When I checked phone messages late last night after arriving home late from work and before going to bed, I found a message that Sophie, one of the most important family members during my childhood and early married years, died Wednesday. Her death was not expected, though she was in her nineties and in failing health. I feel sad about Sophie for so many reasons. We were very close for decades - she a major support to me in my teens and twenties when my mother was sometimes critical. As she aged and travel became harder for her - as she became less able to hear me on the phone, our communications became less frequent, and I wish I had made that different somehow. Thinking about Sophie I realize that, though I try to act like it doesn't matter, my inability to drive has been a detriment to connection. I would have just driven up to Waco to see her often if I could have just driven up to Waco - harder to ask someone to drive, to plan, to orchestrate trips. I wish Sophie and I had stayed closer longer.
But I also deeply value the closeness we had. She was one who always listened, seemed to care about the details of my life as a girl, remembered details. She taught me to play solitaire and played hours of dominoes for hours with me and Uncle Rudy and Grandpa Rudolf. She and my mother were raised as sisters - just two years apart in age. Sophie's mother died young and her father ran off to St. Louis, leaving Sophie and her older brother Noel to be raised by family - mostly my mother's parents. My other's Protestant parents promised Sophie's Catholic other that they would raise the children Catholic, and they did, taking them to mass each Sunday.Like my mother, Sophie spoke Czech before English and had to suffer through first days of school in a foreign language. She was the one my mother cried for when her turn came to be a new first grader with no English, and the one whose comfort helped.
All through my childhood Sophie and my mother laughed in the kitchen like sisters until, finally, one had to make a quick dash to the bathroom. They joked in Czech and English, sometimes shifting language rapidly. Sometimes they argued like sisters. I know they loved each other like sisters.
Sophie had polio when she was two and was left with a limp. I know that, during The Great Depression, when money was of course tight, the family found a way to send Sophie to St. Louis for surgery on her leg - surgery that allowed her to walk without a brace. There was not money for someone to go with her, so she went on the train alone - maybe nine years old - and was greeted and cared for by a family someone knew in St. Louis, then sent back, recovered, alone on the train. All through my experience with her, Sophie's attitude about her physical circumstances was cheerful. This positive determination of hers may have been my model for my attitude about my visual difficulties - you don't let things like that take up any more space than necessary. No unnecessary losses. I think I learned that part of my personal code of conduct at least in part from Sophie.
Joanna took me out to supper tonight and we talked about Sophie and other family members who have died - about times as they were. I haven't cried yet. Tears seem to come on their own terms with me - not on schedule. I thought writing would loose them, but not this time.
I'm waiting eagerly and a little anxiously for Bob to get here . Its way to late - he got a late start from Corpus and has misplaced his cell phone, so I can't check on hi I'm sure he's safe, but its a drizzly night and I know he's tired and just want him here already!