It was thought best by the other Maxwell children not to invite or let Sophie know that Dolores would be seeing more than just Alex and his family at the planned visit, as it was assumed she would alert Ethan; this would most likely jeopardise Dolores being allowed to go. Nevertheless, Sophie was told of the meeting by Sean.
Of all Dolores' children, Sophie maintained the closest relationship with Ethan; most of the other children wanted nothing to do with him and avoided him. This also had a bearing on them attempting to visit Dolores in Rosslare, as Ethan was there with her on a regular basis. The past history of violence, threats, and attempted extortion by Ethan towards them was ever in the background. With the exception of Sophie, the Maxwells who had families were also loathe to have their children exposed to Ethan's threatening behaviour.
After Sophie's virtual disappearance following Saoirse's visit to Dolores on December 3 and the strange phone call from her seeking Saoirse's whereabouts (believed to be at Ethan's request), Saoirse was doubtful that Sophie could be relied upon to help stop the abuse of their mother. Her continued silence and refusal to speak to the HSE Elder Abuse was unfortunate, to say the least. Sophie had the most first–hand knowledge of Ethan's abuse of her mother, and indeed had been on the violent end of one of Ethan's beatings herself while she was pregnant.
It was one of Sophie's brave children who first made a statement to the HSE Elder Abuse, detailing the violence towards both Cecil and Dolores this child had witnessed, and the violence done to this child by Ethan. Two weeks after this Sophie did finally make a statement to Geoffrey Blair, HSE Elder Abuse Caseworker, in October 2010, following Dolores' admission to the hospital. She withdrew it shortly thereafter, and tried to have her child's statement withdrawn also. According to Geoffrey Blair in a statement made on November 4, this greatly damaged his plans to seek Gardai involvement. He had hoped to use the very concrete incidents of physical abuse presented by Sophie to press the Gardai to open up a wider investigation. Geoffrey Blair was very aware of the Gardai's reluctance to follow their own official policy concerning investigating Elder Abuse cases even with what he thought was clear evidence. In his view, without Sophie's statement, the chances of any investigation or prosecution for what Ethan had done to Dolores was virtually nil at that time.
The evening after Ethan destroyed Dolores' hopes of seeing her son Alex, Sophie called Saoirse. She had seen both Ethan and Dolores that day. [Editor's note: Because of Saoirse's mounting fears for her mother's safety, and her concerns about Sophie's role, Saoirse drew upon her many years of experience as a journalist and took detailed notes of this conversation. We are indebted to her for making these available to us.]
Dolores-Maxwell.com is extremely careful and meticulous when quoting or describing conversations. We rely on multiple sources. We are confident that Sophie's conversation is reported honestly and faithfully here. However, we have no way of knowing if the conversations she reports that she had with Ethan and Dolores are true. The fact that she described them to Saoirse is true and beyond doubt.
With that in mind, we deem Sophie's account of the Christmas 2009 events important for several reasons. She offers a view of events from another point of view (although obviously influenced by Ethan.) Her own views about Ethan's behaviour are revealed through her own words. An abrupt about face by Sophie occurs later on, close to Dolores' death, and we consider it important to put on the record her views at the time of this phone call. It also reveals some of the powerlessness Dolores must have been feeling.
Sophie's phone call of December 28, 2009 to Saoirse is recreated here:
Sophie is having lunch with Dolores, Ethan, and Ronan. After describing the scene of her children and grandchildren gathered at the Royal Marine Hotel, she asked Dolores, “Mom would you have wanted that, would you have wanted to see them all?” According to Sophie, Dolores replied, “Yes I would,that would have been nice, I would've liked that.” Ethan then admits, “Yeah, I shouldn't have done what I did.”
After concluding lunch, Dolores and Ronan are returned to Ethan's house, while Ethan, Sophie and her daughter take in a film at the cinema. Afterwards, Ethan asks Sophie to “Go out on the piss with him” [Editor's note: Irish expression for going out drinking], staying overnight at his house and sleeping with Dolores. Sophie initially agrees, thinking she will be able to talk with Dolores all night because “...that's what we do.”
[Editor's note: Once again plans are made affecting Dolores with no regard for what Dolores might want. We also note that Sophie wasn't the only one that shared Dolores' bed. In Dolores' house in Rosslare there were three beds in separate rooms, and a sofa in the sitting room. Nonetheless, according to diverse sources, Ethan slept with his mother in Rosslare.]
They talked about what happened, with Sophie telling Ethan, “You've got to just ease your grip on her. Just let her other kids see her. Why can't you just step aside? This whole thing yesterday was completely out of order. You've no right to do that at all. You can't control her like that, that's not fair The others have families. You don't have a family and you're consumed by this, and you're getting worse and worse. In order for you to get a proper life, you're going to have to stop doing this, because you're f***ing yourself up. You're engrossed in it.”
Sophie talked about Ethan's reaction: “I just did it to annoy them. I'm not having anybody come to my house, I like my privacy, and I'm very protective and territorial. And I had such a hard time growing up.” Sophie then described to Saoirse that tears were rolling down Ethan's face. [Editor's note: Ethan employs this technique often, when he is called to account or caught doing something. It seems to be pure manipulation, and does not seem to ever be associated with remorse. If it doesn't have the desired effect of eliciting empathy or a reduction of the pressure being applied to him, he has been known to step it up to the point of sobbing on the floor in “agony,” stopping when the audience has departed.]
Sophie had another conversation with Ethan later that evening: “‘Ethan, you're going to have to change, I'm only saying it to you for your own sake. You're going to have to just start stepping aside a bit. If I have to get involved in this, it's not going to be pretty, and mom is the one who's going to be really f***ing hurt here. Just let them see their mother.‘ He knows I'm not messing with him.”
Saoirse reminds her that Dolores is already hurt.
Sophie continued describing her conversation with Ethan: “You're in Rosslare all the time. Give them the space to be with her. Don't go down there all the time. Just let them go and spend the time with her. This is not about you. You're going to have to change this. And if it means I have to keep at you and keep at you every time you do something, or anytime mom doesn't answer her phone to anybody, if this continues the way it's been continuing, I'll just keep f***ing ringing you. And say, ‘Mom isn't answering her phone, such and such has been ringing, you want to f***ing have a word, and get her to ring them at least, to chat, make sure she's all right. You know, that's all they want.’”
From Sophie's description, we see that of course Dolores wanted to see her family, was prevented from doing so by Ethan and that Sophie herself was now stepping in to sort things out. It is impossible of course to ascertain if Sophie thought this would be effective. As we've seen, Ethan answered her phone calls to him selectively, and Sophie herself had trouble reaching Dolores on the phone. Perhaps the production of tears by Ethan convinced her that she was having an effect. Ethan's actions in the next few days would prove that to be false.
The conversation with Saoirse continued, with Saoirse asking Sophie if Ethan had also told her about the taunting, laughing phone calls he made, the weird texts, the Christmas Letter, etc. Sophie replied, “Um, no. He never said a word about that. He said they had lunch at Avoca.”
Saoirse tells her Ethan is abusing their Mom physically, emotionally and financially. Although it is later learned that Sophie and her children witnessed first hand Ethan's violence towards Dolores, Sophie only responds to the mention of Dolores' finances: “Oh, he has no control of her finances, it's all through the solicitor. Ethan has documents to prove it. And if you want the documents about all her finances, you can have them.”
Saoirse rejoins that she has no interest in their Mother's finances, apart from wanting Dolores to have control of them and enjoy her life as she sees fit. [Editor's note: The strangeness of this offer piques Saoirse's interest and a few days later she asks Sophie to have Ethan send these documents to her. How would a person show they have no involvement in someone else's finances? How is it possible? More on this later...]
Sophie continued: “When we were going to the cinema, we dropped them off, we were in the car, and he rang her on the loudspeaker, and he was saying, ‘Talk to your little pet here mom,, I'm your little pet...’ It just definitely had the sense of unhealthiness about it. And you know, she had presents and everything to give to Alex and his family for Sunday. He sees it as a joke, playing all these games...”
Saoirse responded: “No, it's much more serious than that Sophie, much more serious. That's not game playing Sophie, that's sickness. That's really sick.”
“Everybody would tell me all these stories, and I thought, well, whatever, but when you found that [medical issue redacted] that time, and you called me and said how upset you were and couldn't reach Mom, I just thought, I'm going to go see what's going on here. Everyone is telling me all of this, I've seen these little incidents, the incident with the car after dad's funeral, and it wasn't a little incident now that I think about it, it freaked the heck out of me, and I'm just glad I got out of the car. And when they were moving, and Ethan went ballistic trying to clear out the shed, and Dad didn't want him to clear the shed out, and Ethan was just going nuts with it, I had no idea what to do, because I didn't know what their relationship was, you know, and I felt like an outsider, so I just tried to calm it as best I could, but it has escalated over time, and then this last time when I just went down to see her, and I..I.. I mean, you could have hit me with a brick! I mean, I just...”
Saoirse pleaded with her to contact the HSE Elder Abuse caseworker, Geoffrey Blair and tell him what she had seen: “You need to let him know this Sophie, because it's not going to stop. It's really not going to stop. And can you live with yourself knowing that he will go on to someone else when he is done? Because that is what he is going to do. It was our uncle, then Mom and Dad, and after Mom, what about Ronan? He's already being groomed, being used by Ethan.”
[Editor's note: Ronan's view of Ethan will be visited later. Ronan proved unable to resist Ethan's demands on him. Ethan's influence was clearly seen in October, 2010, when Ronan was banned from Wexford Hospital after being observed physically abusing Dolores, defenceless in her bed. When confronted by Saoirse, he left Ireland for about a month, returning a few days before Dolores died.]
Sophie does not commit herself, and indeed never did speak to Geoffrey Blair until October, 2010.
Sophie tried to mitigate the damage caused by Ethan and got him to agree to allow Dolores to call Alex on the following day and also allow her to see him before he had to return to [country redacted]. Dolores and Alex never did visit with each other during this time. Alex would not be with his mother again until she was dying in Wexford General Hospital.
In any event, Sophie's attempt to loosen Ethan's control of Dolores was fruitless. As far as can be determined, she would soon distance herself from the situation entirely, and offered no assistance in future attempts to contact Dolores.
[Editor's note: Dolores was directed by Ethan to call Saoirse a few days later. We visit that revealing call in the next segment of A Christmas Story: Dolores Calls Saoirse. ]