Have you ever played the game Life? I don’t mean figuratively, I mean literally – the game with the little cars and pink and blue people. I played this game as a kid. I loved it. There is something about being able to progress through your fantasy life getting paid every few squares, going to college, getting a job, buying homes and having kids all to end up retired in less than an hour – it is a great game.
I played Life with Cheyenne during our Christmas blizzard-fest. I acquired a husband and three children along the way without wedding planning grief, labor or the delight of actually giving birth. I did not win in the game of Life, Cheyenne did. She had a better job and house and more kids and in an hour was able to create a new standard for keeping up with the Jones.
Real life is hardly as clean and easy, but it is infinitely more fascinating. I recently checked in with someone who played a pivotal role in my life, Steve Wilson. I have not seen Steve for years (alright, decades), but I tend to check in with him every half a dozen years or so to remind myself of the power one person at one point in time can have on the trajectory of one’s life. I think it is important to formally recognize that.
I met Steve Wilson at the tender age of 18. I went with my boyfriend at the time to Steve’s apartment which was a little studio flat in El Monte, California. Steve’s apartment was sparsely decorated. On his kitchen table was an engine he was tinkering with and the remainder of the apartment was mostly consumed by his bed and his books. And when I say books, I mean stacks of books – piled all around the apartment. I quickly learned that Steve was a college-educated man who loved and embraced knowledge. His rationale for being in that flat in El Monte and knowing my boyfriend are intriguing but not for me to detail here.
At any rate, I came to know Steve Wilson – the Pennsylvania native with a brilliant mind, a curious nature and a tremendously compassionate heart. He was completely different than my boyfriend at the time – an Italian bodybuilder from New York that had landed in California and who I had met at a friend’s party. Steve was educated, refined, fascinating, and different. Steve was only four years older than me, but maturity-wise he had decades on me.
It so happens my then boyfriend worked with Steve, otherwise these two men, who were about as different as men come, would never have likely crossed paths. Yet they did, and so Steve and I became social acquaintances and then loose friends. My boyfriend at the time was quite the jealous type so there were decided limits on my interactions with other men, however innocent they may be.
Well, long story short, the boyfriend and I moved to Northern California after awhile, very far away from my family and friends in Southern California. The relationship became quite abusive and I began to believe that it was one that I would not live through. I spent months isolated in a house in the hills above San Jose with no car, no money, often no food and virtually no contact with the outside world. My boyfriend would leave early in the morning and often not return until late at night. It was a bleak existence.
My boyfriend would take the corded telephone with him when he left the house so I could not call anyone. There was one thing though that my boyfriend did not know, I had an old decorative candlestick phone packed away in one of my boxes that actually worked. I could not call long distance or he would discover I had the phone. I was too ashamed at that time to call my family; instead, I called Steve Wilson collect. Steve never refused my calls. We would talk for hours. Steve became my lifeline. I know he paid hundreds in telephone charges over those months. The phone calls went on for awhile before Steve convinced me to get on a bus and come back home. Steve paid for the bus ticket and amazingly my boyfriend agreed to drop me off at the bus station.
To this day, I have never been so happy to be on a bus. Steve picked me up at the station and I can tell you that in my mind’s eye (and in my heart’s imprint) it was nothing short of something out a movie scene. I recall almost running to Steve as I got off that bus and embracing him as if he had just saved my life…and in reality, he had.
The entire story with the boyfriend is more complex and detailed than I have time to relate here, but suffice to say it had a happy ending because Steve Wilson took the time to care about what happened to me. The place this man’s soul holds in my heart is sacred.
Our time together in total was very short – intermittent over the course of a couple years. After I got back to a normal life in Southern California, he started to travel a lot for his job and then he actually moved from the area. My last recollection of him in California was when he came to see me at my work before I was to marry for the first time (at the time I was a cashier at a hardware store). I recall all my fellow cashiers being all a-flutter about the cute guy in a suit who was looking for me.
He came because he wanted to know if I was sure about my decision. I must say, I still recall the moment and the angst I felt when he asked me that. There he stood, really my best friend by any measurement despite the intermittency of our contact and the way our relationship came about, and for a moment I pondered the potency of my feelings for this man and the connection I felt with his soul. I thought in that moment about whether I should pursue our connection on another plane, but somewhere deep within me, somewhere that even now I cannot exactly pinpoint, I knew that our paths would separate and his commitment to me would remain a part of my guiding force in life regardless of where he was.
So our paths diverged and our lives went on to be what they are today, but I have never forgotten the love, compassion and commitment given to me by Steve Wilson and the role he had in creating the person I am today.
There have been others like Steve Wilson who have supported me in my journey over the years, but there has been no one who has given quite as much to me at a time when I needed it so much. This man changed the trajectory of my life by caring about my well-being and believing in my potential. He will tell you that it was nothing really, but that is because that is the way of Steve Wilson’s life – lots of little efforts that end up mattering an awful lot to the recipients.
So, when I say that small kindnesses matter, it is not just a feel good platitude – it is testimony from someone who has received them. Much love to you Steve Wilson and my enduring thanks for the gift you gave me – it has lasted a lifetime my friend.
Day one hundred and eighty-two of the new forty – obla di obla da