Sometimes it is those who walk the earth with the lightest steps and brightest smiles that have carried the heaviest loads.
By Lisa Lopez
Steve came to us as a volunteer. He is compact, bronzed, has white short hair and a thin lined goatee that accentuates his permanent boyish grin that speaks of mischief and an “I will never grow up” attitude.
His mind is fast and his wit is faster! It’s only when you look into his eyes that you notice the long roads that he has traveled to get to the other side of life – the side of hope. It is the same eyes that well-up as he speaks of the loss of his mom. A loss experienced from a fifteen-year-old boy that still needed mothering and a mature man that will always feel the unavoidable void.
“As a little kid with ADD (attention deficit disorder) my family told me that if I could not focus and do well in school, I would never amount to anything, he recounts, and I spent the next 22 years doing THAT.”
Steve is transparent about his tumultuous road into addiction and his inspiring, rare road out of it! In his thirty years of sobriety, he has had a successful career, a long-term marriage, children (his, hers and ours) and a spirit to overcome obstacles.
We’ve been fortunate to meet Steve as he reached a point in life in which he has had the unique opportunity to do something that he considers a “calling” versus filling a monetary objective.
“I get to teach people how to strap on their cape and be their own superhero. It requires every bit of my life experience to do the best for people, I think.”
This is when you see that his exuberance is a choice or as he puts it, “Either it’s all funny or nothing is funny."
As I sit in the conference room typing next to him, I become aware of our many layers and the experiences that form each one.
Steve, has a classically cool California look backed by an effortless casual style of jeans, a solid crewneck tee with a button-down blue shirt layered in a “just because” look. I am not expecting to see a clear mason jar as his mug. If Ray Ban™ made a mug, I would expect him to be casually totting one of those.
“It has a wide mouth and it just feels right,” he says as he takes a large sip.
What’s in it?
"Water. I might add a lemon sometimes if I am feeling edgy," he says.
He smirks in that half-slanted way that always leaves me wondering if he is pulling my leg. I prod him further about his drinking habits. "I quit drinking soda; I used to drink mass quantities of coffee, now I just drink 2 cups of coffee a day," he laughs and continues evenly “because I figured that calmness is okay.”
Who do you admire?
"Robin Williams," he says. "Possibly the ultimate example of where comedy and tragedy intersect... as is life."
Tell me something about yourself that nobody else knows?
"I always wanted to be a drummer and a singer", he says.
What kind? I ask. "A gooood one?" He adds jokingly, then says, "Rock and Roll baby, Rock n’Roll!"
"In my hyperactivity as a child everything was a drum to me" (he beats on the table with his two pointing fingers for effect while singing, I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the drums all day...) "and when I took lessons, it made me want to put the drumsticks into my eyeballs because everything was so structured!" I laugh hysterically at this as Steve is perpetually thirteen in my mind.
If you had a magic wand and could change ONE thing, what would it be?
"I would be taller," he shrieks, then laughs and adds soberly this time, "I would add a wave of compassion that could cascade over everything, you know?" He looks down pensively and I feel his tender spots. In fact, as much as we have laughed and ALWAYS laugh, this is the most serious I have ever experienced Steve.
What quirks do you have?
"What quirks do I NOT have!" He muses and amuses! He has categories for his quirks! "I hate to be late, it doesn’t mean that I am not. I am the 8:01 express! But those are standard quirks, I want to give you quirky quirks! I’m weird," he admits (I act surprised). "I didn’t wear long pants in ten years!"
My inner Floridian asks, Not even in winter?! "Nope, not even in Colorado!" He remarks with a Spanish accent on Colo-RAA-do since he speaks un poquito de Spanish.
Until what age do you want to live to?
"92" he replies without thinking.
Por que 92, I ask?
"It is just a number; honest to God anything over 65 is a family record," he states flatly.
No wonder you are not looking forward to your next birthday, I say jokingly to break the melancholic mood.
He laughs and recovers slightly, “I am, but it’s heavy.” His somberness returns, “It explains why most of my quirks revolve around health. Cannabis is a tool in the tool belt, as is diet, exercise and I have a slightly obsessive nature around those things.”
We are suddenly interrupted by a knock on the door letting us know that Steve’s appointment has arrived and I tell him not to worry, to send me his favorite song when he thought of it.
A couple of weeks later, I received this song in my inbox. I smile as am no longer surprised by this tenured soul with a seasoned heart.
I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and for you And I think to myself What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night And I think to myself What a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying, "How do you do?" They're really saying, "I love you."
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow They'll learn much more than I'll ever know And I think to myself What a wonderful world Yes, I think to myself What a wonderful world