Today I pay tribute to a man who passed away early this morning, Paul Sonda. He was my mother’s husband, and a vibrant part of our family. He was an interesting guy this Paul. He joined our family when I was in my angsty years (ummmm….I think they’re over now). He witnessed some of my more harrowing temper tantrums, bad behaviors, and a lot of my growth into the adult I am now. Paul was never afraid to just go ahead and tell me what he thought. When I was out of line, he made no apologies for showing his distaste. I cannot say this went unanswered by yours truly, but I always felt we had an understanding. He was equally effusive when he saw me doing something that made him proud. Here’s a little piece of an email I received from him not too long ago after he read my entry “The Preacher’s Daughter”:
What a delight to speak with you earlier today! You sounded great and I was pleased.
I read your “The Preacher’s Daughter” this morning with relish and joy. I’ve been married to your Mom for about 18 years now and what a joy THAT has been and IS. I’ve never had as much contact with you personally as I would have preferred. Just because of geography. When I’ve been around you it has been rather neat for me because I have seen so much of me in you when I was your age, and your “The Preacher’s Daughter” brought it all very much to the fore.
As I said on the phone, getting to see Roan and meet the “hysterical” Sophia is almost enough to get me to New York – key word, “almost.” You continue to enjoy it enough for ‘bof us, just as I did when your age.
What stimulated me to write was your parenthetical substitution of the word “Ambivalent” for “Agnostic.” That has the aura of genius about it. And did it bring back memories for me! I’m just going to ramble on about those memories because I’m a nostalgic kind of guy at times. Perhaps it is a privilege of age. One thing – THIS IS NOT A PROSELYTIZING EFFORT ON MY PART! It is my belief – no, my conviction – that you are exactly where you belong on your life-long spiritual journey.
Can I just say – did he say “genius”? I’ll take it Paul! This was Paul Sonda, through and through. He was always careful not to step on my religiously sensitive toes, while somehow managing to clearly convey his own deep religious beliefs. Another note: evidently the man was enamored with my mother. What a sweet way to speak of her.
My relationship with Paul Sonda was very dynamic. I am pleased that he went out of this world on his own terms, which is exactly how he lived in this world. He was a man I could turn to, anytime. He was the man who calmed my frazzled nerves before my surgery this past January by talking me through the things I needed to be concerned about, and the things that I didn’t need to think about anymore.
As per usual Paul, you have a better way with words today than I do. So I end this by plagiarizing your last sign off to me:
I thank you so very much for giving me this hour of reminiscence. It has been valuable for me. And I think you are absolutely great!
Much love back to you Paul.