Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leif's Twenty-Fourth and Last Home - Tampa, Florida - June 2007 - April 10, 2008

In June 2008, Leif followed through on his decision to move from the two-bedroom apartment on Del Prado to a one bedroom in the same apartment complex, on Bonita Vista Way. He said it would save him $200 a month. He also cut out cable television (may have done that even earlier) in another attempt to lower his expenses. He was struggling financially and was also trying to make it possible to pay his expenses on his own, as he had decided that although he wanted to remain friends with her, his romance with Donna was not healthy or wise for the two of them. He told me they reinforced each others bad qualities.

I had been concerned about them and thought it was for the best for both of them, and hoped that he would begin a new chapter of his life. He did, but it was not a happy one. Initially, Donna was still living with him and he said I should treat them like good friends who were roommates, but he started dating again and she was hurt and moved out. It wasn't for long, because on July 12, 2007, two years ago today, Leif had a motorcycle accident on his way back to work from a late lunch. He had a badly broken collarbone, scraped up hands and head, and was bruised up. Luckily it wasn't worse. He was released from the emergency room late that night. Donna volunteered to come back to his apartment to help take care of him and he accepted rather than come to stay with us. I thought that was a mistake but neither of them would listen to me. Things did not go well for long and on September 16, 2007, it was over.

He had surgery on July 27, 2007 to repair the collarbone, but was in a lot of pain. I begged him not to ride again, and we had a long text message discussion about it, but he ultimately got his bike back, which hardly had a scratch on it and started riding again.

He decided to try to help out his financial problems by using his GI Bill benefits and going back to school, so while he was laid up for a month and couldn't work (and luckily had short-term disability insurance through his work to support him) he applied to and was admitted to the University of South Florida, which wasn't far from where he lived. He enrolled in the fall semester of 2007 as a philosophy student, taking two evening courses.

I thought he was depressed, but he denied it. I sent him some online tests for depression that fall, but he insisted he passed them with flying colors. Of course, as smart as he was, and having been a psychology student, he knew what answers to give or not give. I think, though, that it was only partly trying to fool me. i think he was also fooling himself.

He began to spend money that fall in large sums, money he claimed he had from his insurance from the accident. When I questioned how he could afford what he was doing, he said it was "wheeling and dealing" and that he had sold some of his belongings, a computer, a gun, a monitor, maybe more but those are the things I remember him talking about.

The thing was, he didn't have all of the medical bills come in for months, and when they did, they piled up on him. Even with two types of health insurance, he still had large amounts of deductibles he was responsible for. But, typical of Leif, he did not volunteer this information to us. He undoubtedly didn't want us to know he was in over his head again, and as usual, thought he could solve his problems himself. Selling things was one way to do it. In addition to the things he sold others, he also sold a computer to us and one to his grandmother.

The closest he ever came to really admitting he was depressed was in November, when he sent that email to me that he was struggling to find meaning and purpose, and that he needed to be needed by someone.

I think things might have limped along and he might have been able to get through the financial crisis if he hadn't waited until the last minute (literally) to sign up for his spring 2008 semester classes at USF. He hadn't gotten an advising appointment, thinking that since he had already been through four years of college and knew how to pick degree requirements, he didn't need help. Leif was always doing things at the last minute. I'm not even sure he would have gotten enrolled for the spring semester if I hadn't asked him what he was taking. When he told me he didn't know, I was razzing him about it and he decided to sign on that night and check. That's when he found out he had barely a half hour, or something like that, to enroll. He chose two classes that he thought were sufficient.

He had attended about six weeks of classes and already paid his tuition and was past the point where he could withdraw and get it back when he got a notice that the GI Bill stipend was going to be discontinued because according to someone at USF the classes he enrolled in did not fulfill degree requirements. He was livid and quit school. He said they would not approve the classes, but he didn't try to appeal the decision. By the time he told us about it, he had already withdrawn from school. He didn't want to continue without the monthly support. His dad had a similar problem when he was using his GI Bill at KSU but he appealed the decision to a higher office and they sided with him. Peter W. told Leif that's what he should have done, but since Leif had already withdrawn, it was too late, and he was too upset and angry to care, or so he said.

However, that was the beginning of the end, I think. This was around the first of March 2008. He had to try to come up with an alternate plan to pay his bills, but he still didn't tell us how desperate he was, or even admit that he needed a lot of money. He would talk about being broke until payday and when I asked him how bad off he was he would say he was "broke but not broke-broke."

Sometime in March he decided to apply for personal loans. Every time in his past that he got into financial difficulties, he had either figured out a way to weather them or we had come to his rescue. I don't think he realized that he had gotten so far in debt that he couldn't get a loan. After all, he had gotten loans for cars and motorcycles before. However, he was turned down for the loans. The rejections letters were dated March 22, and we found them on his desk after he died.

The last time we saw him was March 23, 2008, which was Easter Sunday. I asked him to come to dinner and he said he couldn't afford the gas money. I told him I would give him gas money, and he came. We had a really wonderful visit and evening together. He probably still had some hope then, because he hadn't gotten the loan rejections yet, and had met a woman he had virtually fallen in love with at first sight. He sounded happy and hopeful, and we were so glad for him. We had no idea what his situation really was, and I don't think he did, either. If we had, I would certainly have given him far more than the $15 I gave him for gasoline!

Two and a half weeks later, he was dead, in this apartment, on April 9, 2008. This was the last place he lived.

The photos are:
1. Leif took this photo of himself with his iPhone on March 7, 2008, almost exactly a month before he died.
2. The building where Leif lived his last ten months of life, on Bonita Vista Way in Tampa.
3. Part of Leif's living room, taken by him with his cell phone, on July 25, 2007.
4. Leif's computer desk, taken by him on November 2, 2007.

Leif was not a good housekeeper. His apartments were usually a cluttered mess. There were a few parts he kept relatively neat. this end of his living room was one, but what you can't see in front of that were the boxes of stuff heaped on the floor, clothing and towels strewn on the couch and floor, the clothes on the floor in the bedroom by the unmade bed, and the cluttered up kitchen. About the only place that he consistently kept pretty neat and nice was his computer desk. He liked to have more than one monitor because he was both an avid online gamer and a multitasker. He liked to have more than one thing going on at a time on different monitors. By the time he died, he had sold some of this equipment.

This was a fairly nice apartment, but one thing about it that I don't think was good for a man who was depressed was that it was dark. It lacked the bright light that might have been better for him. That was made worse by his work schedule which had him working late nights, so that he came home in the dark, stayed up late online, and then slept late with his bedroom window covered up so the sun couldn't shine in a wake him. He spent most of his time indoors in dimly lighted places at home or indoors at work in a call center away from natural light. I don't pretend that more natural and brilliant light would have saved his life, but it would certainly have helped his moods.

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