Monday, November 23, 2009

My Three Guys - Giuseppi's Dinner Restaurant - Colorado Springs, CO - May 28, 1991 - Age 16

My two sons, horsing around together; how I loved seeing that, them having fun with each other. These photos were taken the same evening as the last group, outside  Guiseppe's Depot restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before we attended the Graduation Balls on May 28, 1991. Peter A. graduated from the Air Force Academy the next day.

This is a good example of how strong Leif was, to pick up his brother like that. Below, the two of them are "putting their best feet forward." They look like they are ready to take on the world and conquer it together.

I know Leif was enormously proud of his older brother and respected him greatly for graduating from the Air Force Academy. He must have wished he could follow in his footsteps, but for many reasons, that was not to be.

It was certainly a proud moment for all of us and we were so glad to be there to share it as a family. Peter W. got to pin on Peter A.'s lieutenant's bars wearing his own uniform and attend the ball in his mess dress blues. Leif was dressed in his stylish silver-gray suit and turquoise tie. He was only sixteen but he looks so tall and grown up.

It's odd what things around me trigger sadness and a deep sense of missing Leif. Yesterday we were in O'Hare Airport in Chicago on our way back from visiting Peter A. and family in India when it hit me that this Thanksgiving we will be here with only three of us, Peter W., my mother and me. Leif will not be coming. It seemed inexpressibly sad. Last year, I convinced Peter W. to go to the Washington DC area so that we could spend Thanksgiving with Peter A. and his family, our nephew Rick and his family, and my sister Lannay and her family. It was a warm and loving crowd of people celebrating together and it kept me from feeling Leif's absence so acutely. This year, there will be no big gathering to distract me.

Then, as I glanced around the restaurant where we were having breakfast, I nearly did a double-take. Across the aisle and down a table or two sad "Leif." Of course it wasn't him, but it was a man who was about Leif's age, with a shaved head and a mustache and goatee. From the side he looked uncannily like Leif, and that's when I nearly lost it. It didn't take more than a few seconds for tears to be brimming in my eyes. I tried to keep it under control, since we were in a public place, but I didn't completely succeed. I just wanted Leif to be there, to be with us for Thanksgiving.

The holidays this year will be hard. Although last year's Thanksgiving and Christmas were the first times without him, they were cushioned by the presence of many people we love. This year, we will not have others with us to fill our hearts and minds. This year, we will face his loss.

I have much to be thankful for, and I know many, many people have suffered worse losses than I have, but we, all of us, can only feel our own pain. Intellectually we may measure it against the pain and sadness of others and know that many have experienced far more terrible losses, but although we may be sympathetic, we cannot feel their misery as we feel our own. We may have four sound limbs but if we have a pain in our back, the sound limbs do not make the back feel better. We still feel the back pain. It is still intense. We can't tell ourselves, "Well, my four good limbs negate the back pain."

So it is with Leif's death. I have much to be thankful for in my life, but even my joy and appreciation of those people I love and those things I care deeply about do not take away the hurt of losing Leif . . .  they exist side- by side, the thankfulness and the pain, the joy and the sorrow.

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