Monday, September 29, 2008
Would You Want to Know the Future?
How often have we all said, "If only I had known." Or, "I wish I could know the future." But what about the consequences, and what would you do about it if you did?
Would you want to know that if you had a child, he would grow up to have an unhappy adult life and end up shooting himself in the head? If you knew that, for certain, what would you decide to do? Not have the child? Have it and hope you could somehow change fate? Have it and spend all the years of your lives worrying, being watchful, trying to prevent a tragedy, and not knowing how?
Look at this beautiful child. Leif was such a beautiful child. How could life go so wrong for him? What was it that doomed him, that brought so many depressing circumstances together?
This photo was taken in Furth, Germany, when he was not quite three years old. Doesn't he look happy, eager, curious about life? He never lost that curiosity. He never stopped trying to find out how things worked, never stopped asking why.
I am grateful for the 33 years I had Leif in my life, but I cry every day for the years I will not have. I'm glad I didn't know what was in store for him. I'm glad I didn't have those years saddened by the knowledge of what was to come.
I am a hard worker, but I am not an ambitious person. I never had big dreams. The three most important things in my life are Peter, Peter Anthony and Leif, and they are all I really ever wanted. All the rest was gravy.
I was and am fortunate to have a lot more, much of it to share with them, or because of them, and I am grateful for those things, too, but I would have gladly given them up if it could have given Leif a happy, normal life.
I wanted children desperately, and I was blessed with two handsome, intelligent, interesting sons. No matter what else I did or achieved, I was and am deeply imbued with a need for family. Traditional roles didn't matter, but family did and does. What is there in life that can compare, that begins to approach its importance?
I don't know whether that deep need and desire for a family, a mate and children, is something we learn or whether it is something we inherit, but I suspect it is some of each. Our family was close. We had a special need to be close, because our "home" was each other. As a military family, we had no real roots but each other. We were each other's constancy.
So I think perhaps we all felt that need for a family, not so much a place to call home, as people. I think Leif needed that as an adult man and he couldn't find it, though he tried so very, very hard. That deep need made his loneliness so much worse.
A man needs something to ground him. For some it is a career or some grand goal. For a man like Leif, he needed to be needed. He needed someone to care for. He needed to matter to a soulmate.
I am glad I still have a family, though it has a huge hole in it that will never be filled. Each time I have to do something to settle affairs after Leif's death, it pierces my heart. Tonight, something as simple as removing him as a beneficiary on my retirement account brought me a flood of tears. Why? Because it is as though I'm wiping him out, as though his identity and life are being denied. That may seem foolish. I know he's dead. But that's how it feels, as though his existence is being slowly eradicated except for my memories and photos.
I'm glad I didn't know the future, because I don't know how I could have changed it. I'm glad I had that beautiful boy.