Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Leif's Nineteeth and Twentieth Homes - Manhattan, Kansas - August 2001 to March 2005

When Leif moved out of the old stone house for the third time in his life, in August 2001, he moved into the first floor of a small house on 11th Street in Manhattan, Kansas, where he shared the place with a college student named Bonnie. It was the first time he'd had a female "roommate" and he said she was "perfect" for him because while they got along great and she was a good companion, he had no interest in her romantically. Leif lived better with someone, and although they lived like messy students, the two of them would set aside time to clean up the place together. Leif wasn't much on cleaning alone, but if someone else was there working with him, he would get busy and get things done. Companionship meant a lot to him.

It was a small place and he had moved back to Kansas with an apartment load of stuff he'd had during his marriage (though at this time he and Nikko were still legally married, she had left him a year earlier). Other than what Nikko came and picked up, a lot of his things were stored in the garage.

He had the place with Bonnie during the 2001-2002 school year and then she developed a brain tumor and wasn't coming back. He decided he couldn't afford the apartment by himself on his GI Bill and small salary as a school crossing guard employed by the Riley County Police Department, but the basement apartment, which was really tiny and crowded, was available, so he signed a lease on that and moved himself downstairs.

It was about that time when Peter W.'s mother, Ellen, fell and crushed her femur. By July 2002, it was clear that she was dying of complications due to years of undiagnosed and untreated diabetes which made healing of her leg impossible. She had been living for five years in a house we bought for her at 710 N. 9th Street in Manhattan, on the same city block as our old stone house, and because all of her things were in the house and we didn't want it to stand empty, we asked Leif to break his lease and move into the 9th Street house. We paid the fee for the broken lease. The house was a far nicer place to live than the cramped basement apartment but since we owned it and it was just around the corner from us on the same block, he also had to put up with our complaints about how he took care of it and mow the lawn. I had all my stock of books over there in the large basement, and had to go there to get books to sell, so I was in the house frequently (but always well announced). It also made it easy and convenient for Leif to walk over to our house for dinner at least on Sunday nights, and sometimes during the week, or for help with his Spanish, German or algebra homework.

Ellen died on September 22, 2002, just over two months after Leif moved into the house. It took me the better part of a year to sell and give away her belongings and he was very tolerant about me coming over there to work on that and have garage sales.

It was a great place for him to live, with a large living room-dining room area, nice kitchen, two bedrooms and bath upstairs and a full basement. Here he could spread out all his things, work on projects such as the fifty-pound chain mail shirt he made, the wooden guns he designed, cut out and sanded, and much more.

It was also where he lived for a few happy months with J. and her daughter, probably the happiest months of his life.

The 9th Street house was where Leif lived until we moved him to Florida with his dad. We started taking trips to Florida to see where we might like to settle. I think the first one we took was to the Tampa area and up the northwestern coast to the panhandle in March 2002. It was there that Leif rented the white Mustang convertible for a day and fell in love with the Tampa Bay area, especially St. Petersburg and Clearwater. He was just beginning to recover from his depression, as I think you can see in the photos of him above, taken in February 2002. He hadn't yet graduated from KSU or met J. yet, and he was beginning to have hope for his future again.

We continued to make trips to Florida during spring break when he was out of classes at KSU and Peter W. wasn't teaching German at the high school or middle school, looking for the right community for us. Once Leif had gone through the elation and heartbreak of his relationship with J., and found he was miserable in Manhattan where job prospects for a college grad (a dime a dozen in Manhattan) were dim, he was anxious to leave, needed to get out of there to survive. He and Peter W. had nothing holding them in Manhattan, once Peter W.,'s German teaching job was eliminated and Ellen was no longer living, and both of them wanted to move south for their health. Both of them suffered from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, and Leif suffered from cold weather asthma. Peter was miserable with allergies to Kansas plants. They wanted warmer climes and needed them.

The fall of 2004, we planned a Thanksgiving trip to Florida, and although Leif was going with us, I think he had given up on moving there with us because he wasn't willing to wait until we did it. At that time, we were planning to wait another four years to make the move. There was a variety of reasons, but some of them were my job, my publishing adventures, my mother, who I refused to leave alone in Kansas, and all that we had to do to get ready for such a move . . . plus we hadn't found the right place to move to yet. Leif felt he couldn't wait another four years and he couldn't afford to move that far on his own. At that time his friend Michael was living in Tulsa and he had visited him there. He decided if he couldn't move to Florida he could at least rent a truck and move to Tulsa, so he put a deposit on an apartment there that fall. I think that was in late Otober.

To our surprise, during our Thanksgiving trip, when we revisited the Melbourne and Sun City Center areas to try to decide between them, we made a decision and found a house. We all liked it, and it seemed like the right decision to go ahead and buy the house. One of the considerations Peter W. and I took into account was Leif. We felt it was critical to give him a chance at a new life in the place he really wanted to be. The town we were moving to wasn't his ideal place, a retirement community with no young people, but it was near many places that were full of them, particularly Tampa and Brandon, near his beloved St. Petersburg, and in a growing job market. We bought the house in December 2005. Leif canceled the apartment in Tulsa and lost his deposit, but gained the opportunity to move to warmer, sunnier climes.

The photo are:
1 & 2. Leif in Manhattan, Kansas, February 2002, with and without glasses, which he wore for distance vision only.
3. Leif on Bellaire Beach, Florida in March 2002.
4. Leif on a beach in Florida, March 2002.
5. 720 N. 9th Street house in Manhattan, Kansas where Leif lived twice, once briefly with Nikko from about March to July 1997, and then again from July 2002 to March 2005, a few months of which he lived there with J. and her daughter.
6. The house on 11th Street in Manhattan, Kansas, where Leif lived on the first floor with Bonnie for about nine months and alone in the basement apartment for about a month from August 2001 to June 2002.

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