Where We Go To When We Die
She was so beautiful, long blonde hair that she often tucked behind her ears when she was concentrating. Her skin looked so soft and smooth, her lips so delicate. Other girls were envious of her I am certain. All the boys in school wanted to catch her attention.
I watched her that day as she walked into school, her head, usually held high and proud was down, and even from where I sat under the trees near the sports-ground with Julian I sensed something was wrong. I had never really had the courage, like other boys, to talk to her but before I knew what I was doing I was running up to her, calling her name. "Sophie...Sophie, wait up, are you okay?"
"Yeah I'm fine thanks Ethan, .....I'm fine, really"
But I knew she wasn't, her eyes were red and swollen and she just didn't look like the Sophie I knew. Later that same day she seemed fine. She was laughing and joking with her group of friends but I couldn't help but wonder how she could be so upset one minute and then be happy within a short space of time. Maybe she was better at dealing with her emotions than me.
It Started With A Kiss
I has started my walk home, thinking about Sophie and how different we seemed to be, when she rode up beside me and said "Hey, wanna go for a coke or something?
"Um...yeah sure....um I'll meet you at Mellums, you ride on ahead" Mellums was the place most of us went to hang out after school. "No Ethan, she laughed, I'll walk with you"
And so she did. I can't remember what we talked about, I was numb with shock at just being in her presence. Seems silly I know but that was how she made me feel, almost like I was with an angelic presence or in a beautiful dream that I would wake from any minute.
We stayed for a coke and much to my surprise Sophie talked with me more than anyone else. When she announced that she was going home she took my hand and said "C'mon Ethan" not in a bossy way but softly and more like an invitation. My heart was beating so fast, all I could think about was what everyone in Mellums must be thinking. "what does she see in him?"
As we walked along the roadway towards Rickard Street where we both lived, her at one end, I at the other, she thanked me for showing concern for her earlier that day. I didn't know what to say so I said nothing. " I got some bad news this morning and I was trying to pull myself together for class but it didn't work" she added.
"Oh!, are you okay now?" I asked "No, not really....my mum and dad are getting divorced" and still I didn't know what to say and so said nothing. "I had no idea there was anything wrong" she said blinking back tears. "I'll be okay... I'm just in shock" she added shaking her head.
Then she looked at me, I mean really looked at me. She smiled then, her beautiful blue eyes filling up with tears, she placed her soft hands on each side of my head and leaned forward and kissed me, not a long sensual kiss, a momentary caress of our lips.
I wasn't sure at the time how she felt about me. She might have been reaching out for someone to help her forget her pain. But I felt something wondrous that day, my mind flashed forward to the distant future where we were both older and married, happy and in love.
When I told her many years later, after the kids were fully grown, she admitted that she too felt when she kissed me that she had met her soul mate that day.
Started With A Kiss-Hot Chocolate
Sophie, Jesse and RACV
Sophie also admitted that until that day I had asked about her, apart from knowing my name she had not really taken much notice of me. This didn't surprise me because I was always the quiet one. Had I stopped and thought about what I was doing when I ran up to her, I would have no doubt stayed in my seat talking with Julian. It was out of character for me, but something I will never regret doing.
As you can guess we married, Sophie and I, and had two boys, Jesse and Oliver. Our lives have been a roller coaster but we have weathered all the storms together and delighted in the happy times. One of our favourite past times as we got older was to reminisce about events in our lives. We never got tired of recounting the stories to each other no matter that we were usually both there and had also heard the story told time and again. We still laughed, and cried over some of the crazy things we had done. One of Sophie's favourite stories was when she was due to give birth to Jesse, our first born, and I had gone to put her bag in the car. In my panicked state I had locked the keys in the boot and then had stupidly locked the internal door into the house. Luckily I was on the right side of the door but this left us with few options. In the meantime Sophie was puffing and groaning her way through the labour and I was on the phone calling an ambulance and then trying to get RACV to come out and get my keys from the car. Wouldn't you know it? the RACV guy turned up first and when he saw Sophie, he insisted he drive us to the hospital himself, telling us that he waited three hours for an ambulance once for his wife and that he would have her safely there in no time. Every time Sophie tells this story she has fits of laughter over the looks on the hospital staff when she arrived in a RACV van.
As I Lay Me Down - Sophie B Hawkins
Where Do You Go To?
One night we had friends over, some new people who had moved in next door. Sophie was telling them the RACV story when in the middle of a sentence she stops and can not remember what she is saying. I remind her it is the RACV story and she looks at me blankly, then says 'Oh well that is a stupid story anyway and I don't want to bore our new friends. Anyone for coffee?"
Later that night in bed I asked her what happened and why she didn't finish the story. What she told me next broke my heart. "Doctor Reed told me I have dementia Ethan, sometimes I forget things. Haven't you noticed?" "Well I haven't really...no...why didn't you tell me earlier? I ask she further added "Because I didn't want to spoil things. I want things to stay the same and I know now that they won't"
She was right, nothing was the same again. Sophie's condition worsened rapidly. Sometimes I would be woken by her standing looking out at the moonlight, talking to herself perhaps, asking "where is Tyrone, when is he coming back?" Tyrone had been her dog from age six who had run off in a storm and never returned. She would sometimes look at me and not know who I was. And then eventually she stopped communicating. I could see my old familiar Sophie behind those blue eyes, but then even that disappeared. I did not know where my beautiful Sophie went to in her head, but often she had a faint smile on her lips as if she was in some place nice.
Stay With Me
The last week in May of 2013, The year Sophie would have turned 50, I let the nurses in in the morning to administer her medication and help with washing her frail body. I was beyond tired, standing in the kitchen looking out at the tall grass in need of a mow and wondering when I would get the time to do it, when Marina, one of the nurses came into the kitchen and said. "Mr Vitner, your wife is asking for you" My first thought was that she must be mistaken, Sophie had not communicated anything to anyone in many months. I rushed into our bedroom and Sophie was looking right at me. "Ethan..Ethan", she whispered. Marina poked me in the back to make me move closer. I sat down on the bed and leaned in close to better hear what my wife was trying to say. "I love you Ethan" she whispered. I told her I loved her too. Behind me I was aware that the nurses had gently closed the door behind them.
I could not believe my beautiful Sophie was telling me she loved me, something I never thought I would hear her say again. I leant in closer and kissed her gently on the lips and held her hand. "Mums here" she said. Sophie's mum had died fifteen years ago in a car driven by her second husband. Stupidly I turned to look behind me half expecting to see what Sophie obviously could. I was so chocked up with emotion. This had caught me off guard and I was not prepared to fill this need in me to share my last thoughts and feelings with her. "I love you so, so much Sophie" I sobbed. "Please stay with me...don't go" I begged. She smiled and her eyes twinkled. "Don't you dare tell that RACV story at my wake Ethan" she warned. then she closed her eyes and I imagine she went with her mum.
Beautiful Girl-Stay With Me- INXS
Memories Of The Heart
Memories of a loved one keeps them alive in our hearts and minds. While ever there is someone to tell the stories, to cry or laugh at memories, someone who closes their eyes at night and pictures their face, they are still alive as energy on earth. Where they go is a mystery, perhaps they are everywhere we look for them. I see Sophie in our children and their children and I talk to them often about their mother and grandmother in order to keep her alive in all our hearts. To me she is always near and I talk with her often.
I did tell the RACV story at her wake. That night at midnight the car alarm went off and woke the whole neighbourhood, I couldn't get it to shut down but one of the neighbours called RACV. I believe Sophie had the last laugh.