Saturday, February 28, 2009

Leif & His Dad - Bellows Beach, Hawaii - August 1987 - Age 12

One time when we were at Bellows Beach, the guys found a piece of a styrofoam boogie board and decided it looked like a gravestone, so Leif decided to bury his dad in the sand and make a "tombstone" out of it and have me take photos. They had a blast doing it. You can see Leif posing beside the buried daddy and then Peter W. "escaping" from his sandy "grave."

We thought this was very funny, and actually there are more in a series of photos I took. We sent copies to Peter W's mother, Ellen, and she said she about had a heart attack. Apparently, all she saw when she took them out of the envelope with the letter was a tombstone and her son's head sticking out of the grave, not realizing no one would be buried that way if they were dead.

This was in August 1987 on one of our trips back to Hawaii flying space available on military aircraft (usually tanker refueling flights that were training missions for the National Guard) out of O'Hare Airport. We were living in the Chicago area then at Fort Sheridan, no longer in balmy Hawaii.

Leif was 12 years old.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Peter A. & Leif - FRAVs - Bellows Beach, Hawaii - 1984 - Leif age 9

Our favorite beach in Hawaii, and probably our favorite of all the places we've been, is Bellows Beach, a strip of land on the leeward side of Oahu that is officially an air force base, and actually still has a weed covered airfield on it, which has cottages and camping spaces, but most of all, a glorious beach with a view of the mountains.

It was one of our favorite excursions to go to the beach and then afterward for quesadillas at Bueno Nalo, a great little Mexican restaurant just down the beach (which last I knew had moved to the town of Waimanalo after we moved away), and then to Dave's Ice Cream for the most terrific coconut ice cream. A wonderful afternoon!

This photo was taken sometime in 1984. Peter A. and Leif were drawing FRAVs on the beach. FRAVs were invented by Peter A. and Darren, his best friend in Japan. They were a bit like the tiny beings in the movie "Batteries Not Included" (though they came up with the FRAVs before the movie came out) and a bit like Transformers, in that they could fold themselves into a variety of shapes with a variety of uses. They each had a special one, and Peter A. designed FRAVs for me and for Leif as well. He and Darren filled notebooks with FRAV designs. Their two "personal" FRAVs were Ace and Fran.

Leif was caught up in the ideas and designs, too. They all had a lot of fun with them, but they were more than fun. They were truly imaginative and wonderful.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leif - ActionQuest - Summer 1991 - Caribbean - Age 16

When Peter Anthony was sixteen, he was an AFS foreign exchange student to Greece during the summer of 1985. It was a terrific experience for him, and we wanted to give Leif something comparable when he was sixteen. Leif wasn't interested in an AFS experience, so I decided I needed to find out what else was available. I sent for brochures, videos, and other information from a large number of summer opportunities for teens, everything from sports to music, from a circus camp to drama. I picked those I was willing to provide and then let Leif make his choice.

Leif chose ActionQuest, a sailing program for teens that takes place in the British Virgin Islands and brings teens from all over the world to sail on their fleet of boats, learn to sail, take care of the boats, and do their own cooking and cleaning. It was a terrific experience for Leif and he loved it! When he came home with his long hair braided in tiny braids and tanned very dark, he looked like Tarzan.

I know Leif took pictures on his sailing trip, but I haven't found them. He must somehow have lost them along the way. The photo above is from a SCUBA diving trip to the island of Vieques with his dad, but I'll use it to represent his time with ActionQuest.

Leif always wanted to go back and sail the Caribbean again. He would have loved working for ActionQuest. I wish he'd had the chance to do it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leif - NCL Caribbean Cruise - August 1993 - Age 18

We just came home from a three night cruise to the Bahamas. We were remembering each day how much Leif enjoyed the two cruises we took him on when he was a teenager and how we wanted to take him again. I had asked him about a year ago whether he still had a passport and whether he had any vacation time at work, because I wanted to schedule a cruise (but I didn't tell him that part because I wanted it to be a surprise). He never answered me about the passport, and I didn't find one among his belongings after his death, but he said he had no vacation. I'm sad that we weren't able to take him on another cruise, or find a way for him to go on one with his friend Michael. I think it would have been a great time for the two of them.

These photos were taken on the cruise we took the summer after Leif graduated from Manhattan High School. He was eighteen, tall and handsome with very long hair. He looked like Tarzan and could have graced the cover of romance novels or been a model.

Leif had a great time on the cruise and had a shipboard romance with a lovely young woman from England who was a dealer in the casino. Her name was Jacquie and he was quite enamored of her. He had quite a few photos he took of the two of them together. After the cruise, she wrote to him a few times, but he didn't answer. I used to think that Leif didn't answer people because he was either to lazy to write back or didn't care, but at some point he made it clear that it was too hard emotionally for him to try to keep contact with someone he cared about who was so far away he would likely never see them again. When he was older and email became established, he did keep contact with people, but not in 1993.

Two of these photos were taken during the "formal" night on board ship, at our dinner table. The one at the top, with him in his purple silk shirt, was taken at Playa del Carmen on the "Mayan Riviera" near Cancun and Cozumel. He was fascinated by the Mayan Ruines and he loved Cozumel.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Got Ice Cream? - Leif in Japan - May 1982 - Age 7

Who doesn't like ice cream? Leif always did, from that very first ice cream cone back in Manhattan, Kansas that I posted months ago, to the love of Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan that he asked us to bring to him after he had his motor cycle accident. He could eat a whole pint at a sitting if he let himself, though that wasn't a good idea for his weight.

But back in Japan when he was seven years old there was no worry about that. He could just enjoy slurping it up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time Out for Company

I'm enjoying visits from my sisters in the next couple of weeks and we have a lot planned, so there will be some days I won't manage to post on this blog. It's happened before, but I've been posting daily pretty consistently for quite awhile now. I don't want anyone who reads RememberingLeif to think I'm not going to continue. I plan to write the blog for the forseeable future.

Leif - Sagamihara, Japan - Fall 1981 - Age 6

This photo really should have been posted with the photos I took of Leif in the hideout or "fort" he and a friend made out of the branches of a tree that had been trimmed or cut down. I put them on the blog some time ago. Leif was pulling on a handle he and his friend had attached to a rope, but why I no longer remember. He has a backpack on. I don't think this was his school backpack, but rather one with "supplies" and toys for play.

Our three years in Japan were a marvelous time for stretching the imagination and the mind. There was so much to absorb, learn, understand. The Japanese toys were fascinating. The travel was amazing. The language was mysterious. The Japanese children's television shows were compelling. Every day, it seemed, brought something new. There was little that was routine. Even school brought cultural treats. Thus it was a rich and enriching time for all of us, changed our thinking, changed our lives.

Leif arrived in Japan at the age of five-and-a-half and left when he was eight-and-a-half. That is a time of great change in a child, and much of what he experienced there remained important to him the rest of his life.

We were fortunate to be there at that time. It was good for us as a family as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"I have not been tested."

I've been writing this blog for over 10 months, about Leif's life and my feelings about his life and death. There is no lack of memories, and no end to going over the end of his life and trying to understand. The other day, a phrase came to me, "I have not been tested." I have not been put to the tests that he had to face. If I had been, how would I have fared?

It's a version of the old saying that you shouldn't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes. None of us can ever walk in Leif's shoes, and no matter how we try to fathom what he thought, felt and experienced, it will always be at a distance. He is not here to tell us. We will not be tested in the same way that he was. I pray that none of us ever will be.

He must have wondered why his life was so hard, why his loves went wrong, his career didn't develop, his military service took his health and self esteem, why he never could get ahead, find love, achieve his goals.

I look at this photo of him when he was about five-and-a-half, shortly after we moved to Japan. He looks so innocent, so sweet. He had hurts even then, but they were the smaller hurts of childhood, the ones that pass without the scars and wounds that stay. Five is a wonderful age. Five-year-olds are cheerful, cooperative, usually helpful, ready to have fun. Leif was like that, and also ernest, thoughtful, though at times he could be moody and pout.

It was that school year in kindergarten that he was referred for testing to find out just how smart he was. The school psychologist was astonished at how high he scored and asked Leif where he learned all that. Leif's reply was that he learned it all from a "silly little game called the 'Little Professor.'"

This, of course, wasn't true, but what was a five-year-old to say to such a question? The Little Professor was a children's math "trainer" that looked like a calculator with an owl on it. The instrument would give the child a math problem and the kid would have to key in the answer. Leif was quite good at this early on. (For those of you who never saw a Little Professor, I'm posting a link in the links section to a site that has a photo and explains it.)

Electronic learning toys are much more sophisticated now, but I don't know whether kids learn any more than ours did from the early examples they encountered when we got to Japan.

"I have not been tested." That doesn't mean I have never dealt with sadness, disappointment, death, hard work, hurt feelings, health problems, deep worries. I am being tested now. How will I ultimately deal with Leif's death and my sadness and grief, not only because of his death but because of the terrible knowledge that my son was so unhappy he chose to end his life and that I could not help him, or was not allowed to? It is a hard test, but even that test does not compare to the crushing load he faced.

Being smart did not help him make the choices he needed to make. Being smart did not insulate him from loneliness, disappointments, and pain. Being smart did not give him the power to achieve his goals. Being smart may have even contributed in some ways to his isolation.

I have not walked in Leif's shoes, though I daily try to understand what that was like. I have not faced his tests and I hope I never do, but realizing that, I cannot judge him, for I have not walked in his shoes.

This photo was taken of Leif in the fall of 1980, not long after we had moved to Japan. He was five-and-a-half years old.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Leif & Peter Anthony - Izu Peninsula, Japan - June 11, 1983 - Age 8

When we lived in Japan we were so fortunate that the MWR (Morale Welfare Recreation) branch planned Saturday trips to attractions around our area of Japan for a mere $2 per person. We took advantage of as many of these as we could. Riding on an army bus wasn't the most comfortable way to travel, but we had a good time and saw so many interesting things. I remember the added "attraction" of driving down the freeway next to a fancy bus full of Japanese tourist who started passing things between the buses through the window, food and drink to trade. It was certainly fun but hardly safe.

One of the many places we visited this was was the Izu Peninsula, where these three photos were taken, a place famous for its rugged coastline and hot springs, and the nearby Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. This was one of the last trips we got to take in Japan, as we moved to Hawaii the following month.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Leif, Peter Anthony & Peter W. - Kyoto, Japan - May 1982 - Age 7

In May 1982, we made a trip to Kyoto, staying in a ryokan (Japanese style hotel) and enjoying the sights like the Kinkakuji Temple and many others, gardens, the city.

Two of these photos were taken at one of the temples, where Leif was fascinated by some Japanese boys who were there with drawing boards sketching the temple and things in the gardens. Leif also loved feeding the pigeons there. They were very tame and would eat right out of your hand. You can see them eating out of Peter Anthony's hand.

The third photo of the boys asleep on their futons at the ryokan. Over the years, I had several photos of the two of them basically cuddled up like puppies. I loved taking those photos.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Moods - Leif at 5 Years - Hawaii & Japan

When I was a child, my mother would try so hard to take "good" photos of us kids, and we were always acting silly. It made her so frustrated! When I was quite small, I could really pout and put on a crying spell and Mom once threatened to take a photo of my crybaby face and blow it up so I'd have to look at it that way myself but I don't think she ever did. At least, I don't have such a photo, though there is one of me pouting when I was about two years old.

I made up my mind that I would take photos of my kids doing any silly or ordinary thing, whether they had a nice smile or were posing or not. I'm so glad I did, because I have photos that really tell the stories of their lives. I just wish I had even more. Since I've been doing this blog, I realize the ones that are missing, that I wish I had taken and somehow didn't. There will never be enough. Every one of them is precious. Each one brings back memories.

These two photos were taken of Leif in 1980 when he was five years old. When we were in Hawaii on the way to Japan, Leif was acting silly and sticking out his tongue. Now that's a photo a lot of mothers never would have taken but I'm glad I have it. That was in July 1980. It was a good, and very long, trip from Germany to Japan, with stops in Kansas, California and Hawaii on the way.

The second photo, of Leif pouting, was taken at a park in Tokyo in October 1980. I no longer remember why he was upset, but he certainly had a few moments of unhappiness. Most likely, he either wanted to buy or do something I wouldn't allow. Luckily, Leif's moods didn't usually last long. I loved his expressiveness.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Leif on Kalapana Black Sand Beach, Hawaii - July 1980 - Age 5

What little boy doesn't love to throw stones in the water? Or big boys, for that matter. These photos were taken on our first trip to Hawaii, on our way (a long way with many stops) from Germany to Japan, when we moved there in July 1980.

One of the places we saw on the Big Island of Hawaii was Kalapana Black Sand Beach. Now, it, too, is gone, covered by the lava that destroyed several small towns in 1990. The road we drove on to get there is now far from the sea, as the lava extended the island.

When I look at photos like these of Leif, this age and older, I see now a real vulnerability none of us saw then because he was so big for his age, so strong, and so brave and self-contained.

It was a good trip, a good time, part of that best decade of our lives.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Leif on a lava field - Hawaii - December 1985 - Age 10 (almost 11)

We visited the "Big Island," Hawaii, twice. The first time was on our way across the Pacific when we were moving from Germany to Japan. The second was during our three year tour in Hawaii. After two years of warm, even hot, Christmases on the island of Oahu, I was hankering for some cooler weather. It seemed so odd to me, a "Northern girl," to be wearing shorts or muumuus on Christmas, hearing "Jingle Bells" and "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" in 80 degree weather, and seeing fake snow on the windows of Pizza Hut.

So, we went to the Kilauea Military Camp on the edge of the Kilauea Crater on the Big Island of Hawaii for Christmas. We stayed in one of the lava rock cabins. It was rustic, rural, unusual, and spectacular. We saw a lot of fantastic scenery. This photo is of Leif on one of the lava flows. He loved climbing around that stuff and seeing the odd formations. He was almost eleven years old.

We hadn't thought about where we were going to eat Christmas dinner. The nearest city was Hilo, so we drove there thinking we would find a nice place to eat. It was Peter Anthony's seventeenth birthday (my Christmas baby) so we had a double reason for wanting a nice dinner. But, we couldn't find anything open! We found one hotel, but Peter W. didn't like it and thought we could find something better. No such luck. We drove around for a long, long time. Even Pizza Hut was closed. We finally found an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) open and were so hungry we settled for that. It wasn't what we had hoped for, but instead of a great dinner, we got a great story.

We found out the next day that were we should have headed was to Kona, where the tourist hotels are. It was farther away, but that's where the good Christmas dinners were.

However, we were happy to be together celebrating. How lucky we were to have those days.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Leif Ericson & Books for a Grandchild I Will Never Have

My mother's ancestry is Norwegian, and I grew up with a keen appreciation of Norwegian heritage and the saga of Leif Ericson and the discovery of America. In those days, when we were taught in school that Columbus discovered America (with, of course, no regard at all for the many peoples who already lived here and got here from elsewhere!), my friends would not believe me when I insisted that Leif Ericson was the discoverer. Now that is accepted as fact.

Leif was named after that intrepid Norwegian explorer, and the name fit him well. He would have made a fine Viking, a fine ship's captain, a fine explorer, had he been born in another time and place.

When I was a children's librarian, I purchased three books which had a "Leif" as the main character. Two were about Leif Ericson. Leif was already over 18 when I got these picture books and wouldn't have had much interest in them. I bought them for the children I hoped he would have someday. Since most books go out of print so quickly, I couldn't wait until he actually had children, and I didn't doubt that he someday would. I thought it would be both satisfying and fun to read the stories about Leif's namesake to his children and teach them about that part of their heritage.

At that time, I thought that "Leif the Lucky" fit my son. He was tall, slim, handsome smart, funny. He seemed to have so much going for him, to BE lucky, but somehow, the luck did not hold.

The third book, "Master Maid" would have been appropriate in another way. It is a retelling of a Norwegian folk tale in which a prince is able to trick a giant by listening to "Master Maid," who is able to give him the secret advice he needs. In this retelling, Leif has to learn to trust her advice the hard way and finally resolves to marry her and listen to her advice the rest of his life. Leif really needed that, needed a level-headed woman with good life skills and advice. I wish he had found the soulmate he wanted and that she had been a "Master Maid."

In his twenties Leif said he didn't want children. I wondered if he would ever change his mind. I think what did change it was his love for and romance with the young woman who had a daughter. I think he loved her daughter as his own and when he lost them both it was a terrible blow. One evening when he was here for dinner in the fall of 2007, about six months before he died, he made a very wistful comment that he used to think he didn't want children, but now he knew he just didn't find the right woman to have them with. He seemed to think he never would have any, and I could see it made him sad. He got along so well with kids, and really enjoyed his nieces. I'm sorry he never had that chance, to be a father. Maybe it would have given him some purpose in life, someone who needed and depended upon him. Maybe it would have changed him.

But those speculations are useless now.

He would have had beautiful, intelligent children and we would have loved them.

Now, what am I to do with these books, intended for them? The books that tell the saga of the great explorer for whom Leif was named, the book about the "master maid" that Leif needed in his own life. Who will I read them to?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Garretson Class Tellan Reconnaissance Scout Ship

I've written before about Leif's deep involvement in the development of the ZAON game and his participation in the ZAON forums. It was a major interest of his, an outlet for his creative ideas and opinions, a source of friendship and respect, and a great help to him in overcoming his depression after a failed romance in 2004.

When Leif died, the ZAON forum participants held a vigil in Leif's honor on the day we had his memorial service, and Justin Winters, the ZAON Creative Director, designed a space ship for the game as a tribute to Leif and a way to keep him in the game, offering the blueprints, and sending a copy to us. We were very touched and glad Leif had friends who cared about him that much.

Three weeks ago, Brian Stearns, ZAON Contributing 3D Artist, did two rendered model views of the ship and posted them on the ZAON forum. Justin and Brian gave me permission to post images of the ship here on Leif's blog. I appreciate that.

I wish I could see Leif's reaction to this ship. The ZAON players think it's awesome and say it incorporates all the "demands" Leif kept making for smaller player oriented ships.

I hope Leif is somehow traveling among the stars he dreamed of.

Leif & Peter Anthony on a Swing - Tokyo, Japan - May 8, 1983

I wish I knew which park this was in Tokyo. We only went to this one once, and it was on May 8, 1983, when our time in Japan was dwindling. We moved to Hawaii about two months later.

It was a fun trip and the boys enjoyed all the playground equipment, especially this unusual swing, which they had going very high.

I was still taking both black and white and color photos in those days, and I think this is the same park where I took photos of Peter Anthony sitting beside a monkey, the two of them imitating each other.

Peter W. and I were talking today about the best times of our lives. They were the years when we had our children together and they were young, the years we spent in Charlottesville, Virginia, Germany, Japan and Hawaii, from the summer of 1976 to the summer of 1986. Those were a charmed ten years, a wonderful decade with our boys. We got to experience so much of the world, experience their growing and becoming. We were together, and their problems were small and solvable then. Ours were, too. We were young and vital and happy.

Oh, yes, we had our moments of frustration and anger, our days of irritation and unhappiness, but they passed quickly and were washed away by all the good days and happy times. We were so lucky to have them.

We are so lucky still, to have those memories and the photos to take us back to those days.

In these photos, Peter A. was 14 and Leif was 8 years old, and they were happy, too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thoughts on Time and Grief

Time is an artificial construct. Does the universe keep time? On earth, we count time by days, determined by the earth's revolution, and years, determined by the earth's path around the sun, and divide up those major divisions in order to mark our months, our hours, our minutes and seconds. But those are all meaningless away from the confines of earth and even here they are artificial. We talk as though 3:00 p.m. or October 30th, has some meaning other than the abstract concept within our earth time.

And yet, those abstract concepts mark out the measures of our lives. We set great meaning and store in them. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries. We remember when things happen by those dates. We plan the future by them. Without time, how could we understand our history, our present, or our future?

Thus it is that for Peter W. and me, the 9th and 10th of the month will always have a special and sad significance, for we know that Leif died on the 9th of April and we found him on the 10th. On the 9th of each month, we know that another month as passed without him; each 10th reminds us of what we have lost and will never have again.

February 10th is a doubly sad day for me, for that is the anniversary of my father's death in 1960, another day I lost someone who meant the world to me, another man who could not fight his depression any longer and lost the battle to live. Another man who took his own life, and who I found. Another man, who likely passed on, through me, a genetic predisposition to that terrible depression and doomed my son as he had been doomed.

Why should these days be any sadder than others, since time is abstract? Because that is how we humans define life. We organize it by time. And therefore, today is yet another milestone of grief.

Ten months since our beloved son died. Ten months of asking why? Ten months of settling his affairs. Ten months of memories, photos. Ten months of no text messages, no phone calls, no visits, no email. Ten months of getting up each day to remember all over again that our son is dead.

Ten months of missing his mischievous brown eyes. Ten months of no bear hugs. Ten months with no lively conversations about life, politics, gadgetry, computers, cell phones, cars, guns. Ten months of the hole in our hearts, which has not grown smaller.

If he is anywhere in this universe, earthly time most likely has little or no meaning to him now. How would he count the days, the hours, the months since he decided to pull the trigger? Would he regret it? Or is he happier now?

I thought it would get easier. They say time heals. Perhaps it will, someday. So far, it has not.

Time has not healed me. I look in the mirror and I see someone who looks ten years older than I did a year ago, ten years sadder, not ten months. I don't see the dancing sparkle in my eyes any more. They look sad and old.

I think about "putting on a good front." I think about the song in "The King and I," "Whenever I Feel Afraid." Is putting on a good front a good idea? It certainly makes things easier for others, and for me when I'm with them. It's kinder. But it's not honest, yet that's how it has to be.

As to whistling a happy tune, I understand the concept of acting happy or unfraid to convince oneself. I've tried. I keep trying. Maybe someday it will work. I am not unhappy all the time. There are moments when I'm happy. Someday, those moments will last longer. I hope.

Today Peter asked me whether writing the blog makes it worse for me, whether it just reminds me. My reply was, "Do you think I need a reminder?"

The blog doesn't make me any sadder. It does give me an outlet, both for grief and for memories, a way to share them both, a way to keep his memory alive.

He lived.

And I will always love him.

I will always miss him.

No matter how many days pass. No matter how many years pass.

He was; he is, my son.

Leif - Todaiji Temple - Nara, Japan - February 12, 1983 - Age 8

In February 1983, the organization I worked for, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District, held a conference in Osaka. While I was at the conference, Peter W. went sightseeing with the boys, and at the end of the conference, we took the train to the nearby city of Nara and visited the famous temples.

One of the most famous was Todaiji, said to be the largest wooden building in the world, which houses the Great Buddha of Nara, 15 meters tall. Also inside the temple are two huge support pillars which have holes cut through the bottom. People visiting the temple, especially children, crawl through them. Reputedly, they are "healing pillars" and making it through them guarantees a place in heaven.

Our boys had fun acting like they were stuck. There's Leif, age 8, doing his best to look caught. He is wearing an embroidered satin jacket Peter W. got in Korea for him.

You can see part of his cast. He still had it on for his broken arm. I wrote about that for his eighth birthday. Somewhere on the internet, I read that crawling through the pillar is also supposed to

It was a great trip with the boys. We had so many good times in Japan.

Now, with the internet, you can even see a video on YouTube of what must be an entire school class of Japanese kids waiting in line and crawling through one of the pillars.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Leif on a rock - Japan - June 1982 - Age 7

On the same trip to the Japanese National Park, Bandai Asahi, where Leif climbed on the earth moving machine, he couldn't wait to get as far out on the rocks in the stream as he could go. Sure footed, he was, and he never fell or slipped. He was curious, seeking, always trying to go farther, see more.

He was seven years old and life held many explorations.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Leif on Fire Engine - Camp Zama, Japan - May 1981 - Age 6

Living in the army military community at Camp Zama and Sagamihara in Japan was like living in a small 1950s town in many ways, except that outside the gates life was Japanese, and you couldn't mistake it for the 50s when you saw all the electronic gadgetry.

One of the small town celebrations was on Armed Forces Day in May. There were all kinds of displays in the Camp Zama park, and one of them was a fire engine. The kids got to climb on it, get into the driver's seat, and generally enjoy exploring the big vehicle. Naturally, Leif was captivated. It was at the same Armed Forces Day celebration when he got to sit in a helicopter (photos posted earlier) and have fun at the park.

He's kind of hard to see in this small photo, but he's there standing by the door, just a bit over six years old at the time.

Japan was a good time for our family. I have very fond memories of those three years.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Leif on earthmoving machine - Japan - June 1982 - Age 7

Leif didn't just climb rocks, trees, hills and playground equipment. He climbed just about anything he could, and particularly loved big vehicles. In June 1982, when he was seven-and-a-half years old, we took a trip to one of Japan's national parks. I think it was the Bandai Asahi National Park. While there, he spotted this big machine and how he would have loved to really operate it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Leif - Monterey, California - July 1980 - Age 5

The summer of 1980, we moved from Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany to Japan. On the way, we visited England, family in Kansas, Peter W's mother, Ellen Garretson, in Monterey, California, and stopped to enjoy Hawaii.

Leif was to visit Monterey and his grandmother there several more times with us over the years, but this was his first time there. He had a great time walking (and running) along the trail by the sea to Lovers Point, which is where the "little devil with horns" photo was taken. He scrambled all over the rocks. Had me scared, as usual, but he was fearless.

Sometimes Leif liked posing for photos, and he tolerated it if someone was just taking candid shots of whatever he was doing, but he (like most kids) didn't relish posing for family group shots. You can see him acting really silly in the one with me, Ellen, and Peter A, who was eleven years old.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Leif & His Dad - Heidelberg, Germany - APril 1978 - Age 3

We moved to Fuerth, Germany, next to Nurnberg, when Leif was two-and-a-half years old in the summer of 1977. The following spring, we made a trip to visit Peter W's relatives in Heidelberg, the city where he was born and lived until he was fourteen years old. It was Easter time, in April 1978, and Leif was then three years old.

While we were there, we walked along the Neckar River, where both boys wanted to hang on a large iron ring set into the sandstone wall. It was probably intended as a place to tie up one of the barges that ply the river. They were having a good time.

It was a chilly spring day, but a good day for a brisk walk and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the view across the river to the old city and the castle.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Leif climbing the rocks - Hong Kong - April 1983 - Age 8

In April 1983 we went on a great trip from Japan, where we were living, to Hong Kong. The boys had a blast shopping. They bought things you wouldn't expect an eight-year-old and a fourteen-year-old to even look at, much less purchase. One thing they each bought was a snazzy "James Bond" style leather briefcase with built in combination lock. I'm not sure, but I think Peter A. still has his, and Leif still had his at least until his move from Kansas to Florida in 2005. They treasured those cases. I don't remember the other things they bought, except for Peter A.'s electronic chess set, but I know Leif did buy at least one cool toy.

We saw a great Chinese music and dance show, visited many places in Hong Kong, rode the Star Ferry, went to the jade market and Aberdeen. I think it was in Aberdeen that Leif was climbing on these rocks. As I've written, as a child, Leif never wanted to miss an opportunity to climb whatever was around to climb, and he was very good at it. It they had had those climbing walls that are around these days, I'm sure he would have loved them. He seemed fearless.

The odd thing was, he had a fear of heights, but it only manifested itself in places where he was very high up and there was no kind of enclosure around him or at least between him and the drop off, or nothing to hang onto. If he was climbing and had something solid to hang onto, he felt he had control. That was the whole issue, his being in control of the situation. I can't recall him ever falling when he was climbing.

I'm glad he had the chance to travel with us as a child, and some as an adult. I wish he'd been able to see all the incredible changes in Hong Kong when we visited it again in the October 2007, 24 years after he was there as an eight year old child.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Leif - Kodomo no Mori, Zama, Japan - February 1981 - Age 6

Not far from the Camp Zama, Japan base was a park in the woods called Kodomo no Mori, which loosely translates as "children's woods." It had all kinds of interesting things to climb on, made from such things as large logs and huge ropes. There were trails and a maze to go through, too.

On a mild day in February 1981, when Leif was six years old, we went there for the afternoon and had a great time. It was the perfect place for Leif, who loved to climb. It was also a place to wear your "play clothes," because it was also a great place to get dirty.

We all had fun there, as we did so many places in Japan.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Leif in the Apple Tree - Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany - May 1979 - Age 4

As a child, Leif loved to climb things. Anything. Trees, rocks, ladders, whatever had the possibility of going up high. When we lived in Sachsen bei Ansbach for two years, he had plenty of opportunities. We had seven plum trees and two apple trees in our yard, and there was a woods close by. He was fearless about it, though as his mother, I wasn't. I had been a climber as a kid, too, and was pretty fearless myself, but it's a lot different when you're the parent responsible for the kid's safety.

Leif liked this apple tree, and it was particularly nice this time of the year, with the blossoms. He was four years old in this photo.