Monday, April 28, 2008

Leif earned black belt in judo

Just before his 14th birthday, Leif took the test to earn his blackbelt in judo. This photo is taken of him throwing a much older man during that test. Leif was very good at judo, and it's a shame he didn't stay with the practice of that martial art when we moved away from the Chicago area. It wasn't readily available in Puerto Rico and by the time we returned to the US mainland two years later, he felt his skills were rusty and he didn't feel right wearing that belt at the local dojo. He had a very good sensei (instructor) in the Chicago area, Andy, who gave Leif a special wooden practice sword. It was a special gift and meant a lot to Leif, but I don't know what happened to it. I didn't find it among his belongings.


We were living at Fort Sheridan, Illinois at the time. I later did find the bokken, which is the name for the wooden practice sword. As I recall, Andy had received it from another sensei and it had a special history for him as well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beardless Leif

Here's a version of Leif many of you may not have seen. There was a short period in early 2003 when he had no facial hair (other than when he was in the army and couldn't have a beard, 1998-1001). He was looking for a job at the campus job fair and had me make up business cards with this photo on them.

The name is Bond, Leif Bond

From the time he was tiny, Leif loved cars. He was particularly fascinated with the Lotus Esprit he saw in the James Bond movie, Moonraker,in 1979 when he was four-and-a-half years old.

We were in Innsbruck, Austria, and decided to take the boys to the movie as a treat. We all enjoyed it! Then we made the mistake of going into a department store and heading for the toy department, which was up on the third or fourth floor. He spotted a toy version of the famous car that went underwater, and he wanted it! The toy was one we could have gotten for less than half the price back at the army base where we lived. It was really an exorbitant amount, and Leif had no money he had saved for things he wanted on the trip, so we refused to get it for him.

Well, he wasn't going without it, even if it did cost $13 for the small metal car. Leif was usually a fairly even tempered child, but he did have a temper that raised it's ugly head now and then. He threw the biggest screaming fit I had ever seen him throw, and it was mighty embarrassing! Since we were the only Americans around, and the only people speaking English, it was even worse.

We tried to get him calmed down, and thought we had, but as we walked toward the stairway, he saw a big round column, about the size of a telephone pole, and wrapped himself around it. Leif was always strong, and he was amazingly strong for a kid who wasn't even five years old yet! It took both Peter and I to peel him off that pillar, and even then it was a big struggle. We were sure people must have thought we were terrible parents, with a child fighting that hard to stay there and not come with us, but at last we thought we had him calmed down and started down the stairs.

The stairs weren't such a big problem. There wasn't anything interesting on them, and we got down a floor. Then he ran for another round pillar! Back to square one.

By a series of grab-the-pillar and drag the feet maneuvers, Leif managed to make it very difficult to move him out of and away from the store! I was mortified. Eventually, though, he gave up and we finally made it to the car. It's tough being a "mean" mom who sticks by what she says!

Eventually, and not too long after this, Leif did get the precious Lotus Esprit. I found it at his apartment after he died. That was one really special toy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leif in the Army in 1998 - Bosnia - Machine Gun

Leif was in the US Army infantry from January 1998 until May 2001. He was a machine gunner and armorer. Leif was exceptionally accurate with this huge gun and received awards for that, loved firing it, and missed it when he left the service. It is very heavy, and with it and his pack, he was carrying his own bodyweight. That's how strong he was. But asthma got him. He developed it, most likely from some triggering substance or event, after he enlisted, and it caused him a great deal of misery.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Leif Skywalker

It's hard to believe this sweet little five-year-old was my towering Leif, but this was Leif in kindergarten, dressed for the Halloween parade. Our family didn't buy costumes, (and neither did my siblings and I when we were kids). They preferred to figure out their own costumes. Leif put this one together by himself and said he was Luke Skywalker. He was fascinated by Star Wars. Even then he was the tallest in his class.

Leif was in kindergarten at the Sagamihara Elementary School at the Sagamihara Housing Area in Japan.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Greased Lightning - Sung by Leif Garretson 1992

When Leif was a junior at Antilles High School at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, he won the role of Kenicke and had all the girls screaming when he sang "Greased Lightining."

The cast of the musical was really good, but they had no real budget for props and scenery, so the "greased lightning" car was just a plywood flat on wheels. At one point, it even fell over, but the guys covered and played it well.

We hadn't known Leif could sing until we saw him on stage. His friends hadn't known, either. He was great! Like a rock star.

Unfortunately, this video was taken with an analog VHS camera in 1992, from the back of a high school auditorium, so the video quality is poor and the sound is even worse.

However, it is the only video we have of our son on stage and we treasure it. We hope you enjoy it.

The GW Pirate Fights - Leif Garretson 2001

This is one of Leif's earlier SCA fights, in 2001, in the Manhattan, Kansas City Park. He loved the competition.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The GQ Pirate - Leif in the SCA - May 2001

Leif was an avid participant in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and his character was a pirate, Viking style. Here he is in some of his first garb in May 2001. He loved dressing up and fighting with rattan swords and other weapons in the Manhattan, Kansas City Park. More photos of Leif in the SCA will be on the way.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Surfer Dude Leif

Although we lived in Hawaii for three years when Leif was in elementary school, he never surfed, but he had a great sense of humor and loved to joke around. One day while I was cleaning out "stuff" we found an old blonde wig I had worn over twenty years earlier. It was a mess! He promptly put it on and pretended he was surfing, in the entrance to our kitchen at our old stone house (over a hundred years old) in Kansas.

Leif with snake

Leif had several snakes as pets, at different times, a boa, a python, and a garter snake. He had interesting names for them, like Pandora and Goldilocks. This particular snake he had a great time with, finally, along with his brother, getting his nieces to touch it. It's name was Shazbot.

He also loved cats and gave me two, Scamp and Merlin, at different times, but he couldn't have them because they gave him asthma.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Leif - Graduation from Army Infantry Basic 1998

Leif joined the army in January 1998, enlisting in the infantry. He managed to finish the basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia with a broken foot after another man fell on it during first aid training, ironically.

He became a machine gunner and armorer, and was an excellent marksman who was given several awards for it. He served at Fort Drum, NY, and served a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia. As time goes on, I'll post more photos of his military service.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Leif Garretson 2003 Photo

I love this photo because it shows the devilish grin and dimples Leif had, and really happy smiling eyes, something I saw less frequently in the past two years. This is how I want to remember him.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Memorials for Leif

We haven't yet set a date for Leif's memorial service, but some of his friends and colleagues have asked about sending flowers. Please don't send flowers. If you feel you'd like to contribute something in his memory, please choose an organization that helps wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, or one for disabled veterans. Leif felt very strongly about the war (he was against it) and about what was happening to his comrades in arms there.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Leif's Mass Effect Character

From the beginning, when we got our first Apple II in Japan when Leif was just in first grade, he loved computer games. One of our favorite family activities when we lived there and in Hawaii was to go to a video arcade and we all played those games, too.

As computer games became more sophisticated, he became more and more involved with them, enjoying everything from car racing games to first person shooters. In 2000, he found and became a part of that community. It was a big part of his life. He was a frequent poster on the Zaon forums, and the members of Zaon were online companions and friends.

He bought an Xbox just to be able to play Mass Effect and played it for hours and hours, days and days, different characters, different pathways to different results. He brought the Xbox to our house to show us the game on the big screen TV and we were suitably impressed.

He was impressed with everything about the game and talked with infectious enthusiasm about every aspect. He made several characters, playing both male and female parts. The picture above is his male character, and you can see that he modeled it closely upon himself.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Leif as a high school senior

How things change! This was Leif's high school graduation photo. He was slim and had luxurious long hair that guys said he should cut and girls loved. Even then, his hairline was high and receding, but this photo was so mesmerizing that the photo studio that took it made a huge print to display at their studio.

In high school, Leif didn't have a fancy sports car yet. He had to drive our old 1983 silver gray Maxima station wagon, so he "souped it up" with neon green windshield wipers, a boom box, and the loud heavy metal music he loved.

He was one of the first to get a cell phone, paying for the account from his first job as a telemarketer for Idelman, a firm that called Citi group account holders with offers on their accounts.

He trailed around in a long brown leather coat. How I wish I had a photo of him dressed like that!

Moderated Comments

Family and Friends, and others Leif knew that we didnt, please note that because this is a public blog and anyone can comment, I have arranged it so that I see the comments first and I have to approve them before they appear on the blog. This is what Blogger advises to help keep people who want to post inappropriate things on the blog out. I've had the experience on another blog, where someone "advertised" inappropriate things or placed links to sites having nothing to do with the blog, so I didn't want this to happen on the Remembering Leif blog.

Here's what happens. When you write a comment, Blogger emails it to me with a link to approve or disapprove it. As soon as I approve it, it will appear. If you are waiting to see that, you'd have to update the page, but it's practically instantaneous.

Thank you for your understanding! Don't worry, I'm not "censoring" any of your comments, just trying to keep the strangers out.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Man Loved Cars!

Leif loved cars. Driving was a passion for him, and he drove like he was in the Grand Prix, in places he certainly shouldn't have, but he was an excellent driver who loved the acceleration and G-forces.

When he was younger, he had a used Mazda RX-7 which he loved. He eventually sold it, but said someday he would get an RX-8. When he wrecked the black Dodge Stratus we loaned him the money for after he graduated from college, he went shopping, initially thinking he'd get a sensible Honda, but there this silver RX-8 was, shining on the lot, calling to him. It's a beautiful car he enjoyed driving.

Your Comments

I wish your comments showed as main posts. I guess that isn't possible unless I invite each person to be a blog author, which is rather unwieldy. But please, do click on the comments and read what responses people leave. They mean a lot to me, and I think they will to you, too.


Riding in the Sunshine

It's a beautiful morning, the sun shining, the mockingbird singing, the kind of day Leif would say is full of BOB, "big orange ball," his silly name for the sun. It's hard to believe he will never be here to call it that, and to glory in it. It's the kind of day he would have loved to ride his motorcycle around the bay area, at way too fast a speed.

Leif loved fast cars and fast motorcycles, and said riding a cycle was when he truly felt most alive, free and happy. We always worried he would die in a motorcycle or car crash, and he had a few, but survived those, only to die in a careless gun accident. He lived a life with many high risks, which he discounted. He insisted he was willing to take them to live that way, although I believe that like most young men, he probably believed he was invincible and could overcome them.

This photo is of him on his super fast Suzuki bike. It was stolen last spring and he bought a more sedate silver Honda. I don't have a photo of him on that bike, but now the bike sits in my garage.

I hope that somehow, if there is an afterlife, Leif is riding free and happy in the sun.


Note added 11/10/08: Leif's death was ruled a suicide. At the time I wrote this post, the medical examiner's report was not completed, and the detective at the scene had told us she felt it was an accident, though we thought from the beginning it was a suicide.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Remembering Leif

Leif Garretson was my son, who died on April 9, 2008 when he was just 33 years old. I'm starting this blog as a way to remember all the good times and love we shared in those 33 years, and I invite those of you who knew him to add your memories, too.

His death is so sudden and unexpected, and there is so much to do, that I will probably find time only to add small entries for awhile. I hope to make this a memorial to all that he was, to many of us.