Given that Holly and I are both quite introverted and somewhat private folks, it is perhaps slightly unusual that we invited a house guest for a few weeks in September.
“Brian” is a friend of some six or seven years. His time at our house was recovery time following hip replacement surgery. Brian has no family support in the province other than Dusty, a large rambunctious German shepherd. They live in a humble dwelling a few hours away.
We didn’t know how it would work. How much hands on care would be required? An added factor was that I was engaged in a harvest operation through September. How personal would the care need to be? Holly lost some sleep. An added factor was that Brian lives with bi-polar depression, and we are familiar with the manic swings in his life. How would that factor into the story? Fortunately, Dusty was put up in a kennel, as he would have had a hard time sneaking in past Holly.
Two days after surgery, I picked up Brian from City Hospital, Saskatoon. There was obviously significant medication still in his system. We stopped at a drug store to pick up his extensive post surgery prescriptions. Of course, the druggist needed to see Brian in person, so he painfully made his way to the pharmacy counter on his walker, the length, I’m sure, of a football field. While we waited, Brian was eager to get lunch at a restaurant, which of course involved more walking. By the time I got him to our house, he was realizing that he had overdone it a little.
We set Brian up in a bedroom and organized his gear in the bathroom. Then we waited to see what the first night would bring, what would be required of us.
And Brian stepped up. We could hear him through the night, a number of times, shuffling his walker down the hall to the bathroom, or to the front room where his medication was arrayed, but beyond that, there was no sound, no call for help. In the morning, Brian said it had gone pretty well, medication was doing its job, and he was coping adequately. In fact, the largest stress that first day involved installing our Wi-Fi number into his computer.
The days that followed went equally smoothly. We could sense that Brian was on the downward cycle of his depression, his eyes told us that, but he was pleasant, appreciative, and always independent. If he needed something, we were asked gently. I was quickly back in the harvest field and Brian and Holly found a comfortable routine that made their days pass peacefully.
The healing process went well, with days of more pain and days of less, but Brian adjusted his medication and continued to be a gentle and appreciative guest. After two weeks, he was ready for the independence of his home, so I drove him there. Two days later, I picked up Dusty from his kennel near Saskatoon and headed to Brian’s house. The closer we got, the more excited this huge beast became. I could tell by the saliva and hair flying by my ear in the cab.
When Dusty bounded into Brian’s house, I had a tight grip on his leash, which meant that I mostly bounded in after him. The two were very glad to see each other. Brian’s mobility was getting stronger. But, as I spent time with Brian, I noted that he was emotionally so low that he could barely speak. We got some food into him, and he assured us that he and Dusty would figure out how to make it work in their crowded little space.
Brian and Dusty have figured it out. We’ve met with them since, and Brian proudly told us that it had taken very little for Dusty to learn that lap time was no longer an option.
But the biggest lesson that I take from this experience is Brian’s determination to not let his depression intrude into our day to day existence, to the extent that he was unable to hold that depression at bay when he arrived at home. That’s the determination of our friend, struggling to not invoke his mental illness into our lives.
Brian, I’m in awe.