"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thank You, Mr. & Mrs. Sodorff


Forty years ago this spring two educators were working hard to help get me into college. They were working against the wishes of my parents. They were working out of their love for me.

These weren't just any educators. He was the principal of our high school. She was the girls' counselor and teacher of world-class electives - I still remember her psychology class as opening whole new worlds of possibility to me. Their daughter, Marcia, was (and still is) my best friend. I had spent many nights at their house, gone to many parties from their house, felt an oasis of safety whenever I entered their house.

My parents were not fond of this family, for what are now obvious reasons. Jealousy being the primary one, and fear of losing control of me. And as much as I longed to be free of my family's spirit-killing claim on me, my loyalties were torn. The paranoia with which my parents kept the world at bay infected my trust. I could never quite believe the Sodorffs were helping me because they believed I was worth helping - and saving. 

That they understood me and loved me and knew the only way for me to really be free was with a good education was too much for me to hold. Even so, I accepted their help with gratitude, and found myself in a small private college with great credentials that fall.

It would be nearly twenty years before I could face my second family again. I broke contact with them believing I had destroyed their trust in and love of me with my life choices. There was no way I could face any of them given what I had done with the gifts they gave me: got pregnant, flunked out, got lost in drugs and sex and alcohol, joined a cult. Or so my shame convinced me.

It was only after I went back to school to become a teacher myself that I felt okay to let them back into my life. Amazingly, they were waiting, their love undiminished. Marcia and her mom traveled 300 miles to be at my wedding to Walt, two weeks before I got my first teaching job. I'm pretty sure it was then that I finally started calling her Claire, instead of  Mrs. Sodorff. It was another decade before Dick & Claire became more natural to say than Mr. & Mrs. Sodorff. That softening came hand in hand with my ability to feel safe loving them and to be loved by them.

In the years since, whenever I go to Sandpoint to see Marcia, one of things I look forward to most is stopping by her parents' house to visit, and going to lunch with her mom. I know I've thanked them both, but I'm pretty sure they don't really know the depth of my gratitude. Or my love. But I'm always glad for the chance to tell them one more time.

Even though it's taken decades to manifest, their belief in me was not unfounded. As I get ready to leave public education, an institution I joined in part to honor them, I finally understand what they saw in me. 

These educators who saved my life, who believed in my potential, are getting old. Life has gotten harder for them, even with Marcia close by to help. I wish there were some way I could ease this time for them. I owe them so much. I'm grateful that I will have a chance this summer, when I go to see Marcia and to attend my 40 year reunion,  to hug them, tell them I love them and to let them know how very much their unwavering love mattered to me, and always will.

picture from Flickr

14 comments:

deb said...

They sound like lovely people, the kind of people we all need in our lives.

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

May we continue to have the
Sodorff 's of this world to motivate and help save the children who need a saviour!

Jessica said...

What an incredible story! They sowed seeds in you, and look what flowered. :-)

Jerri said...

This is indeed, an incredible story. And you have honored these wonderful in the best way possible--by passing on their gift to others.

I have no doubt that someday, someone will write such a tribute to you, the teacher and woman who changed their life.

And that will be the best thank you of all for Mr. & Mrs. Sodorff.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Oh, Deb. So beautiful.

I love this story, and the full circle-ness of it.

Completing circles ROCKS!

Amber said...

You should print this off, and give it to them in a card. I think it would mean a lot to them. Sometimes things said in writing just hold more power, not going in and out our ears, but sitting in our hearts.

This made me cry, because I have such people I am so greatful for. And it is always moving to know people have been there for you all along. :)

:)

M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M said...

Give them a hug for me too. I appreciate ALL that they did for you forty years ago, and what they still do for you today. I understand the importance of a family that loves you...and replacement parents that meet needs that went unfulfilled.

As always, you're in my prayers and thoughts daily.

Love

Mark

Angie Ledbetter said...

You've passed on their legacy. No better thank-you than that. What a wonderful tribute.

The Unbreakable Child said...

A lovely and beautuiful tribute, Deb! Wishing you only the very--merry best!!

The Things We Carried said...

This had me in tears almost immediately. Thank God for people like this in the lives of young people. I wish to be like them!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I wanted to stop and say hello -- I miss reading and seeing what all everyone is up to - !

kario said...

I'm with Jerri - you're giving them the gift of knowing that they made a difference. In your life, and in the lives of all the kids you've touched.

Ripples, my friend.

She said...

This holds so much power and beauty and it encapsulates grace. Wow!

I think Amber's right. Send it to them. :-)