PETALUMA - The text sent to U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, the day before America was to play Japan for the Women's World Cup championship, contained encouragement and affection from her half-brother, David, CEO and president of the Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties' Boys and Girls Clubs. His last sentence was particularly memorable.
"I will be a better brother," David wrote.
David Solo said he never expected a reply. In less than 24 hours, Hope would be in goal for the biggest match of her life. She wouldn't have time. Plus, there hadn't been any real urgency in their relationship. The last time Hope and David were together was a chance meeting on Labor Day, 2009. They would speak on the phone, on the average, every three to six months.
Sunday, David received a reply. It came less than five hours before Hope would play. It was two sentences he will never forget.
"And I will be a better sister. I love you."
Although 6-foot-1 and a solid 260 pounds, David appeared to be much smaller when he repeated his sister's response. He had stopped carrying a huge load that had weighed him down. It was his father, their father, the one who was gone from David by the time he was 9, the one who remarried, had Hope 12 years after David, then left again. He went by John, Jerry or, usually, Jeff. He said he went to Vietnam, but David isn't sure. He did live in the woods around the Seattle area. This much David was certain: His dad was 69 when he died June 15, 2007.
"He had trouble holding a steady job," said David, 42, "so he wasn't able to support his family. He had trouble with stability in relationships. He went to prison for a short time on an embezzlement charge."
In November, 1991, David stopped speaking to his father.
"I cut him off," he said. "I had enough."
For 17 years David stayed away. For 17 years, by and large, he stayed away from Hope, as well. It was a distance he created between the two of them. Now it was a distance he was trying to close.
"I just realized today," David texted Hope after the U.S. lost to Japan on Sunday, "that you were just 10 years old when I stopped speaking to him. I missed a lot of your life, including high school, University of Washington. I did not realize how the decision to stop speaking to our father impacted our relationship. I am sorry for that."
David now understands he was in pain for those 17 years, pain that fueled anger, resentment. He saw other boys with their dads, coached by their dads, hanging with their dads. He took it out on the football field, where he was an All-Conference nose tackle at Chico State in 1990 and 1991. He was Chico's captain his senior year and a pre-season DivisionIII All-American.
"I was alone," David said in that text late Sunday night, "and I always had the attitude that I would show them who was better. I was always in attack mode."
David graduated with a degree in history from Chico in 1993. His first job out of college was in San Diego, at a Boys and Girls club. He wasn't sure why until he met a 12-year kid named Terrell four years later.