Monday, March 21, 2011

Zero Defects

My recent posts have been bouncing between photos and poems. I figured it was time to work in some stories about my crazy and dysfunctional childhood.
My mother was a pioneer in the field of "Zero Defects Quality Control."

I don’t remember ever seeing her cleaning house after my dad left (I was 5), we were given those assignments. She checked our completed work with the zeal of a newly promoted drill instructor.

Didn’t do a perfect job? Do it over. Still not perfect? Do it over again.  If she had the energy, she would keep it up all night. If she didn't have the energy, we'd have to redo the work and then wake her up, so she could hold yet another inspection. On a school night?  It just didn't matter to her, it could have been Christmas eve.

She didn’t just check out our work like a normal person. She of course, would check it out like a crazy person. She would even check the bottoms of the chair, table, and couch legs. There had better not be any lint or hairs on them at all. If there was, you know...Do it all again!

The exact same process was applied to doing dishes. The crazy lady would go through the drawers and cupboards to inspect every freaking piece of silverware and every dish.  They didn't just have to be perfectly clean, they had to be perfectly dry as well.  If she found a single speck of food, or dust, or a drop of water, we had to them ALL over again.

Somewhere along the line, we figured out that this wasn't really about doing the dishes, or cleaning the house. It was about control.  It became very apparent, when we couldn't find anything on the dish, or fork, or spoon, that made them still dirty.  When I spoke to other kids about chores, I realized that I lived on a different planet than most.

I lived on Planet Crazy...

Another early post. This one had 4 comments (3 by family and friends).



  1. Pat, your stories of your childhood never cease to amaze and move me.... and to remind me of how lucky I am to have had such a happy one!

  2. I lived on Planet Crazy too. It made me think things had to be perfect to be any good and then it was questionable. Thankfully through the years I've learned to like myself, those around me, and like things clean but not perfect. I know you've done the same. Thankfully Crazy Lady cannot control our adult years leave not after age 40. :)

  3. I had to do chores over again but eventually there was a limit :-/ Crazy to imagine what you went through.

  4. Glad my mother wasn't that obesessive!

  5. OMG how awful for you! At least you realized it was about her and not about you. How long did that take?

  6. Howdy Neighbor!!! My Name is Luca--I live on your second floor...didn't know you had one did ya??

    Hey-- Let's run into our houses today, from outside... and stomp our feet, and get dirt all over the floor, and leave it there until our wives make us clean it up!


  7. I know how you feel, my step dad was the same way. IF one blade of grass was missed you had to re-mow the WHOLE yard just for one blade of grass.

  8. That is some crazy planet, at least you kept your orbit steady!

  9. That's unreal! I can't even imagine living like that....
    So I'm you clean house now? Wash the dishes?
    I think if it was me...I'd leave it all undone- just because I was in control now:)

  10. How someone could come from Plant Crazy and be as sane, kind, and considerate as you is amazing to me!

    You hit it on the nose with the control thing.

  11. Wow...this makes me grateful for my childhood as well. I'm glad you made it out sane. :)

  12. Oh I'm so sorry you had to live that way. I barely ask my son to do chore (of course, we have a housekeeper) but on occasion I will get him to wash dishes.

  13. I'm lucky in that he died when I was 3, but from what I've heard from my sisters and brother my dad was a similar kind of monster. I can't imagine how horrible that kind of crazy must be to grow up with.

  14. wow! I'm glad you escaped planet crazy in one peice

  15. Aww I'm sorry to hear you've been through all this and you had to live like that.
    I can't even imagine it.

    You're such an awesome man, Pat.
    Thanks for sharing a part of your life.

  16. Of my "grands" I only knew my mother's mother, and she ruled the family. A true matriarch. Drove her son to alcoholism, and my Dad was like a man on a leash. The grand kids, me included, escaped as soon as we could -- I went into the Navy. However, to this day, I have a love-hate memory of my grandmother.

  17. Cleaniness is good and teaching kids to have household responsibilities is also a good thing, but there are limits. I had a pretty easy laid back childhood cause that's the way my mother was.

    Tossing It Out

  18. Didn't use a toothbrush around the faucet? Do over and no going out. Sock inside out in the wash? Do over and a fine. Got an A-? Do over and grounded.

    It took me 38 years, but I finally cut all ties to my mother and Planet Crazy just over a year ago. AAAHHH . . . sweet freedom!

  19. As I've gotten older and moved far away from my disfunctional childhood the thing I find interesting is that I am still frequently surprised to catch myself acting out old scripts. I have patterns of behavior that were formed as a child that I'm not even consiously aware are irrational. It's hard work to overcome the lessons learned as a child in a crazy world!

  20. When I read these kind of posts, it certainly makes me appreciate my childhood. Thank you, for reminding me I had it pretty darn good!

  21. Nat - Thanks Nat! I haven't been posting any for a while, so I figured it was about time...

    Rita - That was about the same time frame for me. I'm sorry to hear that you know what I'm talking about. Thank goodness for therapy!

    Tara - My lovely mother had no limits to what she could do. Thanks!

    Alex - There was a time when I thought every household was like ours.

    Lola - Thanks Lola! I remember writing her off as being crazy at a pretty young age, but it took well into adulthood. This is one of the minor stories...

    John - Suzanne Vega! I remember what was going through my head when I first heard that song. It really got to me. Thanks my friend...

    Oilfield Trash - Sorry to hear that. Same drill at our house relating to yard work. We had to do it all by hand. Push mower for grass and edge with hand clippers. Oh man, I hated that...

    Brian - It was pretty hobbly for a long time though!

    Dawn - Thanks Dawn! I do clean house and do dishes, but I'm not obsessive about it at all. I've found that the only place I needed to be in control is at work, but it took me a long time to figure that out. When I was in control, I was nice about it. I think most of the people that worked for me would agree, but not all...

    Betty - It took a lot of work, that's for sure! It's a long ways from Planet Crazy to here. Thanks Betty!

    Baby Sister - Well, semi-sane anyway! Thanks...

    Clarissa - Thanks Clarissa! I didn't make my kids do too much at home. I probably went too much in the opposite direction from what I grew up with.

    Tim - No fun, that's for sure. I used to wonder what life would have been like if I'd been born into a normal world.

    baygirl - Thanks! I took many years to get the pieces all put back together... Things are great now!

    Betty M - I can't either! thanks so much for the nice words!

    pitchertaker - That sucked! You don't hear about women like very often these days. My memory of my mom has gone from hate-hate, to no feelings at all about her. I escaped by going into the military also.

    Arlee - You are so right! It's all about balance! Some of my family stories took place over on Shade Lane in your town.

    Edie - Oh yeah, I hear you! Sorry you experience it also. In our house the socks weren't an issue, because we had to do the laundry, including hers... Yep, it was a different world away from them. I'm glad you finally escaped.

    #1Nana - I know exactly what you are talking about. Even though I went to therapy for years, it took me years to realize I had a little kid inside of me controlling how I did things as an adult. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

    Ms. A - My pleasure! I'm glad you did. It's interesting that the kids I seemed to gravitate to were also from screwed up households.

  22. It's a wonder you turned out as normal as you did, Pat!

  23. replace cleaning with math and you have my wife. When I interject with "she has done enough." I get, "She can quit as soon as she is perfect."

    Okay, so not really comperable.

  24. what a horrible feeling, I'm so sorry Pat. reading this I got a knot in my chest ... not from my own childhood, but because I see a little of that in myself. I want my kids to do things MY way, and while I won't keep them up all night, I know that I have made them feel horrible for not "getting it".
    it's a flaw in me that I am working on, but thank you for this.

  25. oy vey Pat- I'm sorry- I am so glad that you get to be a good dad and granddad.

  26. how long did you stay? I know someone who had a similar childhood and he left home at the age of 14 and lived in abandoned cars. anything to escape the cruelty. I'm happy that you can write about it and know it for precisely what it was. moving on is so beautiful, huh? have a good one Pat.

  27. If there is any comfort in numbers add my name to the Crazy Planet dad even got into the National Inquirer for marrying a &*&*&* bleached blond at 96...she was 35...and he lived to be 6 months short of 101. Don’t guess she was planning on that one. You cannot guess why she did it..hahahaha. He was a safety and electrical engineer and very short....I called it the Hitler Syndrome. He checked up on everything my mom and I did BUT he kept his room locked at all times. He was a tyrannical about checking up on us. The story goes on and on....all I can do is laugh. Love you writing...keep it up...and overtime I hear the work Japan on the news, I think of all that you wrote. It has stuck with me.

  28. I don't think you really had a childhood. What she did was indeed insane. My husband's step-father used to come home drunk and wake the kids up to beat them. Who can understand these kind of people?

  29. I immediately tensed up as I began reading this, Pat! I'm not sure we children raised on Planet Crazy can entirely get over the notion that nothing we ever do will be enough...I know I'm still working on it, though I've come a long way.

    Thanks for sharing this...there are only a handful of people to whom one can explain relief at a parent's death without sounding like some kind of monster!

    Imagination Lane

  30. Talli - "Normal" is a relative term Talli...

    Budd - I never had that problem, my mom just didn't want me to involve her in my school drama (if any)

    diane - That's a hard one Diane. There's a line there, but I'm not sure where it is. I was probably too easy on mine. I KNOW I was too easy. thanks!

    Ren - Thanks Ren! It makes me very happy also!

    Miss Becky - I left for good at the age of 17. Emotionally, I left in 7th grade. It didn't stop her craziness. thanks for the nice words!

    Genie - Wow! It must have been very hard to have him in the house! thanks for the nice words on my Japan post. There will be more!

    Belle - You are so right! I never really did. I don't have a single happy memory from my childhood that involved my mother. I can't understand them...

  31. Hope I'm not repeating what someone else asked, but did this seem insane to you at the time, or did your mother keep you all in such a state of panic you had no time to compare her to the outside world?

  32. Hope I'm not repeating what someone else asked, but did this seem insane to you at the time, or did your mother keep you all in such a state of panic you had no time to compare her to the outside world?

  33. I don't know if this is right or wrong but I have missed these posts (not that your photos and poems aren't great). I knew one kid in grade school that had a pretty whacked out home life...he would only invite his friends over when his mom wasn't home, and his dad didn't care. I only went over there twice because the whole thing creeped me out.

  34. We all have childhood expereinces, some similiar, some very different. Your childhood was definitely not an easy one. It touches my heart. It's amazing how you can grow up and be so different or so the same from those expereinces. Sometimes when we talk with our friends in those late late night conversations, we learn so much about each other.
    A big hug to your childhood self from my childhood self. I can feel the confused anxiety and helplessness as a child.
    I hope that your life has given you many moments of joy and happiness as you have gotten older, and that those are more grains of sand to the wonders still ahead of you..

  35. Wow....that's abuse to the nth degree. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. What a depressing childhood that must have been. You must feel some days (most days?) like you were completely robbed of your childhood and innocence. I'm so sorry. :(

  36. what a tough way to grow up. hugs

  37. Your mom and my mom must have been polar opposites. Life was sure interesting then....whew!

  38. I think I still live on
    Planet Crazy.

  39. Man that reminds me of the Great Santini for some odd reason. I'm still amazed by your personal growth/success with the struggles you had.

  40. This just makes me want to send another virtual hug your way, Pat. I'm glad you had the strength and courage to grow up with so integrity.

  41. you narrate so well.

    this is my first visit here. and i am glad to have found this site :)

  42. Every childhood is different, but I know something about what you've been going through Patrick.
    I see you as a strong person with gifted talents in writing and sharing your story here with blogfriends, and you have become a very different person than your mother. I'm glad I met you here in this blogworld.
    Warm hug.

  43. I expect your house to be spotless and for you to have perfect teeth. Anything less and I'm unfollowing you.

  44. are the very definition of a trooper!! It truly is amazing that you've turned out to be the decent and wonderful human being that you are. Kudos for being one of the greatest!! =)

    Okay now, I have to admit...I'm guilty of making the kids do stuff over again. However, in my defense, the problem that caused me to start doing this had gotten ENTIRELY out of hand, and it was necessary. Seems that now, it isn't necessary, since they hated doing the chore twice so much that they now do it right the first time. LOL

  45. A weak personality would have crumbled under such treatment; you grew strong, thank God.

    She must have hated her life so much. Thank God again that she couldn't make you hate yours. In fact, once you escaped, you must have felt joyful relief.

  46. I applaud you, my man. I love to hear people open up about themselves. You could easily make a great fictional story or a screenplay.

  47. Lynette - I agree! If it was something I didn't think I could do perfectly, I wouldn't even bother. It took a long time to get over that. What you said about the relief of her death, is so true. Thanks so much for your comment!

    Karin - For most of my childhood, I thought it was normal. The only "real" friends I had, seemed to also be from terrible homes. I NEVER let "normal" kids step a foot into my house.

    Chuck - that was the same with me Chuck. I wouldn't take kids in my house for several reasons, one of them was because my mom had no problem slapping them either. That only happened a couple of times, but it caused quite an uproar. So "normal" kids weren't usually allowed to hang out with me. There were plenty of dysfunctional kids around to play with.

    OWT - Thanks so much for the kind words! This story is one of the milder ones, I got so screwed up that I started sniffing glue, huffing, and drinking at a very young age. Of course that led to drugs and violence (not the family type). It took me years of therapy to work it all out. I got really serious about when I was in my early 30's. Now I have a better and happier life than I have any right to have. My "inner child" thanks you for the hug! I appreciate it.

    Marlene - Sheez...that was mild! Thanks Marlene. It was depressing, and scary. I agree with what you said, I feel like I really didn't have a childhood.

    becca - Thanks so much becca! I appreciate the hug...

    The Words Crafter - My mom was polar opposites of herself! One day just crazy and the next violent anc crazy! Thanks!

    faye - It sometimes seems that way. I hope things aren't really that bad...

    Jesse - Thanks my friend! That was a good movie and an AMAZING book! "Make way for a fighter pilot!"

    Robyn - All virtual hugs gladly accepted! It was a long journey, but I made it. Thanks Robyn!

    lines n shades - thanks so much for visiting! I appreciate it.

    Berit - If your experiences were personal, I'm sorry to hear that. Thanks so much for the nice words about it! here's a hug right back at you...

    PTM - LOL...the house is average clean usually, and I haven't flossed today! (or yesterday).

    Janet - thanks so much! It'a a miracle. I wasn't such a nice person for a good portion of my life though...
    It's a good thing to make kids do things and to do them right. My mom's answer to stuff not done to her standard was the problem...
    We did it right the first time also, but that didn't matter. She would INVENT things...

    Margaret - She may have been weak on the inside, but the outside of her intimidated almost everyone. I don't know if she hated her life or not, she was just crazy...

    Stephen - Thanks so much! I have a lot to open up about. I have a lot of stories stranger than this that can be found in my labels (on the right). I'm REALLY liking your book BTW!!!

  48. I'm lucky to have lived on a different planet than Planet Crazy..

    I know someone who might end up being about half as controllist as your mum..and that is still evil.

  49. There should be a test before some people become parents.

  50. It hurts when I read posts like these. Glad that you didn't up as one was the angel and I was the harebrained, devilish daughter... your posts make me want to apologise to her over and over for the tornado that I was.

  51. Arjan - It's not a good place to visit, or to live in. One tenth of my mom would still be too evil.

    Kato - Yup, that pretty much sums it up!

    Pam - Yes there should be! My mother would have failed in on all counts!

    Rekha - Sorry to hurt you! It wasn't much fun being in the same house (or world) with her!

  52. Planet Crazy... perhaps we are all living on one, to some degree or another, even when not personally affected. Today's headlines make me shiver. Back to the personal: A psychologist once many years ago told me it was a miracle I was as balanced as I am in light of my parents' personality disorders. My sweetie's background too belies his wonderful character. I find it interesting how jewels can develop from dysfunctional backgrounds - maybe in some cases manure fertilizes. :-D It has had an influence on my thoughts on the nature versus nurture debate.

  53. I know dumb question but were you ever rewarded for a job well done at any time? I believe reward is important for children, It shows the value of effort.

  54. Oh how did I miss this post? I enjoy the ones about your childhood. I had such an easy typically idyllic Fifties childhood, I read your childhood stories like reading about someone from another planet :)

  55. I grew up with my aunt, and my torture childhood was similar to yours, like this..

  56. My older brother did the same thing to me from time to time. I still remember him telling me that there's still dog hair on the floor after I wiped it. At the same time, he never bothered himself with cleaning up.


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