Leif had dreamed of being a fighter pilot for years and I think he fashioned a good part of his personality around that dream and what he thought a fighter pilot would be like, but when he was fourteen, that dream was shattered when he found out his eyes weren't good enough to pass a flight physical. It wasn't only the end of a dream to fly, but also the end of something I don't even know if he was fully aware he was pursuing . . . following in the footsteps of his father and older brother as a pilot.
I found this short essay that he wrote for a school assignment that year, when he was a freshman in high school, about how he learned of the end of this dream. While what he says is true about it opening other avenues he hadn't considered, his way of brushing aside his disappointment is quintessentially Leif. He would always present things to others as though he could take it nonchalantly, whether this was true inside or not. This was a major disappointment for him. I think if it had been the only one, it would have passed and he would have excelled at something else. Unfortunately, his life seemed to be a series of such disappointments when it came to both love and career.
He went into Air Force ROTC in college, and was a top notch cadet, but when he went to summer camp, he pulled a muscle in his groin and wasn't able to do the sit-ups, and ended up failing the physical fitness test because of that. Then he was out of sequence for graduation and would have been a year behind. In typical Leif fashion he decided that wasn't for him. He didn't want to have to go back and do it over, and he didn't want to be around college an extra year, so he dropped out of ROTC. This was a big shame because he would have been an excellent officer.
Then when he enlisted in the infantry and tried to excel there, and did, as the best machine gunner, he was once again, for the third time, betrayed by his body, which looked so incredibly big, strong and tall. This time it was his lungs when he got asthma and couldn't keep up on the runs.
But here is Leif in his own fourteen-year-old words;
End of the Illusion
After they finally called us in from the waiting room I was led into one of those typical optometrist's offices with one of those chairs with one of those odd-looking gadgets that resemble a pair of goggles attached to it.
After waiting around examining the equipment I was greeted by by the most attractive brunette I have seen in some time who
introduced herself as "Dr. Danny" (short for Danielle).
We fumbled around for a while trying to make sure that my eyes weren't going to explode from glaucoma and then she planted me in the chair and began to flip switches, turn dials, and make me dizzy with all the different lenses that blurred everything totally out of focus, and this discomfort was compounded despite her charming company by the itchy sensation produced by the aggravating dye that she had dropped in my eye for the glaucoma test.
She constanly asked me which was clearer and to read the smallest line on the chart. After about an our of this she pulled
the metallic monster away from my face and said in a rather sympathetic voice, "How do you feel about wearing glasses."
It was that moment that began my realization that I had been deluding myself for several years as to what I wanted to do for a career. Ever since I had been a little kid I had dreamed of being a fighter pilot and had gotten myself so locked into this ambition that I had completely ignored my other interests, and as I know now, I have many. Flying has always been a passion in my life and still is, but other things, not the least of which is music (this is evident to anyone who enters my room, which is cluttered with dozens of tapes, CDs, and records, guitars, music books, and last but definitely not least, is the giant centerpiece, my Kenwood "Spectrum 875 music system and entertainment center," with a matching set of speakers boasting a combined output of over 620 WATTs, which I was willing to part with $1,199.00 to aquire).
Although it came as a bit of a shock to discover that the ideal of being flight eligible that I had been dreaming of for so long was no longer a possibility by the normal means, it was also a blessing in disguise because I had locked myself into an occupation that I really wasn't sure that I wanted to do for the rest of my career, and music, photography, and snowboarding, all have become an integral part of my life.
Today as I was thinking about this, we were in a store in Sarasota where they have many of these placards with witty, interesting and poignant sayings, and I realized when I was reading them, for many of them were about believing in dreams, having hope, believing that something wonderful will happen, that I have lost that belief, that my illusions were shattered when Leif died.