Synchronicities never fail to amaze me and I’m going to share with you one such synchronicity that occurred in the last week. I had been visiting a friend in Swindon for a couple of days, and just prior to setting off on the journey home, my friend and I had a brief conversation about my nephew, Steve. However, before I carry on it will be necessary for me to give you some background information.
Stephen was my older brother’s second child, but the first by his then wife; and also his first and only boy. Steve and I had a magical relationship when he was young. But for reasons that are not relevant to this story his childhood was neither stable nor happy. We continued to be close and then in 1976 I joined the army. We saw each other sporadically whilst I was in the army, and it was apparent to me during my visits, that his living conditions were less than ideal. The army, however, was not for me and having bought myself out just before Christmas in 1979, I went off to work in Germany in March 1980. By the time I came back to England in 1986 Steve was a teenager and into drugs. I was quite disturbed by what I saw; mainly the changes in him, but I had no idea back then as to what would eventually transpire. I had also gone through a drug period but I’d never taken anything serious and I was quite saddened by how my nephew had evolved from a beautiful baby smiling up at me from his pram, into someone I didn’t even recognise.
Now it is also worth mentioning here that I was always considered to be a bit of an oddball in the family. The Holmes’ have never been that close anyway, and as time has gone by, it’s now reached the stage where I have no contact at all with any remaining family members. It was difficult enough before, but once I found my spiritual pathway I was considered to be even more of an oddball. Steve was always my closest ally, but in the mid 1990’s things changed drastically. He had a promising career as a footballer and was on a Youth Training Scheme at Blackburn Rovers, who at the time were in the second tier of English football. He even played twice for the first team, but having been caught with drugs outside a night club in Blackburn, they let him go. He then returned to London where he drifted from club to club in non-league football, playing for some famous old clubs along the way. Then in an effort to get away from the London drug scene he moved down to Swindon, which is where I was living at the time; my mother was also living there. It turned out to be a bit of a disaster, because all he did then was swap the London drug scene for the Swindon drug scene. During this period he was playing for Marlow Town, another famous old non-league club; he even appeared on BBC Match Of The Day once, after Marlow had been drawn against Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup. At one point things seemed to be going well. I thought he was off the drugs; he was getting paid by Marlow and also had a full-time job. He met a girl and they ended up having a wonderful Christmas baby. However, things took a dive just prior to the baby being born.
Steve broke his leg playing football and was never the same again. He did recover but he was not able to play to the same standard. I had no idea that he was still heavily into drugs until 1996 when things came to a head. He had a serious mental breakdown and ended up in a place called Seymour Clinic, a well-known Swindon mental institution. It was an awful depressing place, which I am happy to say no longer exists; in recent years it has been replaced by a more modern facility. Over the next few years he would periodically find himself in Seymour Clinic and another similar establishment, not always on a voluntary basis.
During this period he fell into the clutches of a Swindon based Christian Fundamentalist group that had a reputation for preying on vulnerable people; with a mental illness Steve was an ideal candidate. As a few more years passed by Steve relapsed into his illness a number of times. Also, because of all the medication he was on, his weight ballooned and he became very disheveled; a shadow of the athletic young man he’d been just a few years prior. Unfortunately, when I found my spiritual pathway he decided that I was “in league with Satan” and we ceased to have regular contact. In 2003 I moved to Wales, but when my mother became ill in 2005 I moved back to Swindon. I saw Steve sporadically during this period but since my mother’s funeral in May 2009 I had bumped into him just once, one evening in a shop in Swindon, whilst on a visit to the same friend I mentioned at the beginning of this story.
Steve lives a very short walking distance from my friend, and she was telling me that she had seen him a couple of times recently from a distance, and had indeed seen him that morning whilst on a trip into town. We both agreed that for all his troubles and faults, he had done a fantastic job with his son. The relationship with the child’s mother had broken up back in the 1990’s but Steve was a doting father and he made every effort to support his son over the years. My friend and I agreed that he had learned wisely from his own childhood experiences and had done his son proud.
Soon after we finished our conversation I said my goodbyes and set off on my journey home. I had only driven a very short distance when I saw an unmistakable figure, yes it was Steve. My first reaction was just to carry on with my journey, as I had no way of knowing how he would react to me. But something told me to drive up to the end of the road, go around the roundabout and come back. This I did, and as I drove past him again I tooted the car horn and noted that he recognised me straight away. I took the first right and pulled over by a bus stop. Steve was really glad to see me, he jumped in the car and I drove around to where he lived. We only had a short chat in the car but during the course of our discussion he told me that he was now working full-time with???? Yes, you’ve guessed it, people with mental health problems. I was so pleased for him; it’s the first proper full-time job he has had in some years.
I could see the face of a man racked with guilt, pain and sadness because of the past. He is obviously still in a great deal of pain because of what he experienced when he was growing up, and I’m sure that was behind him going off the rails. It is also apparent that he feels a lot of guilt for the way he has conducted himself over the years and let his life go the way that it did. But it was great to chat with him and I felt the connection there once again, albeit briefly, and I was happy to be able to give him encouragement. He was also pleased for me with what I am doing and he took my telephone number. I am still waiting for a call, but it has only been just over a week. Synchronicities eh! Don’t you just love ’em?