My gaze then went over to Keith a playful man as I challenged, “I could take you down” I wanted to practice take down restraints, something I had learned that day in training for my job on the psych ward where I worked at a local hospital. Keith goofy at-heart worked outside in construction jobs for the city and always seemed game for anything. He was the first to grab the roman candles at a Fourth of July party hoisting them around precariously. Running around crazy after the kids and dogs. That night he looked on, yawned and smiled at me. I went forward and he had me twisted in the air in a pick up hold before I could blink. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe how fast he was and how he had me in a locked up restraint before I could move. I learned that day more than restraint training. I learned to never under estimate someone’s strength or speed even if they are benign in appearance and never, over estimate your own ability even in a playful situation. The other thing that I learned was a lesson taught to me by Robert Redford, a good-looking stately neighbor. “Be careful what you do,” Robert warned at the gathering as he looked at me across the table later that night wagging his finger at me, “Kris, if you work too long in psych, well you don’t want to become like a psych patient or too like a psych nurse.” He went on and added, “My kindergartener teacher she retired from the profession and I visited her once and she was, well, she treated me like I was still in kindergarten.”
At the time, I looked at him oddly thinking it was a strange thing to say and I didn’t understand the full meaning of his words, until a few years later. Not long after, Robert a nurse himself had a nervous breakdown. It was after he took a job running the local psychiatric facility. His wife called me to their home to help her with him, me a psych nurse and all. He had abruptly stopped sleeping and had become paranoid and delusional. I remember him ushering me into his bedroom closet, locking the door behind me. He told me the bizarre thoughts he was having. Some of them had to do with me, and my marriage. His wife and I were petrified by his uncharacteristic behavior. His psychotic break so abrupt, it seemed to come out of nowhere. I guess when you have a name like Robert Redford AND run a psych ward well then you are just asking for trouble in the delusional category. Fortunately he snapped out of it a few days later but not before the lesson was etched securely in my mind.