Thursday, June 26, 2008

Leif's Copper Penny Space Ship

Leif had his iPhone for about 5 or 6 months. The only photos I could find that he took with it were of his car, his motorcycle, himself (in cycle gear and in his work cubicle) and this space ship me made of pennies on the desk surface of his work cubicle at the Humana call center where he worked.

Leif loved science fiction and was absorbed in such sagas as Orson Scott Card's Ender series (books beginning with Ender's Game), and Battlestar Galactica. He played Planetside and other online games, and as I've written before, was deeply involved in the development of the ZAON game.

Leif needed to be in a job where he dealt face-to-face with people and wasn't confined to a cubicle on the phone, but he never had that kind of job, unfortunately. This space ship is something he carefully and exactingly constructed while doing customer service for Humana Medicare clients on the phone.

I never would have known about it if I hadn't been able to access the photos on his iPhone, but when I first saw the photos, I didn't realize where the space ship was or that he had built it. I thought it was something he photographed elsewhere.

Then, when his dad and I picked up his belongings from Humana, among them was a very heavy, huge Alltel drink "jug" that was full of pennies. Those were the pennies he used. There were over $16.00 worth of pennies in that jug.

That reminded me once again how small things add up. They say most people these days won't even reach for a penny on the sidewalk or parking lot. Not worth their time. I always do.

I tried his whole life to teach Leif to save money, but I never succeeded. Intellectually he knew he needed to do it, but he was unable to resist cool cars, motorcycles, computers, phones and gadgets, and as soon as he got a bit of money, he spent it on some new cool thing he just had to have, though it was truly an unnecessary luxury. I understood that because he didn't have a satisfying home life, was lonely, and didn't have the kind of job he needed, he found his pleasure in these things and in pasttimes like online gaming, riding his cycle, and movies, but ultimately, his spending got him into debt too many times. He then had trouble paying his bills or handling an unexpected expense like a car repair.

Saving pennies by throwing them in a jug netted enough for a couple of decent meals (more if it was home cooking), and I found coins all over his apartment that he could have thrown into a jar as well. It's true that these small amounts wouldn't have solved his financial problems, but the willingness to save even small amounts here and there (like taking a sandwich to work instead of buying lunch, for instance) could have added up substantially in the long run.

I have learned since Leif's death that compulsive overspending is also a sign of depression, a form of "self medication" to bring the depressed person some brief happiness . . . yet eventually, that same spending brings more depression because of the debt incurred.

How I wish Leif had gotten help for his depression and had been able to curb his spending.

How I wish his talent for artistic design and precision had been put to some creative uses. He had remarkable artistic talent as a child, but it wasn't something he chose to pursue.

More about art and choices later.

For now, imagine a beautiful copper space ship rushing through the universe, carrying Leif into the sci fi adventures of which he so avidly dreamed.

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