The Sofge Files
Chance discovery surfaces sermons
(page 2 of 4)
I’m no fool. I’ve opened my share of drawers — “chump”-embellished and otherwise — to find dead cockroaches, dirty socks and mysterious pools of dried liquid. Knowing there could be anything inside the boxes I had just purchased, I had cleaned them on the outside. In doing so, I had ensured that regardless of what garbage I found inside of the boxes, I wouldn’t be any less attracted to them. I believe there’s a metaphor in there that can be applied to my college dating experiences.
Tallahassee Magazine writer Kim Harris Thacker began to develop an idea of the character of the man whose sermon notes she found, based on this collection of notes, entitled, “This is Me!”
Wearing a brave face and a pair of latex gloves, I opened the drawers. And that’s when I made a remarkable discovery: What I had referred to as “garbage” when haggling with Rodney was actually a collection of index cards that were covered in … prayers. The prayers were sorted by occasion and were, as far as I could discern, representative of numerous religions. Behind the prayers were more index cards — again, meticulously organized — which proved to be sermon notes. The file boxes also contained several letters.
As I sorted through everything, I came across a card that was a brighter white than the others, which had aged to a yellowed cream. I blew the dust from it and saw that the spiky, slightly-off-the-vertical handwriting that covered it was the same as that which could be found on most of the other index cards in the boxes. This card, however, listed the names, addresses and phone numbers of several people, some of whom shared the same surname. I recognized the full name of one individual; I had seen it several times while perusing the files.
I was sure, at this point, that I had found the previous owner of the file boxes — a man named Robert Sofge.
Once I had sorted through all the piles, I opened an envelope that contained a letter that was addressed to “Robert Sofge, Chaplain, Florida State Hospital,” and began to read. I quickly saw that this letter was of a private nature and contained the kinds of things you’d tell someone you trust very deeply. I put it back in its envelope, moved it and the other letters aside and turned my attention once more to the newer index card. Unlike the letters, which listed Chattahoochee as Sofge’s place of residence, this card said he lived in Tallahassee.
Because most of the letters were postmarked from the 1970s, I did not expect to be able to locate Sofge — if he were even still alive. But, as luck would have it, the index card that bore his contact information had been created recently enough that the phone number was still in service.
I left a brief message on Sofge’s voicemail, explaining who I was and how I had come across his phone number, and then I waited. And waited. And waited. A week passed, so I called again. Then a second week passed. I still didn’t hear from Sofge. I began to wonder if he had died and no one had gotten around to disconnecting his phone.
“This is Me!”
Oddly enough, the more time that passed, the more I thought about Sofge. You see, I had discovered, among his notes, a lecture entitled “This is Me!” that he had given to a youth group. Through this lecture, part of which was an autobiographical account of Sofge’s life and how he had entered the ministry, I began to develop a mental picture of the old gentleman. The image was very much like that of my grandpa Harris — a good-natured, spiritual man who had farmed the same rolling hills in Idaho that had been homesteaded by his pioneer ancestors. Grandpa Harris died when I was a senior in high school, but given the information about Sofge that I gleaned through his lecture, I figured he and my grandpa would’ve been about the same age.