Restoring a Home: Images from a Lifetime

The greater Los Angeles area is home to a large number of people who’ve lived truly remarkable lives. Among this collection of intriguing characters are former and current screen stars and other types of creative folks.

From time to time, the life of a once shining LA star of some type dims as that person ages or otherwise leaves the limelight. In the course of running our family business, there have been instances in which we garner a look inside the life of a one-time LA celebrity that has changed markedly from that person’s heyday.

One such instance occurred last year when we were telephoned by a woman who lives Michigan in her 80s. She was in Los Angeles for the first time in over a year visiting her younger brother who lives in Malibu. When I say younger, the man was in his late 70s. I would soon learn than Margaret was a terribly spry woman who looked 20 years younger than her actual age.

The caller – Margie – explained that she’d just returned back to her hotel from her brother’s house. She said she made the trip out here because her brother complained that he was not feeling well. She added that she was having a tough time on the phone encouraging him to seek assistance, which motivated to make the flight from Michigan.

Margie told me that she got her brother to the doctor and his medical matters were receiving suitable attention. “But there’s another problem … a big one,” she added. She’d received information about our business from a former client that hired us to clean up the home of one of his own relatives, who had hoarding disorder. Margie generally understood the extent of services that we offer to people in the greater Los Angeles area and gave me a call.

Our Family Business

My wife and I are the owners and operators of a business that provides what technically is known as biohazard remediation services. In other words, when there is some type of biohazardous situation at a home or business, we are called in to cleanup and sanitize the scene. The scenarios in which our services are needed include:

  • Aftermath of a suicide
  • Aftermath of a homicide
  • Aftermath of an assault
  • Aftermath of an accident
  • Hoarding situation
  • Unattended death
  • Situation involving an elderly or ill individual

An Isolated Director

Margie and I arranged to meet in Malibu, at a coffee shop near her brother’s home. Perhaps not the most idea location to discuss a sensitive matter, but it was convenient for Margie and it was better to meet away from her brother initially so that we could talk candidly.

When I connected with Margie, I learned more about her brother’s situation. I also learned who her brother was – and he had a name I did recognize. I refer to Margie’s brother as Edward in this article to maintain his privacy.

Edward had garnered international renown for his work as a film director in Hollywood.  A number of his movies produced in the 1960s and 1970s are titles that people still recognize today.

Edward married one time, years earlier. The marriage ended in divorce. The couple had no children and Margie was his only living relative.

“When he retired from films, Edward became something of a recluse. He didn’t go out much,” his sister explained. “But, having said that, he was perfectly content with his life.”

Margie advised me that in recent times, Edward had complained of not feeling well. As was made mention, before she met with me, she had connected her brother with necessary, appropriate medical assistance and support.

“As I told you on the phone, when I arrived in LA and got to Edward’s house, I realized there was another huge problem,” Margie said.

She didn’t realize that in recent weeks, Edward was not appropriately taking care of himself. “He is a proud man and didn’t share the challenges he was facing with me … at least not until I got here,” Margie explained to me. Margie underscored her brother’s issue was not a lack of money. He was just a proud man who naturally had been keeping to himself in his later years by choice.

Margie highlighted the state of affairs at her brother’s house when she arrived. The residence was filthy. She made note that the house was littered with everything from rotting food to urine and feces. “The mattresses on his bed, the bed in the guestroom … they were both completely ruined with urine and feces. My guess is that he went from one room to another … perhaps allowing time for one mattress to dry out, at least a bit.”

With some assistance, her brother was mobile. In advance of my coming to his residence to consider what specifically needed to be done at the house, Margie made arrangements for her brother to take a room at the hotel where she was staying. “It will be nice for my brother to have some time together. More importantly,” she said. “My brother won’t know what I am having you do until you’re done. In this way, we can get order to his house without Edward feeling any sense of shame.”

Maggie made an important point. When we are called upon to undertake a challenging cleanup project, we always pay attention to the dignity of those individuals who are impacted by what we are doing. Compassion must be a key element of a biohazard remediation effort in nearly all situations.

Restoring a Home

When my team arrived at the residence, we were faced with a daunting task. Included in the cleanup process was the remediation of potentially hazardous waste, including human urine and feces.

One of the off things we noted about Edward’s home was there were no personal photos on the walls nor mementoes of the same nature placed about the home. There were a number of painting reproductions, but they liked more like something that would be found in the room of a mid-priced motel.

I made mention of that to Margaret, almost in passing. She chuckled and explained that her brother had said time and again that he meant to get photos and other items framed to display in his home, but never got around to it.

As we were wrapping up work for the first day, Margaret came by the house to check on progress. During our work on day one, we’d come across innumerable photos and mementoes of different types. These items were tucked in haphazard fashion in no real order, including in the cabinet under the sink. Some were damaged, a good deal of them were dusty but unharmed. I had put these items on the dining room table to keep them safe and sound during the cleaning and biohazard remediation process.

When Margaret caught sight of the items placed across the dining room table, she chucked. “You know,” she said to me. “I’ve got an idea.”

She found a box and packed up some of the photos I’d gathered by working that day. I told her there was about one day left of work on the house and it would be in a position for her brother to return home.

We did finish work the following day and Margaret and I arranged to meet at the house the next morning. A newly hired home care worker was going to be on hand as well. I got to Edward’s home after Margaret and the care worker arrived.

The first thing Margaret did when I reached the front door was to exclaim: “Follow me!” (with a huge smile). She led me into the dining room. The photos and other items I’d left on the table during the cleaning process were replaced by an array of images Margaret had placed in beautiful frames. “Wanna help me with this?” she asked, meaning did I want to assist in placing the photos on the walls and elsewhere in the home.

Epilogue

A couple of days later, Margaret telephoned. She told me she would be staying in town for a couple weeks more to help her brother get settled into the idea of having a home care worker in his life. “Might I ask you a favor?” she asked.

Margaret asked if I might stop by Edward’s home so that he could thank me personally for our work on the residence. I stopped by the following day.

The home remained a far cry from what it was like when my crew arrived to clean and remediate. Edward really did have a lovely home – and it was pleasant and comfortable once again.

Before I left, Edward wanted a few minutes of my time. He walked me around the house proudly showing me the different smartly framed photos that now adorned his walls, images of a man who lived – and now lives again – a gratifying life.