artist - musician - craftsman
and furniture maker
[June 20, 2021]
simply revland: paying the piper (1991)
It was March 6, 1991, a Wednesday morning, in the vicinity of 10 o’clock. The phone rang. I had yet to possess one of those fancy new cellular phone gadgets, as it appeared to be as substantial and cumbersome as a patio paver. You could actually take that new gadget with you wherever you went, which seemed almost unimaginable to me at the time.
I, like many, was still quite enamored with the cordless phone, which I could literally take into my shop assembly room without losing any reception. However, phone reception was the least of my misgivings. And this day, as I approached my 38th birthday, my life was unfortunately spiraling out of control.
I was participating in my habitual, mid-morning daily exercise: smoking a joint and having a beer.
Most days I would leave my phone either off the hook, or in the “send to voicemail” mode ... for the majority of my calls were coming from bill collectors, or the IRS, as they had a lien against my house on Elm and South Terrace. Persistent drug and alcohol abuse had taken a hideous and disastrous toll ... publicly, professionally, mentally, and physically. The Piper was now knocking on my front door, and the consumer-in-chief needed to consider letting him in for immediate, if not partial, payment.
Like I said earlier, the phone rang. Today it was on the hook. Why, I’m not thoroughly certain. All I know is I was participating in my habitual, mid-morning daily exercise: smoking a joint and having a beer. I put the headset to my ear and cringed. On the other end all I heard was a faint whisper. “Dad, this is Ryan.”
My first thought was that it was a prank or possibly a wrong number. It had been 10 years since I had attached myself to that paternal designation. But the name Ryan admittedly rang a bell. I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts. Thoughts that began to flood my mind with uncertainty. Could this really be my son? Ten years had passed since his stepdad had adopted him. I knew I needed to respond within reason, but also knew I wasn’t in my right mind to adequately do so.
“Well hello, Ryan. How are you?” I said. Anything else I heard jetted through my vacuous vessel of a skull like nothing was there which at the time, sadly, was quite accurate. All I remember was this: He was asking if he could visit me this coming summer, as his mom had promised him he could contact me when he turned 10, which today, Wednesday, the 6th of March, 1991, he was. And yes, he certainly did. Oh boy, did he. It was clearly a morning I never expected, or even dreamed of, but it turns out he indubitably saved my life.
All I remember was this: He was asking if he could visit me that coming summer, as his mom had promised him he could contact me when he turned 10.
As soon as I hung up the phone, I fell to my knees and uncontrollably cried like a baby. I was thoroughly and unquestionably broken. After gathering myself, I called my older brother in New York, a psychologist at the time, and asked him to make some calls for me. Within an hour I was enrolled in an outpatient program at a local addiction facility. A humbling, but obligatory, determination. The Piper was being indemnified. Paid in full.
My biggest fear ― and I had many ― was losing my mind without the mood-enhancing chemicals I was so accustomed to ingesting. Would my creative juices shrivel up? Would I become socially inept? Would I actually live beyond the age of 40? [Something I constantly had little hope of.]
Fast forward 30 years.
The rewards of sobriety are remarkably incalculable. Success is a daily multi-vitamin. My son, Ryan Kelly Oliver, now 40, is one of my best friends, and a chip off the old block as a musician, composer, and sound engineer. We were able to enjoy that visit 30 years earlier when he was 10. His mother (bless her heart) kept her promise: she let him call when he was ready, and that communication literally saved my life.
Ryan Kelly Oliver / 2020 (40 years old)
Steve Revland / 1990 (37 years old)
Ryan tragically lost his sweetheart recently to an asthma attack and composed this beautiful tribute to her. From his most recent album, “One in a Million,” I give to you my son, Ryan Kelly Oliver.
Take a bow, Ryan.