrels.

I know completely what you mean about the sleep of the damned---the sleep of the depressed. I'm not as depressed as I have been, but many here on the unit are and my heart goes out to them when I see them slowly shuffle off to their rooms for another day surrendered to the illness.

And I'm in the process of reading your book. :-)

Kulkuri said...

I've heard that mothballs will keep critters out. I tried them when we had bats in the attic but it didn't seem to work very well. What finally did was plugging the holes they used to get in the attic.

Gail said...

oh my, "Trolley Square". I had forgotten the name, thanks for that info. I also went to the salt mines. I was standing above, looking down, and I said to my brother-in-law, "look at all those tiny trucks and trains to get the salt out, how cute!" - we laughed because they were full scale trucks and trains but looking down, and it being so deep and all, they looked like toys to me. Funny,huh? :-)
I could go on with fond memories, but I wont. eesh! :-)

Gail
peace.....

Utah Savage said...

Mothballs are toxic to humans. I know, because I used it in one of my first efforts to get rid of the squirrels. I drove me out of the house, not the squirrels.

simstone said...

Great story. Not to make light of your mental condition but it would have been lightened somewhat if'n you would have made a little squirrel stew out of your tormentors and allowed the sweet aroma to fill your house. Maybe they would have taken the hint. Me and those bushy tail tree dwelling rats have a long and storied past so I consider you to have been WAY too nice with them. Hope you are better though.

Utah Savage said...

Simstone, how nice of you to comment. I will continue this saga in my next post. The beat goes on. If I didn't live in the heart of the city I would have set a comfy chair in the back yard and shot the little rat bastards with great gusto. alass, the neighborhood is full of small children and I doubt that my neighbors would have been delighted with the crazy old woman sitting in her backyard picking off squirrels with a gun.

Please feel free to join the conversation whenever you like.