Sometimes you need to be reminded who you are and what you can do.

Patrick wasn’t doing much in September 2012. He would spend whole days in bed surrounded by garbage and dust, mouldy food, old milk … you name it. I had just signed on with WJS in a casual position in the only complex needs home in Westlock. I always like a challenge and I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

When I was introduced to Pat the first thing he did was make a statement with his imposing size and stature, arms folded in front of him, chest puffed out and the comment “You can’t make me do anything.” I looked at him, smiled, adopted a similar stance and said “I have three teenage boys, bring it.” He laughed and said “we’ll get along fine.”

By the third day, I was ready to leave. It was hard to sit in his home with all that dust, it bothered my eyes to the point of them tearing regularly. Besides, I had more to offer than just sitting in someone’s home while he slept.

Where to begin?

Rather than quit the program, I decided to clean up. Pat has some issues with an obsessive compulsive disorder, so I had to be careful not to disrupt his room and collections any more than necessary . As I was working, he would come out of bed to see what I was doing. I asked him if he could help me. I would move the characters and he could place them back once the area was clean. Together we sorted and cleaned until the home was in a more respectable state.

I was respecting his space and the things that meant a lot to him, and showing respect for him.

Together we went to the store for some shelving units that we could use to organize his belongings in his living room. Pat was out of bed, out of the house and shopping! After some discussion we chose some stacking shelves that were classy, strong and great for organization.

Once the shelves were assembled Pat chose which items would be displayed and which could be put in storage for future use. It took us about three days to get everything organized, but once we were done he was so proud of the work he had done. He was so used to people being negative because of his issues, he was happy to have someone finally accept who he was and work with it, as trying as it was.

Pat spent less and less time in bed and more time talking as his self-esteem grew. During one of our chats about holidays and where we’d been, Pat told me that he hadn’t been on a real holiday since 1984.

Almost 30 years!

His dream was to go to anywhere but Westlock or Edmonton. But a number of things had combined to make that unlikely. He was hard to motivate and tended to use his size to exert authority. He can still be quite intimidating when he choses to be. Holidays in public seemed out of the question. But never say never.

I told Pat that if we worked on his behaviours, maybe we could save some money and take a two day trip to Calgary at some point in the future. This was in October of 2012. We started talking about where we could go, how much things would cost and when would be a good time.

In April of 2013 Pat and I loaded our bags into my truck and headed south. We were going to meet up with one of his peers from Barrhead and his staff. Together we spent two full days and two nights in Calgary.  We were able to go up the Calgary tower, take the skytrain from one end of the city to the other and back and meet a number of players from the Calgary Flames and coaches and players from the Phoenix Coyotes. This was a highlight for Patrick as he quite enjoys hockey.

We went out for lunch and supper each of the days we were out. We’d been working on healthy eating and overcoming Pat’s love of junk food and we’d made progress. When we were out he would choose his own meals. If he had fries at lunch, he made sure he ate a salad at supper time. He was happy. Happier than he’d been in a long time. The look on his face, the excitement he showed at being able to go on a “real” holiday were worth the days sitting in a chair, wondering what to do with myself. It took a lot of work, a lot of coaching, a lot of stories and a lot of learning about each other, but we did it.

The next goal is a trip to Vancouver, we are researching whether it will be a road trip, an plane trip or a train trip. In the meantime, Patrick is coping with his eating disorder. We recently began cooking one meal per week in his home with Pat doing all the work. He is a great cook and loves to make his plates fancy before he eats.

Tiny victories. Sometimes they’re enough.