Sunday, October 5, 2008

Leif - 1987 - 1991 - How Quickly a Boy Grows Up - Ages 12-16

These two photos were taken four years apart when we visited Leif's older brother at the US Air Force Academy in September 1987 and when he graduated in May 1991. How clearly Leif has gone from being a child of 12 to a young man of 16 (with his Oakley sunglasses hanging around his neck).

In the younger photo he is leaning on the balcony of his brother's room, wearing Peter A's squadron jacket, which he wanted to try on. I'm sure he was dreaming that he, too, might wear such a jacket, go to the Academy, become a pilot. Being a pilot was his dream, the one that was not to be because his eyes weren't good enough. He didn't have the drive to get the kind of grades needed to be competitive for the Academy, though he certainly had the mind for it. At the age of 12, though, he could still innocently dream of charging through the skies.

Leif and Peter Anthony had been close brothers all the years of Leif's young life until, when he was 12, Peter A. (six years older) left for the Air Force Academy. While he came back for Christmas visits, sometimes at spring break, and perhaps for a brief visit in the summer until 1990, they rarely saw much of each other and the bond between them slipped away.

Peter was so busy with his cadet life that he didn't have time to cultivate that relationship and it was quickly replaced by others. Leif didn't talk about it, but I believe he both felt that loss, and was also newly empowered at home and at school by not being in his brother's shadow. He blossomed, but his dream faded as he found out he could not fly.

We moved to Puerto Rico in the summer of 1990, and between then and when Peter Anthony graduated from USAFA in May 1991, we only saw him once when he came to Puerto Rico for Christmas in 1990, if my memory is correct. Then we went to Colorado Springs for his graduation.

Peter A. now says that it seemed to him as though Leif had suddenly grown very tall and slim and had jumped from being a kid to a young man in one giant leap.

It wasn't that fast, and there were several times between these two photos when they saw each other, but it was the Leif of May 1991 that impressed Peter A. with the fact that his little brother was growing up.

I know Leif looked up to Peter. When he went to college, even though he could not be a pilot, he became an Air Force ROTC cadet, hoping for an Air Force career. Even that was not meant to be. He was acing the coursework and summer camp subjects but was sent home when he pulled a muscle in his groin and could not do the sit-ups required for the physical fitness test.

He didn't show his disappointment to us, as ever putting up the good front, but I know it must have been another heavy blow to him. He could have put himself a year behind in ROTC and tried again, postponing his college graduation (which was eventually postponed, anyway), but instead he dropped out of ROTC. Who knows how his life might have been different but for a pulled muscle and that decision not to stay with ROTC. Leif would have been an outstanding Air Force officer if he had made it.

Unfortunately for both our sons, they never again spent much time in each other's company after Peter Anthony left for the Academy in the summer of 1987. The bonds that loosened were never taken up again. Although the two men had much in common, including deep interests in technology and science fiction, they rarely explored it. It was a loss for both of them.

But here in this photo of Leif at 16, you can see a young man who still was looking forward to a good life, a vital teenager coming into his own.

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