Each summer my husband and I spend several weeks in Ireland. We hire a house sitter to look after both our house and our dog. Last summer the college-aged son of our neighbors whom we have known for years and who live six houses from us did this job without any problems. This summer, his sister, who had just completed her first year of college, was hired to do the same. When a friend would question my leaving this in the hands of some one so young, I explained about her parents and where they lived, and they would agree that it sounded like a good arrangement.
After our twenty-hour journey home, we walked into the house exhausted, wanting only our bed and a pillow. But the house was freezing because the thermostat was set at 66. The built-in fridge was buzzing, and we realized that the freezer drawer that held ice cubes was the source of the noise. Upon pulling it out, we found it caked with ice. My husband switched off the fridge and proceeded to melt the ice with my hair dryer. As he started this task, I took a look at the mail which was a very small amount considering how long we had been gone. On top of this was a notice from the post office that delivery was stopped because no more mail would fit in our mail box. This was dated one week after the house sitter had moved in. At this point I had been up nearly 24 hours, but I still had to take a Tylenol pm to get to sleep as I was so disturbed by what we had come home to. My husband was up till two in the morning dealing with the fridge.
Due to jet lag, I was up early and by 6am sitting in our family room with a cup of tea when the radio turned on with outrageously loud thumping rap music. The alarm was set at 6:05. Why was an alarm needed in our family room when the bed in the guest room, where the house sitter was to sleep, had clearly been slept in?
Why, indeed. You have probably already figured out was going on in our house during our absence. A house full of partiers makes for a hot house, so let’s turn the thermostat down. And a drinker needs ice…lots of ice, so the ice drawer was open more than shut…and left open all night would burn out the motor. And when you are seriously hung over, the last thing on your mind is checking the mail box. What you do need is a loud alarm, as those drunks who slept where ever they fell down needed to get up and out in the morning.
The house sitter had had a party at our house nearly every night. Four to seven cars were parked in front of our house, while others parked elsewhere in the neighborhood and walked to our house. Some of her guests left during the night, others left in the morning. The recycle bin held nothing but beer cans and liquor bottles. One neighbor had taken pictures of all this with her phone, which was a good thing. When we asked the house sitter to come over to talk, she first denied having any one to the house at all other than another neighbor’s daughter once in while to watch television with her when she was bored. When she realized we had this evidence, she admitted taking complete advantage of the situation. She then offered, as a way to resolve this, not to take the $500, which was to be her payment and a check for which was already at her house. This was a Saturday afternoon. After she left, I put a stop payment on the check. Monday morning she tried to cash it.
About twenty five years ago, our house was robbed. My family had to deal with several issues as a result, one being that some one else had been in our house. Some one was here among our things in our home. With these parties, I had that same creepy feeling…who sat on this chair….who was sleeping in the family room… who slept in my bed, if they used it to sleep at all? I also could not stop wondering what change of heart had caused her to try to cash that check. What was her problem with the mail? When did the fridge start buzzing?
But my most heart-wrenching question was where was our dog when the drinking was going on? If she was left in a bedroom to be out of the the way, she would have barked and yelped all night to be let out. If she was among the drunks, what did they do to her? What did they feed her? What did they give her to drink? What does a college-aged drunk think funny when it comes to a dog? If I let my imagination go here, I ended in tears.
It was nearly a month before these questions- and others- were answered, and for that month a dark cloud hung over me. Under this cloud, I have drawn an imaginary line around myself and my family. I have promised myself that I willonly trust those people for the rest of my life, for trust to me is a fool’s errand. When we were robbed, the thieves took my jewelry box which held invaluables such as a little girl’s charm bracelet my father had given to me on my tenth birthday. I had promised myself to never get so emotionally attached to any piece of jewelry again. Over the years, I have broken that promise, and over the years, I know I will break this one as well. I just need time.