Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Tragic Seeker

I wasn't going to interrupt the photos and account of Leif's military career but I have to. Last night we went to the Phantom of the Opera production at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. We had never been there before, and I couldn't help thinking that if Leif were alive, we might well have taken him with us. I wish he could have seen it. We saw Phantom years ago in Kansas City, but other than the music, it's amazing how much of it we had forgotten.

In the past year, the two choruses I sing with each have selected Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, and as with other music, I've found that the words and music speak to me of Leif, especially "Think of Me," "All I Ask of You," and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again."

"Think of Me," I can imagine in Leif's mind, as he would think of his past loves, his family. I can also imagine it in my mind, hoping that he would think of me. It's a beautiful song, but I see it so differently now.

"All I Ask of You," has a double poignancy, sung by Christine and Raoul, the two lovers, and by the Phantom, who loves and needs Christine. Phantom, the tragic musical genius and seeker of love, shunned by society because of his looks, an outsider who can never have what he truly needs.

Leif was an attractive man, but his blemish was of another kind, his introversion, his penchant for getting into financial trouble, but like Phantom, he sought a love to make him whole, and like Phantom, he wanted to shape his love into the perfect object of his love.

Leif in some sense belongs in the group of literary men who want to take a "damsel in distress" or poverty (think of Shaw's "Pygmalion," the inspiration for "My Fair Lady," as well as the Phantom and Christine, a chorus girl pining for her dead father) and make her into a fine lady.

"Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," which Christine sings in front of her father's grave, brought tears to my eyes. How I wish Leif were somehow here again! She sang it with such longing and grief, feeling from the soul, and I know just what Christine felt.

The staging was spectacular. Just the engineering of it would have engaged Leif's mind. He would have loved this show. I wonder if he would have seen any of the things I saw in it. Perhaps not, if he were still alive.

It was a magical, beautiful evening for us, but Leif was there, if only in my mind.

He was a tragic seeker of love, my lonely son, a seeker of his place in the world, a place he never found.

The photo above was taken in May 1998 when Leif came back to Kansas from infantry basic training to pack up and move to Fort Drum, New York. He was 23.

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