Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Leif & Scamp - Fort Sheridan, Illinois - May 1986 - Age 11

Today I spent a long time talking with my grandson, Marcus, about many things, but mostly about my books, especially "Imagicat." He's going to do a report on me and my writing for school (third grade) and was "interviewing me" for some information. I had sent him photos of our two cats that were the inspiration for Mortimer in "Imagicat," and one of them was this cat above in Leif's arms, Scamp. Scamp was just a small kitten in this photo. Leif picked him out at the pet shop and made sure that he picked the most active, "crazy" kitty he could find.

Scamp was such a terrific cat, intelligent, funny, careful, affectionate; the perfect cat for Leif. He loved that kitty! I've written about him and Scamp before, I think. Scamp only lived four and a half years, dying young of an enlarged heart. He, too, was too young to die but brought so much companionship and joy while he lived.

I've been trying to decide how to acknowledge the first anniversary of Leif's death and the day we found him. We had planned to go to the cemetery then, but we were in St. Petersburg yesterday for an event and it seemed right to go then, when we were already over there because I don't know if I should go out of town and leave my mother just a week after she gets out of the rehabilitation facility after breaking her back.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, the kind of day Leif would have loved to ride his motorcycle under BOB (Big Orange Ball . . . the sun). The birds were singing. It should have been a joyous day, and it would have been, if he were still alive.

I cried my heart out, as I always do, missing him, wishing he were still alive, wondering for the thousandth or ten thousandth time why this had to be.

I thought of the Serenity Prayer, and wondered if accepting the things I cannot change actually does bring serenity. It sounds good, but I think it doesn't always do that, or perhaps my definition of acceptance is different than Reinhold Niebuhr's. Maybe what he means is acquiescence, and that I don't think I will ever have. I know which things I can change and which I can't, but in this case, that's no help, either.

We so often see that first part of the prayer written or quoted, but not the second part, about "Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace," and surrendering to God's will. I can't accept that. Hardships cannot be the way to peace. Not hardships like this. They don't bring peace. They bring misery, sadness, endless questions. And how could something like this be "God's will." A god like that would be cruel. What kind of loving father, earthly or heavenly, would doom his children to a terrible death . . . my son or anyone else's child, any of us. I don't blame God.

But I do wonder, and will always wonder (knowing that life is unfair) why Leif couldn't have had just a scrap of the luck so many people take for granted, just some lasting happiness as an adult, just some achievement he could be proud of. Why did he have to suffer? Why did he have to die?

It's nearly a year and I don't miss him any less. It's a year, but it feels like so much less.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Leif & Lannay - Virginia - October 19, 1976 - Age 1 year, 9 months

This cute photo of Leif and his Aunt Lannay was taken in Virginia on October 19, 1976. I wish I remembered more about where this teepee was. I remember the kids being on carnival swings and posting a photo of Leif pushing Peter Anthony in his stroller (that's right, the little one pushing the big one) taken the same day, but where and what occasion I can't remember any longer.

As I've written before, we got to see a lot of Lannay that year that we lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. She lived a couple of hours away at Fort Belvoir. Leif absolutely loved Lannay and was more affectionate to her than to anyone else when he was small. He loved her long blond hair and couldn't wait for her to come for a visit.

It seems like every kid likes tents of all kinds, and Leif was no exception. This teepee was one of the first big ones he could go into, not like the little one we could set up in the living room. He had a great time.

I remember my happy little boy. Why couldn't life give him that happiness and joy as a man?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Leif - Cannons in Japan (1982) and Hawaii (1984) - Ages 7 and 9

Leif shared an interest in cannons with his dad. Peter W. had miniature cannons as knick knacks around our house when the boys were little, and when we went to places where old cannons were displayed, they were always objects of interest. Leif climbed on cannons in many places, from the Philippines to Japan, from Europe to Hawaii. He probably would have loved firing on as an adult. Anything that shot a large projectile would have been exciting.

The top photo was a cannon at Himeji Castle in Japan around 1982 when Leif was seven years old. Himeji is a beautiful castle where he also got to pose with several young men or teenage boys dressed as samurai and soldiers of the samurai era. I posted that photo some time ago.

The bottom photo was taken in Hawaii in August 1984 when Leif was nine. Unlike some cannons where only the barrel is displayed, this one in Honolulu has the mechanism used to raise, lower and aim the gun. Leif was quite fascinated with it.

Leif was an excellent strategist and enjoyed practicing strategy in the online games he played like PlanetSide. As a child, he liked speculating on the defenses offered by cannons.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Leif - Nurnberg, Germany - January 12, 1978 - Age: Almost 3

I've been so busy helping with my mother's affairs that I didn't have time to post on Leif's blog yesterday. I thought of him throughout the day, and things I wanted to say, but now it's 3:00 a.m. and my mind is foggy. I can't write what was in my heart, so I'll just post the precious photo and say that I was thinking that it was so hard to believe that in two weeks, it will be a whole year since our world fell apart when we found Leif dead in his apartment. I still keep going over the last months and days of his life in my mind, looking for a missing piece, remembering that the last time we saw him was on Easter Sunday, March 23.

It's been a year since we saw him alive. That was a good visit. He came for dinner and seemed happy and relaxed, and in love. It was so good to see him like that. We enjoyed the evening, good discussions, political and otherwise. We had been so worried about him, and this visit was so reassuring. How could things have changed so much in the 17 days after that, changed so much he would take his life? The piece is still missing.

He had hesitated about coming because of the cost of gasoline at that time and the way his RX8 guzzled gas. He was, as so often, broke. I told him I'd pay for the gas. If I'd known how broke he was and that he was trying to apply for loans, I would have given him more than the $15 I handed him for gas money.

I didn't take any photos that day. There was no special occasion, or so we thought. It turned out it was special occasion . . . the last time we would ever see him alive.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jerri, Leif and Peter Anthony - Charlottesville, Virginia - April 1977 - Age 2

When our boys were kids, a Sunday tradition was homemade pancakes, from scratch. Once the boys were old enough to help, they loved being a part of the process and cooperated very well. This photo was taken in the kitchen of our townhouse in Charlottesville, Virginia. Leif was two years old and Peter Anthony was eight.

The Sunday morning fun was only one of the times the boys liked to help in the kitchen. Making cakes, pies and cookies from scratch were a other projects. I had such a good time with them, and I'll always remember them licking the bowls and spoons. Life seemed so easy then, so full of promise.

These days, people hardly remember black and white film, and I discovered that today's children don't understand black and white film at all. They think there was no color in the world in those days. We had color, plenty of it. At this time we were taking both B&W and color photos.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Passing of Time - The Shaping of a Life - Leif - Japan - October 1982 - Age 7

I've been thinking again tonight about time, about how we measure time, our human perception of it and how it shapes our thinking. How time exists without human thought, on earth measured in days, months, years dependent upon the motion of the earth and moon, but the meaning of those measurements is assigned only by us. Some anniversaries are happy occasions. Some are sad or even tragic. We are approaching the first anniversary of Leif's death, and the details are still so raw and fresh in my mind. How much of the truth do I tell? How many details? Why is that anniversary so significant? Why is marking one year, and then another, so fraught with emotion? It's just another day . . . and yet that day signifies that a boundary, an emotional and temporal boundary, has been crossed.

Remember how we looked forward to birthdays when we were children, anxious to grow another year older, craving the status we thought came with being older and more mature, the added privileges. Remember as parents how we celebrated our children's birthdays, made the day special and memorable with parties, gifts, friends, photos. How different it is to anticipate the arrival of the anniversary of a loved one's death. To know you've been without that person for a year. There are no traditions to make those anniversaries unless we make our own.

In 16 days, that anniversary will arrive, sixteen days until we've been a whole year without Leif. Yet he was such a Colossus in our lives that he towers over us still. There isn't a day we don't talk about him, think about him, wish we had him back. Not a day we don't remember some detail of his life, many details of it, not a day I don't picture him walking in my door. Not a day I don't remember his hugs, his voice, his laugh.

When I started this blog nearly a year ago, I said it was to remember the good times. That was what I thought I was going to do and I have, in words and pictures, but that was not enough, and was not true to his life and death. I've also bared my feelings, revealed my grief, and even tried to let Leif's words speak for him. I can't pretend that memories are all good, or that they are enough to sustain me or relieve the sadness. It's not enough to have memories. It's not enough to have photos. It's not enough to have a few paltry keepsakes, or to have some of his gadgets. None of it fills the hole his death made in our lives.

And yet, that is all we have, that and our love, with nowhere to put it, so we must be grateful for every photo, every memory, each a gift to preserve his life as long as we can see them and remember. Every day of his life was a gift. Leif lived. Thirty-three years, far too short, and without the measure of happiness he deserved. But he lived, and I want his memory to go on.

So where does this blog go from here? For how long? I feel as though on the coming anniversaries of his death and memorial services, I need to tell those stories, the ones I couldn't tell last year. And after that? Memories are still with me, so for a time, the blog will go on, past the first year, as long as I can. Will the day come when I have no more to say? Will the day come when I forget the sound of his voice? Will the day come when I no longer see his smile? Will the day come when I can let go?

The photo above was taken somewhere in Japan in October 1982. Leif was seven years old. He always loved climbing in trees.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Leif & His Dad - Sagamihara, Japan - 1982 - Age 7

This is the same couch, in our living room in Japan, as the boys were sleeping on in the last post. Peter W. and Leif looks so happy! We had a lot of good times in that living room; Christmases, family games, Japanese style dinner, watching television, using the computer (a new experience for us in 1982), the boys playing with their friends. It was a "Quartermaster" couch, like nearly all the furniture we had in Japan, owned by the U.S. Army. Our quarters weren't furnished with beautiful furniture, but it was utilitarian.

Because our quarters in Japan were two-story with the bedrooms on the second floor, our living room really was our LIVING room. We did almost everything there that didn't require the surface of the dining room table.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Leif & His Mom & Dad - Miami, Florida - March 20, 2002 - Age 27

Today we went to the spring FunFest in our community. It was a gloriously beautiful day with things to see and performances to enjoy (including me performing as part of the German American Chorus). It should have been fun, and sometimes it was, but sometimes I was sad. I couldn't help remembering that last year when we were at FunFest, Leif was alive, and he and I were sending each other text messages. I sent him cell phone photos of silly vehicles. It was hard to go through the day remembering that he is no longer there.

And last year at this time, he was newly in love, seemed so happy. I was happy for him. I created that "Find Joy" t-shirt because I was really happy. And then, less than three weeks later, he was dead. How could that be? How could he go from being so lonely and depressed the previous November (2007) to happy and in love March 15, 2008 to suicide on April 9th? My mind still can't really make sense of it, even though I can go through and list all the factors.

The next few weeks will be hard, are hard, coming up on the anniversary of Leif's death. I have to come to grips with the realization that he has really been gone a whole year. It seems impossible. He smiles out at me from my computer screen, those deep brown eyes so full of intelligence, mischief, fun . . . or melancholy.

This photo was taken in March 2002, almost exactly seven years ago, during one of our first trips to Florida to look for a place to settle. We were having dinner at a Thai restaurant in Miami. Leif loved South Beach, and he happened upon a group of RX8 owners who invited him to come to a club with them. He was taken with the Miami Beach nightlife and I think he would gladly have moved to Miami, though we were less enamored of it. He was so alive, wanted so much to move to Florida, yet in six years he would be dead.

I wish I could send him silly photos. I wish we could share a dinner out again. I wish I could give back his possessions and see him using them. I wish I could take time back a year and find a way to help him live.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Leif & Peter Anthony - Sagamihara, Japan - June 1981 - Age 6

I wish I still remembered the circumstances of this photo. I think it was probably the last time these two were even able to both get on a couch to sleep at the same time, as Leif was a very tall six year-old and Peter Anthony was twelve. This was in our living room in our quarters at the Sagamihara Family Housing Area in Japan. But why were they there?

There are so many photos without notes on them, but at least this one had a place and a date. How many times we snap photos thinking we will remember . . . and the years pass, and we don't.

I wonder if I'm posting photos of the boys sleeping because I dreamed of Leif recently, and so did my niece, Brenda. Why now, when Leif has been gone nearly a year? Why the two of us? Is he with us somehow now?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Leif & Peter Anthony - Charlottesville, Virginia - May 1977 - Age 2

Leif went through a lot of changes the year we lived in Charlottesville. It was a great year for Peter A. He had a super teacher for second grade and really enjoyed school. He played with Leif and they enjoyed each other's company.

Leif was totally frustrated at home without his brother all day at school and no matter now much I tried to keep him entertained he wanted to be out and going, doing something. I think I've already written about that and how he, like the living robot in "Short Circuit," wanted "Input, more input!"

He loved it when we found Rocking Horse Country Day School and he could be there all day with other kids and lots to explore and learn.

And then he loved to come home and play with Peter Anthony. That was the year of Ultraman on television and the two of them liked to pretend they were Ultraman and "fly" around the townhouse.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Leif & Peter Anthony - Norway - July 1977 - Age 2

In the summer of 1977 we moved from Charlottesville, Virginia to Nurnberg, Germany (actually Fuerth, but it's one large city area) and while we were waiting to get quarters we took a trip by train to Norway. Leif was two and Peter A. was eight years old. We saw spectacular scenery, the mountains and the fjords, met many Norwegian cousins, and saw many more beautiful sights. We experienced the midnight sun.

This was the second trip to Norway for Peter A. and me. We went with my mother and sisters in the summer of 1970 when Peter A. was two years old.

I don't have photos of Leif with any of the scenery as a backdrop, but I have these to precious photos of our two sons together, asleep cuddled up, Peter A. with his army protectively over his little brother, and the two of them snuggled close on a train seat smiling at me.

It was a good trip with happy memories.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leif With Dartboard - Fort Drum, NY - August 25, 1999 - Age 24

Leif enjoyed playing darts and spent money on really good darts. I think he played somewhere in Aggieville in Manhattan, Kansas as well as at home, and was quite good at it.

He had this dartboard a long time, for years. I remember he had it before he went into the army, and this photo was taken when he was stationed at Fort Drum, New York, not long before he was sent to Bosnia for peacekeeping duty. He still had it among his things when he died. He loved many kinds of games.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Dream About Leif - He Left Without Saying Goodbye

This morning I dreamed about Leif. I was with him and Nikko. They were friendly and caring about each other, but their marriage was over and Leif was going away somewhere, it seemed to join the army, but I thought I would never see him again, so that wasn't quite it. Everyone wanted to go see him off the at the airport and were organizing transportation. The house was full of relatives and friends, but Leif slipped out alone and left without saying goodbye. I ended up crying on Nikko's shoulder and saying, "Why couldn't it have worked out between you two?" She cried, too. In my dream, Leif was gone and we couldn't contact him.

No goodbyes. The mind finds ways to tell its stories even in our dreams. It made me very sad.

People think that by a year past the death of a loved one, those left behind should be moving on, getting past it, but it is common for real depression and loneliness to set in many months past the death. I have spoken with people who were so heartbroken and depressed a year after a family death that they had to seek therapy and medication. I'm not at that point and I doubt that I will be, but I do have days when I am deeply sad.


This photo was the closest to how Leif looked in my dream. It is a self portrait he took on September 8, 2002, at the same time he took the one he posted as his profile picture on MySpace. He had regained some of that bright, hopeful look he had lost in the army, and was a senior at Kansas State University. He was 27 years old.

Leif - Tegernsee, Germany - August 1979 - Age 4

In August 1979 we took a trip to the Tegernsee, a lake in Germany that I'd wanted to visit because of the picturesque area by the Alps and the murals on the houses. I was interested in photographing them, and seeing the countryside. Peter W. initially was dubious about going there, especially at staying in a family farmhouse there, one with the barn attached to the house, but it turned out to be one of our favorite trips.

The old farmhouse was fascinating, and we got to see the huge old cow bells that they use in the parades when they bring the cows down from the summer pastures. We were served our breakfasts on the patio in the sunshine, with good German Brotchen (hard rolls), fresh butter and homemade jam, and wonderful coffee, milk for the boys.

We hiked in the foothills of the Alps and around the lake. The photo above is of Leif on one of the hikes. I love that impish exuberant look. He was 4 years old.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Leif & His Dad - Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany - June 1979 - Age 4

It seems like a good combination to go from Leif with his hands full of papier-mache paste to Leif with his hands all dirty. I no longer remember just how this photo came about, but I grabbed the camera to get this shot of Leif with his dirty hands with his dad, both looking joyfully happy. I wonder if they had been digging in the garden.

It was taken when we were living in Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany, in June 1979 when Leif was four years old.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Leif - Papier Mache - Honolulu, Hawaii - December 1983 - Age nearly 9

I started writing articles for children's magazines when we lived in Hawaii. The first one I wrote was about the Japanese Daruma "dolls," which I submitted to Highlights for Children. Daruma was a Buddhist monk reputed to be so persistent in his meditation that he eventually lost the use of his legs. The "dolls" are actually papier mache, or less commonly porcelain, figures that have no legs or arms. They also have only white circles where their eyes should be. Daruma is a good luck charm, and a person or business can purchase one in any size from about one inch up to nearly six feet tall, make a wish, and give the Daruma-san one eye by painting it in. If Daruma grants the wish, the lucky recipient rewards the Daruma by painting in the other eye.

We saw Darumas all over Japan, and then also in Hawaii. I thought the custom very interesting. In Japan I had visited the Jindai-ji Temple in Tokyo to photograph the giant Daruma and learn more. I thought it would make an interesting article for kids. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to make a craft project out of it and make a papier mache Daruma with instructions. I also wanted it to be a project the kids could do, so I needed kids to do it.

I enlisted the help of Leif and our neighbor boy, Myles and we had a great time making Daruma-sans. This photo is of Leif with his hands all full of the flour and water paste we were using and it was taken in December 1983 when he was a month shy of being nine years old.

If you've never made papier mache, you can't imagine just how much fun a couple of boys can have with the messy, squishy stuff! They had a blast. I took photos of them during the process and submitted some of them with the article. Highlights for Children bought the article and some of my photos of Darumas in Japan, but not the photos of Leif or Myles. I know I gave them some reward for helping me but I no longer remember what it was.

The odd thing about that article was, I sold it to Highlights in early 1985 and they paid me for it and the photos at that time, but they didn't actually publish it until January 2000! Since then, they have resold it to educational publishers and I've gotten more money from that than the the original sale. I think by the time it was published, and Leif was 25 years old, he had forgotten all about the papier mache project.

We always had fun doing crafts projects. I wish I had photos of them. One thing Leif and I built together when we lived in Germany was a "Western town" all constructed of popsicle sticks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Leif - Honolulu Zoo, Hawaii - June 1, 1985 - Age 10

We only went to the Honolulu Zoo once. While we were there, Leif found this rust colored hen that had made a nest in a tree. He climbed up to take a look. This wasn't real high off the ground but I don't know what kind of tree it was.

The funny thing about that trip to the zoo was the giant land turtles that were putting on an odd mating show. Peter A. and Leif found it hilarious, especially the male grunting.

We took the boys to zoos in so many places, from Manhattan, Kansas to Chicago, from Germany to Japan. We always enjoyed them, but Hawaii had so many other fascinating things to explore, culturally and geographically, that the zoo seemed to be rather "ordinary." There are so many places we went that I don't have good photos of Leif, such as the Polynesian Cultural Center, Bishop Museum, Waikiki, Punchbowl Crater, Waimea Falls Park, the Honolulu Botanical Garden and so much more, plus the attrations on the other islands like Haleakala.

Our three years in Hawaii were great, even though I was perpetually worn out trying to get my master's degree except for the last six months we were there.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Peter A. & Leif - Giant Slide - Honolulu, Hawaii - Circa 1985 - Age 10

I think this photo was taken at the Hawaii State Fair but there's nothing written on the back to tell me for sure. We only went to the State Fair once. Like all kids, my sons loved carnival rides, giant slides, just about anything along those lines. When I was a kid we rarely got to do such things. There weren't any theme parks that I'd heard of except Disneyland and I didn't get there until I was 1973 when Peter A. was four-and-a-half and I was 34. Our mother didn't like to take us to traveling carnivals. They came to town occasionally and we kids would know they were there because they always had a giant searchlight that played through the sky over the town of Manhattan, Kansas. To us, that always appeared mysterious and beckoning, but we never got to go. We never went to the Kansas State Fair, either. Peter A. and Leif had a bit more luck getting to those kinds of attractions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Leif - Self Portrait - December 31, 2002 - Manhattan, Kansas - Age almost 28

It was a gorgeous day today, 83 degrees and sunny, perfect for cycle riding, with BOB (big orange ball, as Leif called the sun) pleasantly warm and soft balmy breezes. Tonight there is a brilliant full moon in the sky. I always think of Leif if I go outside at night. I'm not sure why, whether it's because he was a night owl like me, or because of his love of space and science fiction. I'd like to think he could in some way enjoy this day, this evening, but he is not here.

The mind thinks of some odd thoughts. Today, as I was musing about BOB and Leif, I wondered how, if there is an afterlife, a spirit can "see" when it has no eyes. Would it sense things entirely differently?

This photo is one of the many self portraits Leif took and it was taken at the same time as the one he put on his MySpace page. It is still there. He will forever look 28. It was at the time when he was coming out of his depression, anticipating graduating from Kansas State University in the spring. He was more hopeful and optimistic. It was a good time. He liked to discuss politics and history, and was passionate about it. I wish he were here to discuss those things now.

The photo of the moon I took here in Florida, when it looked much as it did tonight. There is something about the moon that is calming and uplifting. I've now made it through eleven months since Leif died. I will always miss him, but I am beginning to enjoy the beauty around me again, at least at times.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eleven Months Since Leif's Death. Remembering Leif - Oahu, Hawaii - August 1987 - Age 12

How can the months go by so fast. Today it is eleven months since we drove to Tampa and found Leif dead on his kitchen floor. It seems like yesterday and yet it seems like an eternity without him. I still ask why. I still wonder what I could have done differently, or if it would have made any difference. I still remember his life, the whole of it. I still talk to him as though he can hear me and see me, even though I don't believe he can.

I remember times we had together, like this trip to a lookout above Honolulu, Oahu on one of the trips we took back to Hawaii from Chicago, this on in August 1987 when he was 12 years old. I wonder if that was the trip when he was so engrossed in "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card that he didn't even care about the beach at our favorite Bellows Beach, where we were staying in a cottage. He could talk for hours about that book and it's sequels. He read them all, through last year.

I wish he were here for a scintillating discussion, a hug, dinner.

I started reading "Outliers" tonight, The first chapter, about a town in Pennsylvania settled by Italian immigrants who nearly all came from the same village in Italy, a town where there was virtually no heart disease, no ulcers, no suicide, no crime, made me wonder where our society has gone so wrong, and how it fails men like Leif. The researchers concluded that this town is so healthy not because of a special diet, or exercise, or even genetics. These people are healthy because of their community and the way it functions, the social aspects of it.

Suicides are often detached and feel alone in our society. I wonder, would Leif have been happier in another milieu? What about the rest of us?

The book talks about neighbors stopping to talk with each other, spending time together, three generations living together, family meals, social organizations. Leif didn't know his neighbors, didn't have real friends in Tampa, lived alone, didn't join organizations. The only family meals he had were with us about once a month. The loneliness wasn't only the lack of a wife, it was a lack of human companionship, and I think that although he craved it, he didn't know how to make it work and eventually shut himself off from all but seeking the love he needed.

What happens to shy people, lonely people in our society? Do they just fade into the background, unseen and ignored by those around them?

I don't think Leif had a clue how many people were impressed by him, looked up to him, found him interesting. He may have intimidated them with his size and his mind. What a pity he didn't know how many people cared.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Leif & Jerri - Honolulu, Hawaii - July 1983 - Age 8

We arrived in Hawaii from Japan in July 1983, exhausted from the overnight flight. We were met by people from Peter W's new office at Camp Smith with traditional plumeria leis. I think I posted an earlier photo of Leif and me with leis that really wasn't from that morning arrival but another occasion. This one was the first morning. It was the beginning of three good years for us, though they were exhausting ones for me as I went back to school to finally complete my master's degree.

Until we got quarters at Red Hill, we stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on the 11th floor and enjoyed the environs of Waikiki. It was fun except for the lack of electricity during the great "Oahu Blackout" on "Black Wednesday," July 13, 1983. As I recall, it was caused by a fire in some sugar cane field. The entire island with without electricity for up to three days.

We found out that life on the eleventh floor wasn't nearly so pleasant without electricity! No elevator. No lights. No water (it has to be pumped up to that height), no flushing toilets (same thing). Since the blackout was island-wide, that also meant that most places couldn't prepare food, cash registers and gas pumps didn't work, and it was hard to even get something to eat. Grocery stores were closed and food that wasn't protected by emergency generators was a loss. People were out in the streets because there wasn't much to do. No TV. No video games. No video game parlors.

It didn't take the entrepreneurs long to capitalize on the situation and begin selling t-shirts saying "I survived the great July 13th Blackout" and other such things.

There was a talking parrot at the hotel that fascinated the boys, and we enjoyed the beach. Soon enough we got our quarters and had to settle in to real life instead of living at a resort.

Leif - Hawaiian Dancer - Honolulu, Hawaii - May 1, 1985 - Age 10

When we lived in Honolulu, Leif attended Red Hill Elementary School for grades 3-5. They had some Hawaiian cultural units and in the spring of 1985 when he was 10 years old, they put on a big spring pageant with hula dances. This was the only time Leif danced any hula that I know of, and I never saw him practice it at home. It was a group performance with the rest of his class.

Male hula dancing is quite different in motions from the female dances and is much more powerful and masculine. There was such a crowd there, both the school kids and the audience, that I couldn't get a good photo of him actually performing, so this one I snapped while he was with his class watching other dancers was the best I could do.

Japan and Hawaii had profound effects on both our sons, and Puerto Rico had profound effects on Leif, on all of us. We were so fortunate to have experienced so many cultures and places in the world.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dimensions of Sadness - Missing Leif

It's been a hard week and I've been posting simple posts of happier times, reflecting the way I wish life still were, not the way it is right now.

My sisters were coming to visit and I got the bright idea to take each of them on a cruise, with my mother. None of them had ever been on a cruise before and my sisters had always wanted to go. Mom is a world traveler that hasn't been on a trip outside the USA since November 2007, so I found a couple of inexpensive (great deals this time of year) short cruises to the Bahamas and booked them. I told everyone my one worry about it was the step up (or down when you come out) to the bathrooms in the staterooms.

We started the cruise with Mom and Lannay with very chilly weather, not at all like you'd expect for a cruise to the Bahamas, and we got to Nassau two hours late because right after we left Cape Canaveral, the ship had to return to port to disembark a passenger who had a life-threatening health crisis. We had a good time in Nassau, and at Coco Cay the next day, but Mom's back was bothering her and she seemed to have trouble walking at Cocoa Cay. I thought it was because she had stepped down a large step onto a water taxi too hard.

That night, the last night of the cruise, she got up in the night to use the bathroom and lost her balance. She fell into the bathroom hard and injured her back, but she didn't tell anyone. My sister Lannay, who was sharing the cabin, heard a noise but didn't find anything when she checked and Mom didn't tell her. She later said she didn't want me to know because I'd "have a hemorrhage."

We returned to Cape Canaveral the next morning, Monday the 23rd, and Mom was still having some back pain but not admitting she had fallen. We went to see the Bodies exhibit at MOSI, the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, and had her in one of their wheelchairs she she didn't have to walk, but didn't know how bad off she was.

The next day, without our knowledge, she went to her doctor and told him about the fall, and had her back x-rayed. It wasn't until the next morning, Wednesday the 25th, that she told Lannay about her fall and by then she was in severe pain. I got another appointment with the doctor that afternoon and we found out she had another compression fracture in her spine. The doctor ordered her to lie flat on her back and to be up as little as possible, but she didn't follow orders and by Thursday she couldn't get up on her own and was in excruciating pain.

I had taken care of Mom when she broke her back with two compression fractures in 1992 and remembered how to get her up and walk her, and I got a wheel chair and walker checked out, but even with me staying there and helping her, by Friday evening the 27th, she was in such terrible pain that we had to call the Emergency Squad to transport her to the South Bay Hospital emergency room. She was admitted to the hospital and put on pain medications, given a CT scan, and the next day an MRI.

On Monday, March 2nd, she had a procedure called kyphoplasty to stabilize the fractured vertebra, but she was still in immense pain. By Wednesday they transferred her to the rehab center at Plaza West here in Sun City Center.

My sister Sherie arrived February 28th and has been so helpful in all the things we had to do for mom at the hospital and rehab center and at her house. I don't know how I would have gotten through this time without her. She was terrific.

All through this, I've been sick with a sinus infection, cough, and nasty sore throat. I've been exhausted, but had to keep going with so much to do. I still haven't unpacked from the cruise.

Today, I took Sherie to the airport. I was so sad to see her go. I really appreciated having her here, not only for all the help, but for the moral and emotional support. She had taken vacation to come here to go on the second cruise, and instead she helped rearrange and clean up at Mom's, visited rehab centers with me, made her own breakfasts and lunches, did dishes, and so much more. I knew I'd miss her when she left, but I wasn't prepared for how all the emotion of the past week and a half would hit me then.

Not only did all my worries about Mom, which had been buried under the work that had to be done, surface, but as it always does when I'm driving alone, the bottomless sadness about missing Leif came pummeling through. I cried all the way home, especially when I passed the exit that would take me to Bay Pines National Cemetery. I've been crying on and off all evening. I just can't shake it. I miss Leif so much! How could nearly 11 months have passed since he died? He helped me out so many times. Who will be there, now that he is not?

We will manage. We have family. We have friends. We are so much more fortunate in so many ways than many in this world, and we know that, but that knowledge doesn't take away the loss.

And I'm so worried about Mom living alone when she gets out of rehab and whether she's going to be able to manage, whether they can get her pain under control, what her future holds. I miss my sisters and having them here to buoy me up. I am so tired, emotionally and physically, still sick.

It will pass. I'll get well. Life will go on.

But so will loss.

I go along, busy, and being busy keeps my mind off things for awhile, but it always floods back. There are two times that it happens most often, when I am driving alone, and when I go outside at night, like taking out the garbage, or going somewhere, and I can see the sky. The night sky and the stars always remind me of Leif and I miss him terribly then.

I miss him terribly now.

The photo above is of Leif and my mother on December 25, 2005 when he was showing her the cell phone we got her for Christmas . . . his idea.

A New Life - A New Leif

Two days ago, on March 4th, Leif's friends Jason and Melissa became the parents of a new little boy. I was touched to tears because they gave him the middle name Leif. My Leif is gone and left no children, but now there is a new little boy that carries his name into the future. It is a very sweet honor and means a lot to me, more than I can say.

I wish little Braydon Leif a life in a loving family, a future of health and hope, the warmth of friendship, the joy of accomplishment. I hope that only the good and fine things of his middle namesake will be remembered and carried on, the strength and intelligence, and that none of the sadness will touch his days.

I will watch his development with interest, as I watch the development of my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews. It is good that new life brings hope and joy, gentle smiles, laughter, and yes, even tears.

Leif & His Dad - Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany - Summer 1978 - Age 3

Here's another picture of Peter W. reading to Leif. This one was taken on the patio at the house we rented at Am Roemer 1, Sachsen bei Ansbach. It's such a good symbol of all the good times we had together, and how close Peter W. was to his sons.

When kids grow up and leave home, they naturally seem to leave behind their memories of that childhood closeness. It's replaced by an adult distance, but I think in our parental minds, there is always the memory of that closeness, the cuddles, the stories shared.

Leif was three-and-a-half years old in this photo.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Peter W. reading to Leif - Ishiuchi, Japan - March 1983 - Age 8

Some time ago I posted photos of Leif in the snow at Ishiuchi, Japan, but this was the cozy afterglow. Peter W. and Peter A. had come in from the slopes, and Leif and I had come in from sledding and Leif cuddled up with his dad for a story. I have several photos of Peter W. reading to Leif, snugggled together. It was such a good time.

We always read to our boys, from the very beginning. I did most of the reading, but Peter W. often read stories to them. He liked to embellish them with his own versions and sometimes they protested that, saying, "That's not how the story goes, Daddy." But I suspected that not only did he enjoy the embellishment, he enjoyed getting them riled up and hearing them insist how the story was supposed to go.

At this age, Leif also loved Richie Rich comic books. He could read them himself, but he loved to be read to and sharing the experience. That might be what they are reading in this photo.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Leif at Pattaya Beach in Thailand - December 1981 - Age nearly 7 years old

This photo of Leif on the beach was labeled December 1981. We were living in Japan at the time, but I can't imagine that it was warm enough to be at the beach in December so it has to be Thailand. We went to visit my Thai sister, Lek, and her family in Thailand that December. We got to see a lot of the country and really enjoyed it. She and her family took us to stay at the Royal Cliff Hotel in Pattaya, where Peter W. and Peter A. tried parasailing and Leif and I watched.

It was also on this beach that Leif noticed a woman from France sunning herself on a beach lounge without the benefit of a bathing suit top. He was quite surprised and made some comment to his dad asking where her top was.

We also saw a big black snake slither into the water.

Leif, along with the rest of us, enjoyed beaches in the USA (Hawaii, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida), Italy, Thailand, Japan, and Puerto Rico.

We all loved the relaxation, the waves, and the sun.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Leif at the beach - Rimini, Italy - September 1979 - Age 4

Leif enjoyed the beach nearly all his life. One of the trips we made to the beach when we lived in Germany was the one to Rimini, Italy. We drove over the Alps and the Dolomites in our secondhand Opel Diplomat (car), an act of faith, as it was old and not in the best condition. On top of that, we chose a very scenic and interesting route through the mountains in Italy that turned out to have roads on the edges of cliffs, hairpin turns, no guardrails and steep dropoffs tumbling hundreds, perhaps thousands of feet at the edge of the pavement. We couldn't see around curves, and in some places there wasn't even room to pass. Leif and Peter A. weren't much fazed but it but I was terrified. Peter W. was driving and I was a nervous wreck. It would have been quite beautiful on foot, but I don't think we even got any photos.

We were (at least Peter W. and I were) vastly relieved to come down out of the mountains safely and make it to Rimini. Our hotel was right on the beach, but the beach was strewn with seaweed.

The boys had a good time anyway, and they delighted in digging holes. This photo shows four-year-old Leif in the hole he dug.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Leif & His Dad - Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii - May 29, 1986

I think it was Memorial Day weekend that Peter W. took Leif and me to lunch at the Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu. It is a beautiful place. We enjoyed our meal and then the two guys had fun at the beach, renting a paddle boat and swimming. Leif was comfortable with adults and we enjoyed taking him places. He was eleven years old in these photos.