Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Leif - City of Refuge, Hawaii - July 1980 - Age 5
It still amazes me, and probably will for the rest of my life, how most of the time I can talk about Leif and his life easily and then something unexpected will trigger a bout of sadness and tears. Today, Peter W. had a Transformers movie on television. I was busy and wasn't watching it, but then I heard the words "Optimus Prime." I said, "Leif had an Optimus Prime transformer toy when we were in Japan, and had kept it. It was with all Leif's Japanese toys that he gave to his nephew, Marcus. I had saved them in case Leif had a little boy to give them to someday."
It was that last sentence that brought the sadness and tears. I was never one of those mothers who would pressure her children into having kids so I could have grandchildren. I firmly believe that people should only have children if they really want them, not for someone else. However, until this moment I never realized how much I had, in my heart, wanted those grandchildren, and counted on them. Now I feel the loss of the grandchildren I never had, Leif's children who will never live. I realize all the things I collected or saved for them, the photos, Leif's toys, the things from his childhood, his school records and achievements, the books I bought for them. I even have his baby teeth. Somewhere in my mind I was counting on him having at least one child, even though he had protested nearly all his adult life that he didn't want children. I was preparing for them just as I had with Peter Anthony.
It was hard to imagine Leif as a parent for most of his adult life. Not only were his lifestyle and spending habits unlikely to mesh well with responsible fatherhood, but he hadn't shown a real affinity for kids until the last years of his life, when he clearly enjoyed being with his nieces and nephew and some of his friends' children, and came to love J's little girl when he was with her. It wasn't until he was over 30 when he wistfully said one evening at dinner at our house that he used to think he didn't want children but now he felt he did and might not ever have them. In one of his online dating profiles, he said he was interested in a relationship with a woman young enough to have children, so I know that was something he was looking forward to. I wonder still whether having a child depending upon him might have given him the purpose he so badly needed, and some of the love he sought.
And for my part, today I realized that I had far more invested in the children I hoped he would have than I had ever thought. I realized how sad I am that I will never hold them, play with them, read to them, teach them, take them on trips or to Disney World, all the wonderful things I am fortunate to be able to do with Peter Anthony's beautiful children. I am so grateful for them, but I would so have loved to have a grandchild from Leif, not only for the relationship with me, with us, but someone to carry on Leif's name, to remember him, to value him, to have someone to give all the memories of his life, his special things like his high school class ring, his swords, his bokken, his military uniforms and boots.
He would have had beautiful children, beautiful and brilliant, like he was. They would have enjoyed their cousins.
Who will remember him when I am gone? Half of my children are gone. Half of my grandchildren will never be.
This photo of Leif was taken at the City of Refuge on the Big Island of Hawaii in July 1980 when Leif was five-and-a-half years old.