Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, another year missing you

Today (January 28th) would have been Leif's 42nd birthday, if he  had lived. I spent the day doing something he would have enjoyed, going to the Tampa Gasparilla pirate festival, Tampa's pirate version of Mardi Gras.

It was just his kind of day, boats, a pirate ship, wenches in sexy pirate costumes, a parade, cannons firing, plenty of beer being consumed. His kind of party.

I don't know whether he ever went to Gasparilla during the few years he lived in this area. If so, I didn't find any photos of it on his camera or computer. It he didn't, it's a shame. Too bad he didn't belong to a krewe. He would have been a good member and could have lobbed beads at the crowds with phenomenal strength and aim.

His first persona in the Society for Creative Anachronism was a "Viking pirate," and because he was stylish and debonair, he was known as the "GQ pirate."

I wish that GQ pirate had been there with us today. I would have loved to see him swashbuckling around.

This photo was taken in Manhattan, Kansas in 1993 when he was 18 years old.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Could a cat have saved him?

 We will never stop wondering. Wondering why he made the decision to pull the trigger. Wondering why at that time. Wondering what could have prevented it. Wondering what could have saved him.

I was thinking and reading about the importance of human connections, of love, of being valued, of feeling needed, and reflecting upon how alone Leif was, how he expressed that no one (or so he thought) but his parents would care if he lived or died. How he felt his life had no purpose.

He worked in a cubicle answering phone questions about Medicare supplemental or replacement insurance. He didn't make any friends at work, or see anyone from work outside the workplace. He didn't socialize with anyone from his work.

Here in Florida, he had concentrated on dating, looking for love, and didn't get involved in any activities like SCA where he might have made friends and connections. Love, female companionship, and being the protective man, was what he searched so hard to find, and even harder to find someone who provided a nurturing, nondestructive relationship.

He had friends, but he saw them seldom, and some of those he did see were acquaintances primarily of his women.

Once he severed the live-in relationship with D., he was alone and without purpose, alone without anyone who needed him.

But what if he'd had a cat? Leif loved cats. All is life he was drawn to them. Cats provided cuddling, needed to be taken care of (at least minimally), fed, cared when he came home, played with him. Cats provided a living being to which he could be affectionate and playful. What a terrible pity that he was allergic to them and they gave him asthma attacks. Where he lived in Tampa, he wasn't allowed to have one, anyway.

But what if he had? Would it have made the difference? We will never know, but I think it might have. I knew a man who was, like Leif, totally heartbroken over the breakup of a relationship and decided to commit suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. He was actually in the process of carrying out this plan when he saw his cat in the garage and thought, the cat doesn't deserve this, doesn't deserve to die, or to be deserted. He shut off the car and lived. Later he found another love and was happily married until the natural end of his life.

I don't know whether this could have happened to Leif, but I can conceive of it. I can conceive of having that living being in his home being enough to keep him going until maybe things could get better, of him finding just enough companionship, love and affection, just enough of a being who needed him, to keep him alive.

Maybe not. I wish he'd had the chance.
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The first photo above was taken in Thailand in 1981 when Leif was not quite seven years old. The cat was at a small temple we visited. The second photo was taken when Leif was in the army at Fort Drum, New York in 1999 before he went to Bosnia. That cat was his and Nikko's, and he loved it so.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our Ninth Christmas Without Leif

It doesn't seem as though it could possibly be our ninth Christmas without Leif. It seems like only yesterday he was sitting here in our living room with little Aly on his lap, taking silly videos of her saying, dramatically, "I like pie." Only yesterday he was enjoying Christmas Eve dinner with us and making jokes.

The photos, the memories, and in some cases, the gifts we gave him ending back in our possession, are all we have of those Christmases now, but they are precious. Most precious, the memories and photos.

This picture was taken in Charlottesville, Virginia on Christmas Even 1976, just a month before Leif's second birthday. He was a precocious little rascal, so curious.

What we wouldn't give for another chance to see him. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Memories of our years in Hawaii

After 14 years, Peter and I went back to Hawaii earlier this month and stayed for four days in a cabin at Bellows Beach. It brought back so many happy memories of our three years in Hawaii with our boys. Days at Bellows Beach were some of our favorite things to do. I remembered the boys jumping the waves, riding their boogie boards, building sand castles, drawing in the sand, and once, burying their dad in it.

We remembered taking them to get their ice cream treats at Dave's Ice Cream Parlor in Waimanalo near Bellows Beach, and the ritual stop at Bueno Nalo, a little Mexican restaurant on the beach in Waimanalo. It no longer exists, or we would have gone there. We did treat ourselves to Dave's Ice Cream.

There wasn't anything we did while we were there that didn't remind me of those days, of our sons, and most especially of Leif, who was last there when he was in middle school, sometime in the late 1980s. Sometimes they made me smile and be grateful for every one of those days. Sometimes they made me sad that he is gone and will never be with us again.

This photo was taken the day we arrived in Honolulu in July 1983. We flew in from Japan and were greeted by members of Peter's new office at Camp Smith, who brought us the traditional leis. We were exhausted after the long trip and basically being up all night and dressed for the chilly plane ride, not the summer heat of Hawaii. Peter A. was 14 and Leif was 8 years old. We were fortunate to live there for three years, until the summer of 1986.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Leif 40 Years Ago Today

Yesterday I was looking for something on my computer and happened across a video clip of Leif's first two years. The quality was pretty lousy, because it had been taped onto VHS tape years ago, already degrading the resolution, and then digitized from that in 2008, but even with the fuzzy focus it was so precious to see that beautiful little boy, so young, so tiny (even though a "giant"for his age) and so vulnerable. I watched it with a mixture of happy nostalgia and sadness. I want to go back and try to digitize it again from the original 8mm movies and see whether I could get a better version.

This photo was taken during that period, and almost exactly 40 years ago, September 1976, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The reason for the odd position of my arm around him was that we were playing wrestling games on the floor, and "dump truck," a game he loved, where I'd lie on the floor and have him on my lower legs, then lift him up and "dump" him on my chest.

What a beautiful child he was. I miss that little boy. I miss the man he became. It's nearly eight-and-a-half years since his death, and it still affects us every day of our lives, and it always will.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Leif the RC Car Builder Appeared in my Dream

I wonder how often I dream about Leif. Like most people, I rarely remember my dreams. When I do, it's almost always because something awakened me during the dream. That's what happened this morning. The phone rang and woke me from a dream about him.

I was talking to some man, no one I ever knew, about how Leif built his radio controlled cars, starting with the one when he was in sixth or seventh grade. That kit was made in China and had no instructions in English. I think it's quite remarkable that Leif was able to figure out how to put the whole thing together and make it work just fine. Later, he modified it to make it lighter and faster.

Leif had not been a very interested or avid reader, only reading what he absolutely HAD to for school until he discovered that there were magazines about RC cars and cool automobiles. He subscribed to them and devoured them with gusto.

Since he had a subscription to "Car and Driver" and some other adult car magazines, some list somewhere decided he was an adult male and started sending him credit card applications. He got a laugh out of that, and decided to have some fun with it.

One day, he took one of the applications and answered it all truthfully. Occupation: junior high school student. Income: $260 annually (his allowance), etc. He sent it back to them. Apparently, someone got the message, as he stopped getting credit card ads.

But back to the dream. Leif came into the room and I introduced him to this man, who was very impressed with him. In the dream, Leif was in high school, tall, handsome and very slender. He was wearing is trademark spiffy clothes (like he did at that time, not at the end of his life).

I wish I had been able to finish the dream and find out the rest of it, but if I had, I might not have ever known about it.

This photo was taken long before the Leif of the dream. It was in our garden in Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany, in October 1979. He was four years old, and the hint of those charming dimples is showing here. He needed a haircut. I cut all the hair in our family, and it was usually overdue when it got done, usually because the boys didn't want their hair cut.

I don't know whether I ever saw this photo before. I hauled out some old slides and scanned them a few days ago. This darling picture was among them. I wonder how many more I will discover if I ever get the time to scan all of the slides we took.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Seeing an RX8 brings a flood of memories.

No matter where we go, it's startling when we come across something that is immediately associated with Leif, that hits like a blow of memories and all the expectations that come with them.

It's not common to see silver Mazda RX8s. Every time I see one in the Tampa Bay area, it's as though some area of my brain registers that it must be Leif driving along, no matter how much my conscious mind knows it can't be him.

It seems even stranger when it happens nearly half a world away. At the end of May, when we were in Cobh, Ireland, I caught this view of a silver RX8. As always, it brought a flood of emotions, all the associations...Leif's car (which of course, it wasn't), where was Leif? I missed him. Wished he were there, like he once was.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Leif and the Turtle in April 2008

There are still so many reminders of Leif all around me. Last Saturday we went for a walk and saw this big turtle making its way between ponds. The shell of this was was about 14 inches long.

On April 2, 2008, just a week before he died, Leif was sending me text messages about a turtle he rescued from the street. He said it was about the size of a large dinner plate. He didn't send me a picture of it, but I imagined it to be a lot like the one we saw.

Tonight I re-read all our text messages to each other in 2008, in the beginning because I wanted to find the ones about the turtle, but then I was hooked from the beginning. What all did we "talk" about . . . everything from the presidential political campaigns (he was for Obama) to school shootings, from computers to work, from his new-found love interest to my mother's Medicare Part D account, from his interview to work at USAA to getting lost on the USF campus. There was no hint anywhere that he would be gone, that he would shoot himself.

Leif was always self-contained and not a complainer, but still, not a hint of anything wrong.

Seeing the turtle made me think of those text messages, and when I mentioned them to his father, Peter said, "He could save a turtle, but he couldn't save himself." I've thought that, too.

This photo was a self portrait he took with his iPhone on March 7, 2008, the last photo of him I've found. It was on his phone. I'm guessing he took it to send to his new love interest.

We saw him a couple of weeks later on Easter, March 23, 2008, but I foolishly didn't take any photos. Our family sometimes overdoes it taking pictures, and I try not to be obnoxious about it. Now, I wish I had taken some.

Thanks for saving that turtle, Leif. How I wish you had saved yourself, too!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Baby Leif on the Back of my Bicycle

There are so many memories for which we have no photos. While I was riding my bike yesterday, I remembered how, during the 1975-76 school year when Leif was still a baby, I went back to school to try (again) to get my master's degree, this time in Family and Children Development. I hadn't finished my first try, back at the University of Kansas, because when Peter graduated from Law School and went into the army, I went with him, and we were sent to Germany for four years. By the time I came back to the USA, I would have had to retake or validate all my credits, and my interests had changed. The army assured us that we weren't going to move, so I decided to go back to school and try again.

It was't easy going to grad school with a six year-old and a baby, but I was determined. We also had a transportation issue. We only had one car, and Peter needed it to get to work at Fort Riley, so he put a yellow plastic child seat on the back of my blue Schwinn bicycle, and away Leif and I went. It was about 8 blocks from our house to the Child Development Center, the lab school for early childhood studies students at KSU. I was lucky to get a space there for Leif. He loved it! His first experience with a preschool learning environment was while I was in class during that school year.

I have no photos of us on the bike, and no photos of the Child Development Center except for a few B&W photos of Leif, Peter Anthony and Peter Walter at their playground one late afternoon in May 1976, which is when this one of Leif by the sandbox was taken. He looks so tiny! He was little, though always big for his age.

I didn't finish that master's degree either. Despite the army's assurance we wouldn't move for another year, we were transferred to the JAG School in Charlottesville, Virginia that summer.

I don't think I'd have the courage to put a baby on the back of a bike and ride through those streets in Manhattan, Kansas now. They are too crowded and there's too much traffic. I guess I would have had to walk him in a stroller.

At that time, it was fun, and Leif loved it. I think it must have been his first experience of going somewhere on wheels with the wind in his hair. He loved that all his life.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

How Could It Be Eight Years?

How could it possibly be eight years since Leif died? Today it is that long since he died. Tomorrow it will be eight years since we found him. It seems like just yesterday he was sitting at our kitchen table talking, having dinner with us on Easter Sunday. It seems like just yesterday he was texting me about saving a turtle that was crossing the road, one about as big as a dinner plate. It seems like just yesterday I was listening for his booming car stereo as he drove up to our house in his silver Mazda RX8.

Still, when I see a silver RX8 my heart skips a beat, like it wonders whether he is there. Still, when I see someone on a motorcycle, riding fast, I think of him, and feel protective of the rider.

I still miss him, every day of my life. I still think of him when I use things he got for us or left behind. I still wonder what to do with some of his things.

I still miss his laugh and his sense of humor. I still miss his hugs. I always will.

Where have eight years gone? It seems like just yesterday.

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This photo was taken in February 1981 at Kodomo no Kuni, a park near Camp Zama, Japan, shortly after Leif's sixth birthday, when he was still an eager young boy full of energy, enjoying the outdoor climbing possibilities.