Sophie needed someone to talk to and it turns out my ears were just as good as any. I met Sophie at the park near my house on a crisp, sunny day in April of last year. Whenever life got to be too complicated or too stressful I would take a trip to this park, sit on my favorite park bench and watch the sailboats in the bay. I could spend hours there, watching the white sails dance upon the cold, blue water. Remembering the days I've spent on the open ocean. Remembering the roll of the water rocking me to sleep, the salt in the air trapped within my unruly hair and the cracking noise the sail makes when it catches a strong gust of wind. It was final exam time. I had been sitting there on the bench, my knees pulled up to my chin, entranced by the action on the water when I noticed Sophie in the distance. I could tell by the way she was walking that she was an old woman. Elderly people have a way if walking, like they are thinking about every step they take in order not to fall. However, Sophie was being to made to walk a little faster than she probably wanted to. With her was a small dog, but a dog big enough nonetheless to take advantage of Sophie's feeble state. Sophie was being pulled to the right and to the left, trying with the strength she had left to keep this little beast on course. When she came up to my bench she stopped and looked out into the bay. She then turned to me and asked if she could sit down.
"Sure", I responded. I could tell she was exhausted.
"Who's this?" I asked, bending down to give the little dog a pat on his head.
"This is Prince".
"What a fine name you have" I said to the dog, who had jumped up on my legs and was looking at me with eyes that pleaded for me to pet him. I reached down and picked him up. I could tell he was still only a puppy, maybe 8 months old or so. I put my face close to his and said, "Nice to meet you Prince". He licked my nose. I set him down again and said, "it's a beautiful day today, do you come here a lot?"
Sophie let out a little chuckle, "I come here almost every day, I bring Prince. My goal is to tire him out, he's such a handful".
I looked at Prince and laughed, "it looked as though he were the one giving you the walk".
Sophie bent down to give Prince a pat on the head, "my friend thought it would be a good idea to get a dog for myself after my daughter died. It's been almost a year, since she's passed. I've had Prince for almost that long. Everyone had told me that he'll settle down once he's a year old."
I didn't have the heart to tell her that it took over 10 years for my dog to settle down and even then, he could still be a naughty rascal.
We sat there for over an hour. Sharing stories about our dogs. I could tell there was something Sophie wanted to say, something that she would begin to talk about and then just as quickly would change the subject. I could see the tension in her rising as we continued to talk. And then, she said, "my daughter died in my home. I was the one to find her."
The sadness in her eyes was visible now, it had always been there, but now I actually recognized what it was. I wasn't sure how to respond or if she even wanted me to speak at all. She continued to tell me about daughter. She had been sick since she was a young girl. Sophie had taken care of her her whole life, but when the burden was too hard for Sophie to undertake herself, her daughter was placed in a full-time care facility. Everyday Sophie would take the bus to visit her daughter and take her out for day trips in her wheelchair. When her daughter's illness became worse, Sophie wanted her to be in the home she grew up in, a familiar place, close to her mother. Every morning Sophie would bring her daughter tea. Some mornings were better than others, The morning before she passed was one of the best mornings they had spent together in a long time.
"She told me she felt great that morning. She wanted to go out for the day." Sophie smiled as she said this. "So that's what we did. I took her to the market in Granville Island. I thought she was perhaps taking a turn for the better" Sophie stopped for a second, caught up in the memory , "but when we got home she was very tired. The next morning I brought her tea up to her like I usually do. She did not look well, but she promised to try and drink the tea. When I went to check on her later that morning she had fallen asleep. I knew she needed her rest, so I decided to let her sleep. When I went to check on her in the afternoon, she appeared to still be sleeping. I went over to wake her, but when I touched her she was cold. She had passed. Right there in her sleep. In her bed. In our home."
Sophie continued her story, telling me how she had called the ambulance, how her home seemed so empty that day and still does today. Then she turned to Prince and said, "that's why I have you, my Prince". It was at that moment that I could see they truly loved each other. No matter how bad Prince could be, he was all Sophie had now. Her husband had passed long before her daughter and she had lost contact with her family long ago. We sat there together staring out into the bay. Sophie perhaps remembering the days she had with her daughter and me thinking how blessed I was for what I had. I cold gust of wind swept over us from the beach, waking Sophie from her dream. She looked at me and thanked me for listening.
"My name's Sophie by the way."
"Nice to meet you Sophie, my name's Bryanna." I picked up Prince and kissed his cold, black nose, "now you be good to Sophie, young man".
I watched Sophie and Prince walk away until they were black dots on the horizon and then I got up from my bench and walked home. I still had some studying to do.