Friday, December 31, 2010

Another New Years Eve Without Leif

Leif loved parties and New Years Eve celebrations. This is our third New Years Eve since he died, and the holidays have brought so many memories of him. I miss him terribly.

To compound the feeling, I received a junk email from "him" at two of my email addresses. No message, just a junk link to a website that would undoubtedly have infected my account. And odder still, the message came from an email address of his that I had closed (or at least went through the process to close) over two years ago. I could see that the message also went to others in his contact list, and they probably found it startling to see an email from him.

I found that both his Hotmail accounts were still open. despite the fact that Microsoft says they will disable the account if a person doesn't log in for 270 days, and despite the fact that I had gone through a process to close them. I tried again and had difficulties. I hope I succeeded in getting the two accounts closed this time. I don't want them sending out junk that will be passed on by others when they click a link to see what it is, nor do I want people getting a shock when they see email from "Leif Garretson."

Yet even now, closing an account of his still feels like I am doing something I shouldn't, taking away something that was his, taking away yet another little piece of the identity he crafted, as though there is less of him left in this world. I know that's silly, and I know I have to do it, but the feeling is still there.

The "brave new world" we live in creates situations that would never have happened years ago, before the internet, before email, before social media. I doubt that Leif ever considered what would happen to all his accounts when he died, or whether anyone would have to deal with them.

Mail still comes for him, too, from mailing lists he was on, from Mazda, for instance, and Geico. I wonder how many years past his death we will still find envelopes in the mail addressed to him at our address, since he once lived here.

Other things linger on. I received two phone calls concerning an old account of his in the past two days. When are things really settled? When will I finally have taken care of all his belongings?

I go to the garage and see his bicycle hanging up. I go to my office and remember that once it was his. I enter the guest room and remember that once he slept there.

I think of New Years and know I won't see him or get a "Happy New Year, Mom" text from him on my phone. Now there are no new years for him.

Music still makes me think of him and cry.

Most days I'm all right. Most days I am finding more ambition and motivation than I've had since he died. Most days I am happy, or at least not unhappy. Sometimes I find joy, with my grandchildren, with Peter W.

And some days, some times, I am sad and miss Leif so.


This is a photo I found on an old cell phone Leif had. I don't know where it was taken but it looks like a restaurant. It was taken on September 16, 2006.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 1976

I posted photos of Christmas photos of Leif for nearly every year of his life the past two Christmases. It's so hard to believe this our third Christmas without him. There is still a hole in my heart. I am enjoying our time with Peter Anthony and our grandchildren, but Leif is still missing, and the memories and the longing do not fade. I don't want to let it show, don't want to spoil everyone's good time with my sadness. How is it possible to be happy, joyful, and sad at the same time?

These photos were taken on Christmas Eve in 1976 when we were living in Charlottesville, Virginia. Leif would be two years old a month later. He was a darling child, and at this age knew all his shapes (including octagons, pentagons, trapezoids, etc.), his numbers and letters and could recite the entire "Lorax" by Dr. Seuss word for word, exactly. He was curious and active.

That Christmas we were fortunate to have a big family gathering, with my mother there, and my brother Donovan and his family and my sister, Lannay.

I wish I remembered what was in the shoebox Leif has. He loved boxes almost as much as what was in them.

I am so thankful for all the photos we have, the memories they bring back, the good times we had. These photos from 34 years ago are the treasures of my heart.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tron: Legacy

Yesterday we went to see Tron: Legacy with Peter Anthony's family. I remember so well how much Leif loved the original Tron movie. It was made in 1982. Peter A. loved it, too, and said he couldn't believe they made him wait over 25 years for a sequel. I thought we had seen while we were living in Hawaii, and that might be so, but since we didn't move there until the summer of 1982 and I have a vague memory of the boysnplaying with their red and yellow light cycles in Japan. Although the movie was ahead of it's time and not popular then, it really sparked our imaginations and we never forgot it. How I wished we could have had Leif with us to experience this new movie. He would have so enjoyed it!

See the trailer for Tron: Legacy by clicking the title at left.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

Tonight is yet another night I think Leif would have loved, would have found exciting. He would have wanted to see this total eclipse of the moon on the winter solstice, even if it meant standing out in the cold night air. He so loved outer space. I am watching it tonight and wishing he were here to share it with me.

Winter Solstice Eclipse from NASA.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Visit to the Zoo - Nurnberg, Germany - October 1979 - Age 4 and a half

We were fortunate to be able to travel and see so many place and interesting things with our sons. We have visited zoos in many cities and still enjoy going to zoos, now with our grandchildren. This photo was taken at the zoo in Nurnberg, Germany in October 1979. Leif would be 5 years old three months after it was taken. He as an active, strapping boy, but even he got tired out running around all over the place at the zoo and wearing himself out on the playground equipment, so he got a break riding on his dad's shoulders.

It was a fall day with the leaves turning pretty colors, though it was chilly and cloudy. We were there with our friends the Summerlins, whose daugher, Erin, was one of Leif's best friends and playmates in the little village of Sachsen bei Ansbach where we lived.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding Photos

There are still surprises, still people from Leif's past who look for him online and find the blog or his Facebook page, memories others have I've never known, photos of him someone took I've never seen.

Last week I got out a couple of cell phones that Leif had in his apartment to see whether they worked and whether there were any photos or videos on them. When we found them, all I did at the time was put whatever accessories and manuals I found together in the appropriate box and put them in a bigger box to deal with later. I knew that a couple of them were phones we could use if we wanted to and just sort of kept them as backups. Then I thought i'd offer one to my granddaughter, who was going to get her own phone line, and figured I'd better put them back into the out-of-the-box settings. So, I took a look, not just at the memory in the phones but at some mini and micro SD cards that were used with them. And found photos of Leif I'd never seen before.

Some were painful to see, photos that Donna took of him in the ER after his motorcycle accident. Others made me wonder where they were taken, though I could see when by the filename the cell phone had given them. Long ago on this blog I wrote about wondering how many photos of Leif are "out there" somewhere, photos I'll never know exist and will never see, so it seems a bit ironic that i'd find some of them on two phones in my own closet.

This one is of Leif in his cycle jacket and cap, taken March 5, 2006, just a couple of weeks after he moved out of our house and into an apartment in Tampa. I remember that at that time, he had hope, was looking forward to being in the city, glad to have found a companion. In this photo he still has that speculative, sardonic little smile, that piercing gaze. I'd expect him to come out with some witty remark about now. I wish he were here and he could.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Memories, Music and Christmas

This weekend has brought two days of strong emotions for Peter W. and me, emotions brought about by memories triggered by music. It's amazing how deeply music affects us, how closely music can be tied to memories.

Yesterday we went to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony sponsored by the German American Club. We go every year. For Peter, it was the sixth one; for me the fourth. It's a nice tradition, with carols in German and English, and German Christmas cookies, Stollen and coffee afterward.

I was doing fine and enjoying it until we started singing "O Tannenbaum," and then the tears welled up in my eyes and I just couldn't stop them. Peter got misty-eyed, too. The song brought back such dear memories, of our boys during Christmases in Germany, of Peter Anthony singing this song with the Sachsen Kinderchor, of Uncle Helmut lighting the real candles on the fifteen-foot tall tree, of Aunt Toni with little "Peterle" and "Peterle" with his little train conductor hat, all excited about his first electric train when he was two. Of Peter A. singing the part of Joseph in the Christmas Cantata in Sachsen and Katterbach. Of Leif with such joy on his little face opening presents in Japan when he was five or six. Of baking our traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies and bread together. Of all the Christmases we spent with our children when they were small and it was so magical for them.

It's embarrassing to cry in public, something I try hard to control, but the memories brought by the music were too much for me. I loved those days so much and I miss them.

It was "O Tannenbaum" that got me started, though I had trouble with some of the other songs, too. And then Peter W. said that when he sang "Sleep in heavenly peace" at the end of "Silent Night," he was thinking that he hoped Leif was sleeping in heavenly peace, and I lost it again. Just writing this tears stream down my face. I remember saying, "I wish he were just sleeping. But I hope he is at least at peace."

Without the music, I got through the rest of the day without tears, but today I was fighting them again when I was performing with the Women's Chorus. I don't know what it is about the act of performing that changes the depth of feeling of a song. I've been singing those songs all fall without a problem, but just like last year at the concert, there were certain words that choked me up and I couldn't sing for a few measures. One of them was "Merry Christmas, darling. We're apart, that's true, but I can dream and in my dreams I'm Christmasing with you." "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is another one that stabs.

The holidays can be very hard for those who are alone, lonely, depressed and unhappy, or not with those they love, or who have lost someone they love near the holidays or recently. Leif has been dead for two-and-a-half years, and this will be our third Christmas without him. We won't spend it alone and are grateful and happy that we will be with Peter Anthony, Darlene and our grandchildren, and my sister, Lannay and her family. It will be a happy time, and we will enjoy it, but there will be an empty space in my heart for Leif, and I will no doubt fight more tears when I hear certain songs or miss him most acutely.

When our boys were young, Christmas was such a wonderful adventure, full of their wonder and anticipation, their eagerness, utter joy. How fortunate we were to have those days, those moments, those memories. Even with the tears, they are a treasure to be cherished and held close.


This photo of Leif and Peter A. was taken on Christmas Eve in Japan, probably in 1981 when Leif was six years old.

Saturday, November 27, 2010 - Garretson Scoutship: Artist's Interview

Leif was so heavily involved in helping to develop the ZAON role playing game and I was touched when Justin came out with a space ship named for him as a memorial. I hadn't discovered this video about the ship before, an interview with the designer. How I wish Leif could have known about the ship.

Leif posted so many things on the ZAON message boards, and I had hoped to go back and find some of those posts and save them, but I apparently waited too long. I've now read online that there was a database crash, and I did see that the forums had changed and I could no longer find Leif's old postings. Now, however, even the newer ones and the information about the game seem to be gone. I'm sad to see that. There was so much creativity and camaraderie involved for years in working on that game, and the message boards and the guys on them helped Leif through some very hard times in his life. He really wanted to see that game published and was proud of his association with the organization. I hope that somehow it will someday make it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Forever Linked

I don't understand families that treat their family members badly and hurt each other. I don't understand families that don't keep strong ties. There are so many that seem to feel it's just an onerous duty to spend time together.

And then there are families like mine that love to be together and gladly travel great distances to do it, families like mine that find it an important part of their identities, that want to be in contact. The mothers in my family are always bonded to their children, as I am bonded to mine. We are forever linked not just by a family name and "blood," but by love and shared memories.

It's those memories that come back, the happy and the sad, to keep those links alive, even past death. I remember Leif every day, but there are so many different things that trigger memories. Tonight it was a show on television. Peter started watching a science fiction show that took place in space and featured a fighter pilot, just the kind of show Leif would have chosen, would have loved, and would have commented upon. The moment I saw the space ships I thought of him and how he would have liked it. I will likely never look at a sci fi show or movie again without associating it with him, or see NASA photo of outer space without remembering the NASA images he had on his computer, or see the stars and moon in the night sky without thinking of him.

While we were in Egypt we saw some "falling stars," and I've seen one more since we got home. Those I associated with both my sons, Leif, because they were in the heavens at night, Peter A. because of his interest in planetary defense against asteroids.

I am forever linked to my sons, or, at least for my lifetime.

This "stairstep" photo of me with my sons was taken in Hawaii in the summer of 1980, when we were stopping there for a few days of vacation on the long move from Germany to Japan. Leif was five years old.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Month, Another Veteran's Day, Another Thanksgiving

November is a month full of memories and sometimes it makes me very sad. November 9th marked 31 months since Leif died. November 10th 31 months since we found him. November 11th, Veterans Day, when I usually like to go to the cemetery, but like last year, this year we were on a trip. And then there's Thanksgiving, which is the hardest one. I won't have either of my sons with us for Thanksgiving, so it will just be three of us, Peter W., my mother and me. I'm thankful beyond measure for both of them, and for Peter A. and my grandchildren, and all the other good things in my life, but that doesn't stop me from being sad that Leif will not be with us, that I won't anticipate his car coming up the drive with the stereo booming.

We took a marvelous two week tour of Egypt. It was a terrific trip and I very much enjoyed it, but both Peter and I couldn't help but wonder what Leif would have thought of all the wonders we saw, whether he would have enjoyed the trip, what it would have been like to discuss the history of Egypt with him.

Traveling is good for me. It mostly distracts me from the sadness of his loss, but coming home is always bittersweet. It's good to be home again, a place I love, but I'm always faced with the fact that he's not there and not going to be there, yet all around me in this house are things he did, things he gave me, and things that he left behind when he died. I want to remember him. I want those things around me, yet it still hurts to know we had all that together and now there's nothing there but memories and these things.

My browser home page has a slide show of albums I have on Picasa and two of those are of the thousand-some photos I've posted on this blog, so when I open my browser, I am treated to photos that flash by in some random order chosen by Picasa, and sometimes it makes me smile to see his baby face or a cute photo from his childhood. Sometimes it catches me unaware and a sadness hits me, but I'm always grateful for the photos, glad we took so many.

This photo of me and Leif was taken in Munich, Germany in May 1978. He was three years old. It was apparently not processed well because over time it developed yellow streaks in it. I did the best I could to rescue it with PhotoShop. It was a good trip, that one to Munich. I'd love to be able to go there again with Leif as an adult. He'd love it . . . especially the beer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thirty-five Years Ago - Leif at Nine Months - Manhattan, Kansas

This picture of Leif when he was nine months old, thirty-five years ago in October 1975, was taken in the backyard of the old stone house at 804 Moro Street in Manhattan, Kansas. It was a beautiful, warm, Indian summer day, and he was having a ball scuffling around in the leaves. Leif started walking at 10 months, so it was right about this time he was learning to navigate on two legs, though he also did plenty of crawling in the leaves. He looks so happy!

I remember that he was barefoot and so cute tippy-toeing around.

I have to smile when I see what he's wearing. Back in those days, we could actually save a significant amount of money by making our own clothes, unlike today when we have all these cheap clothes from Asia. I made a lot of the clothes for myself and my sons, and it was during a time when the styles and fabrics were very different than now, too. I didn't make the little t-shirt he's wearing. That was from Sears, but I did sew the overalls he has on, and even put on the gripper snaps, with a second set to make it possible for him to keep wearing it a little longer as he grew.

No one would probably be caught wearing such things these days, or putting them on their kids, certainly not stripes like those! It's amusing and fun to think of that now, and I enjoyed sewing. I did some crocheting and knitting, too. Knitting was not one of my specialties, but I did knit a "romper" for Leif and crocheted a winter cap and matching cardigan sweater.

This is another photo that was badly damaged by age, faded and spotted. It has such a wonderful smile I'm glad I could rescue it with PhotoShop.

Fall in Manhattan can be very beautiful, with all the leaves turning and falling, deep blue skies and wonderful sunsets. That was an especially good fall for us, for now our family was complete, with our two happy, healthy boys.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Leif With Rowboats in Japan - Circa 1980-1981 - Age Six

It's important to label photos. After years, it becomes hard to remember just where and when photos were taken, and as the generations pass, who is in them, but if you take a lot of pictures, finding time to do that is a real challenge. I've tried to label my photos, for the most part, or at least keep the ones from the pre-digital age in envelopes that are labeled with date and place.

These two photos of Leif were taken in Japan by his dad, probably in 1980 or early 1981, when he was five or six years old. He was such a sweet and vulnerable-looking child then, but we saw only how beautiful he was, not that he was in some way fragile inside. He always put up such a brave and stalwart front, always.

I know these pictures were taken on one of our Saturday trips to see some area within driving distance of Camp Zama, Japan, and I think this is on a lake, not an ocean inlet or the sea, but beyond that, I just don't remember. Obviously, it was cold. I think there's even a tiny bit of snow on the ground by the boat.

Leif loved boats and loved water and the sea. Of course, he loved just about anything that would "go," any kind of vehicle, the faster the better.

I heard someone say on a television program tonight that speed is the only modern feeling that man has, that all the others have been with us for centuries, and it is a major thrill. I know Leif loved that thrill from the time he was very young and it only grew as he matured.

I don't think we actually went out on the water in either of these boats. I think we were just walking along the shoreline and Leif found them irresistible.

I wonder now, if it was in some way hard for him to live in Florida and not have access to boats and getting out on the water. So many of the things he loved were barred to him due to finances, but even if he'd been able to do them, I wonder if he would have unless he had found a companion, a love, to enjoy it with him.

Tonight on 60 Minutes they were reporting on people whose unemployment benefits are running out after 99 weeks, and I thought that in a real sense, Leif was on the first wave of people affected by the economic downturn, not that he lost his job, but that he was caught in a spiral of debts he could not pay. How terrifying that must be. He never admitted to us either that he was in debt again, or that it bothered him. He remained stalwart, steadfastly insisting that he was all right, that he could handle it.

I think about that when I read reports of how the military wants to try to reduce the number of active duty and veteran suicides and I wonder how they are going to help these people if they are like Leif and will not admit they have such problems.

I miss Leif every day. I miss the boy and I miss the man. I see him in every motorcyclist that passes me going way too fast. There can never be any real resolution to our feelings about his death, but I can both smile and feel sad when I look at these photos or my beautiful little kindergarten age boy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Missing His MySpace Page

After two-and-a-half years, I thought it was time to finally memorialize and lock Leif's MySpace and Facebook pages, and I thought I was ready for that, but the same feeling of taking away yet another piece of his identity surfaced when I actually did it.

It wasn't so hard on Facebook. They were very easy to deal with and only removed the "Info" page from his profile, leaving the Wall and Photos. Since Leif hadn't done much to his page, and I had changed his Profile photo and added the other photos, it looks pretty much the same as it did.

MySpace was another story. They kept asking for a scan of his death certificate and I kept attaching and sending it and they kept saying they didn't get it. In each email, I stressed that I wanted his page to be kept and locked, not deleted, yet every time they answered me they would say they were going to delete it and then apologize and say they wouldn't. I wanted it to remain for two reasons, one as another place to remember him, but mostly because he created that page and it was much more "him" than the Facebook profile. I wanted to be able to see it, and had I known what they would do, I would at least have taken a screen shot of the main page and printed it out.

Not to be. They did finally get the death certificate and emailed back that they were deleting his page immediately. I was upset. By that time I had sent them at least five emails, stressing that I wanted the page to be kept. They apologized again, and said they were "working to restore" it, but that it would take at least 72 hours, and that if it wasn't back within a week, I should contact them again.

Well, it will be 72 hours by midnight tonight and we'll see if it's back. I just hope it will be back at all. If not, I wish I'd never told them, though having it out there and open might make the account open to hacking.

So, any of his friends who might be reading this, please visit Leif's Facebook page sometimes and remember him, and if it comes back, his MySpace page. I still feel like he was here with me only yesterday.

This photo of Leif was taken during our trip to Canada in July 1989. Leif was fourteen years old.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Memories of the Heart

Tomorrow, Leif will be dead for two-and-a-half years, yet it seems like yesterday that he was here, so much a part of our lives. Perhaps counting years and months is meaningless, except that we assign meaning to the time passing, and it is also a way of measuring how far we have come in our lives since his death. Tomorrow I will finally notify Facebook and MySpace to "memorialize" his accounts, and this week I closed the last of his email accounts. Somehow it seems like the time is right.

In a strange quirk of fate, that last email account of his sent out blank email messages to quite a few people in his address book. The messages were blank and had no Subject line. I got one of them. It was eerie, and really startled some people who got them. I don't know how it happened, whether someone manage to hack his account, or what, though I don't think so since there was no other unusual activity. Some people thought that perhaps he was sending some kind of a message, some form of goodbye. Several of them fervently believe this.

The messages were sent in groups and so some of those who got them replied to the others. It was interesting to see conversations develop among some of Leif's friends and acquaintances who didn't now each other. It was also odd to see which people got the blank messages and who didn't. I suppose with such an unexplained circumstance, it might be tempting or even easy to attribute it to Leif himself, and I have been told by friends to accept it as that. However, I doubt it.

Never-the-less, it seemed to come at a coincidentally meaningful time, since I was about to close these accounts.

That same day, to other interesting things happened. I went into the garage and a small brown wren flew in and perched in front of me briefly, then flew away, and that night, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and heard an owl hooting over and over in our big oak tree. That, too, was eerie.

If I were a superstitious person, I would see these all as signs, especially coming in a group of three on the same day, but I think that's just the human mind looking for patterns. I know we have owls in the neighborhood. I've seen one (very large) twice, but have hardly ever heard them, certainly not long and loud as I did that early morning.

So, if Leif was here saying goodbye, or letting us know he's around, I'm glad for it, though I don't believe that to be true. Regardless, there was something comforting in the three occurrences.

I still have bouts of sadness. I still miss him. But I also can remember the feel of his baby body and the energy in it, the alertness and the delight in his little face, and be so glad he was mine.

This photo was very badly exposed, but it's one of few I have of Leif and me that that period of his life. It was taken on May 7, 1975, when he was not quite four months old. We were at Bluemont Elementary School in Manhattan, Kansas, the school near us where Peter Anthony was in kindergarten at that time, and they were having their spring picnic and field day. Peter W. is laughing at my "Princess Leia hairdo."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity

I know Leif would have loved this. He was a fan of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, someone who greatly appreciated good comedy and political humor and satire. He would have totally approved of this Rally to Restore Sanity. I wish he were here to see it.

This photo of Leif was taken in our living room when we lived in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was in about 1985 when he was about 10 years old.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What would Leif have had to say about this?

Exoskeleton defines a new class of warrior, an article and video from Scientific American, shows new technology for the infantry soldier, set to be in use by 2015. It brings the boots-on-the-ground soldier closer to his sic-fi counterpart and the avatar characters Leif loved to play in both computer and online games like PlanetSide. He would have made a good source of ideas and outstanding critique. I wonder how he would have seen this as useful in combat, or how it would change it. I wondering he would have been anxious to try it out.

Leif was always keenly interested in weaponry, strategy, and the gear and capabilities of soldiers and had piercing insights about them. How I wish someone had seen that incredible talent and put it to use.

This photo of Leif, which I have posted before, was taken in Uzbekistan in the fall of 1998 when he was taking part in UN exercises.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So Many Reminders

On Tuesday I attended the funeral of a neighbor, a man who died of a stroke at 79, someone who had been active in the community, raised several children, a man who was friendly and outgoing. He will be missed, not only by his family but by the community he served.

As I was there at the funeral service, a Catholic Mass, I was struck by how different it is to have a funeral for someone who has lived a long, full life, who has raised children, enjoyed grandchildren, contributed to many organizations, had a host of friends, and someone like Leif who was only 33 and had none of those things. There is an additional and burdensome sadness in knowing he never had them and never will, in realizing that so much was missed.

These people, at least outwardly, all were so sure of their belief in the afterlife and what it would mean, while Leif was a nonbeliever and I think that if there is an afterlife, it is vastly different than our imaginings of it.

The funeral made me profoundly sad for a couple of days, and no matter how many times I told myself how fortunate I am, in so many ways, and to count my blessings, not just mourn for what I have lost, I could not shake it, but then I started to come out of that low place and appreciate the beauty around me. The full moon last night. The lovely sunset. My home. My wonderful husband. My son. My grandchildren.

It's funny how a small and unusual thing can give you a lift. This evening, I stepped into the garage to check whether Peter had closed the garage door when he left. He hadn't, but before I could press the button to close it, a little brown wren flew in, perched for just a tiny moment at the back of the garage, and then flew back out again. I knew we had wrens somewhere in our bushes, but I rarely see them, and never that close or in the garage. It was something sweet and precious, that moment, and it made me think of all the moments gone by that I can remember with love and joy . . . even if their memory also brings sadness that they will never come again.

This photo of me and Leif was taken on July 20, 2004 at the dining room table of our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas. It was a wonderful evening, one of those warm memories. Peter A. was there with his family. Leif's friend Michael was there to visit. We decided to use Peter W's German beer steins. Leif, Peter A. and Michael had provided a supply of interesting and unusual beers for all of us to try (Leif, the beer connoisseur), and we were telling stories and jokes, laughing, taking pictures. It was one of the happiest evenings with the family together, one of those memories to be treasurered. I am showing Leif a photo I took with my camera, and this one was taken by Peter W.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Friend Names a Baby After Leif

This photo is of Leif when he was almost a month old, taken in Manhattan, Kansas on February 23, 1975. I miss that little boy!

Today I received word that another of Leif's friends has named a child after him. A little girl bears Leif's middle name, Ashley, and her father is also a friend of Jason and Melissa, who gave their son "Leif" as a middle name.

I am immensely touched that these friends cared so much for Leif that that named their children after him. How I wish Leif had realized how deeply he affected so many lives, how much people loved him. How I wish he had not felt so alone.

Now I wish he were here to see these namesake children grow up.

And I wish he'd had children of his own.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Right to Bear Arms

On Monday, June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental right to bear arms (article from the New York Times). When I heard about that decision, I immediately thought of Leif and how fervently he would have approved. A paragraph he would have liked, from the article,
The decision extended the court's 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that "the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.

Leif long maintained that police do not protect us, they react after a crime has been committed, and that it is up to us to protect ourselves. He also maintained that gun ownership was critical to keeping our civil liberties, and over time, although I never wanted to own guns, he convinced me of the value of those arguments.

I have often wondered, since his death, whether he would have any different opinions if he could come back and talk to me now. Would he still maintain his beliefs, or would he feel that if it hadn't been so easy for him to have guns, he might still be alive, for another chance at life?

I've thought long and hard about that, and I think Leif would still say that people should have the right to have guns . . . and, as he had before, the obligation to use them responsibly . . . AND, that they also have the right to take their own lives.

Although I will never know what the real state of his mind was when he decided to pull the trigger, or whether he thought much about how it would affect those he left behind, I know he had thought about it earlier in his life when he considered suicide and decided against it. I think he would say it was his choice and he made it, and that such a choice does not mean that the right to own a weapon should be abridged.

That will always be a problem for us, that people will use them, and make their own decisions about how to do so. I am only thankful Leif never used a gun on anyone else!

The photo is one Leif took of himself in 2002 and used as his avatar on the ZAON website.

Friday, September 10, 2010

He Loved Gadgets and Machines His Whole Life

This photo of Leif was taken when he was only nine months old, in the dining room of our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas in October 1975. He was fascinated with my typewriter (long before the days of computers, and this one was a manual typewriter at that), and he wanted so badly to explore it and get at it that I put it on the floor and let him. He was completely absorbed in examining it, and I found that so interesting that I had to go get my camera. Then he looked up.

This photo is similar to one I have of Peter Anthony at about the same age, exploring the same typewriter. Both my sons were totally captivated by gadgets and machines, especially if they could either be manipulated or had some kind of propulsion. It was an interest they maintained all their lives.

This photo was badly damaged, not only faded, but covered with horrible black spots that came from black photo corners on other photos on the album page. I was amazed that I could rescue it this well with PhotoShop, and I'm grateful for the chance to see it again more as it was when I took it, and for the chance to see that intent baby look on Leif's face. It was obvious from the start that he was smart and inquisitive.

A computer keyboard became an important tool for him, but this was the first one he got his little hands on.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happier Days

We were so lucky when our sons were children. The problems were small and solvable. They were healthy and strong and intelligent, and although exasperating at times like we all are, mostly a joy and fun to be with. I can look back on those times now and marvel that though I was often tired out, I was also happy, and I miss those days.

I often told my sons that it was much easier to be a mother to children than to grown sons, because my role in that past was clearly defined. Even if I made mistakes, I knew I was supposed to be responsible for them, to take care of them, advise them, teach them, and the problems I faced were manageable, though not always easy.

When they become adults, living their own lives, it's so much harder, not knowing when to give advice or opinions or when to intervene . . . when I didn't, they asked me why I hadn't; when I did, they did not welcome it or follow my advice, and often I really had none to give because I didn't KNOW what was best for them and didn't want to say the wrong thing. Leif would deny his depression or the depth of his indebtedness when I did ask him about it. He wanted to keep his problems to himself and try to solve them on his own. That would have been admirable and manly, had he been able to do it. He did try, but in the end was overwhelmed.

I look at this photo, taken in the Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas (where Leif was born) when he was only two days old, and remember how glad I was to have him, how happy he was mine. I'm glad I didn't know then I would only have him for 33 years, and how sad his adult life would be.

Beware of wanting to know the future. It's best that we don't.

Photo taken on January 30, 1975

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Miss Him

Was I ever that young? Was he ever that small?

This picture was taken on the sun porch of the old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas on February 9, 1975, when Leif was only 12 days old. He was a big baby, but still so small.

I was worn out, but I was happy. I had Peter W., Peter A. (who was six years old) and Leif. Life seemed so complete and so full of the future and hope.

i haven't posted on this blog for a long time, but it's not because I haven't been thinking of Leif, not because I haven't missed him. Thinking of him and missing him are with me every day. Sometimes it's harder than others.

It was a joy to have Peter A. and his family here for a visit, the house full of the seven of us, lots of activity, lots of hugs and love, lots of fun, but it was all so bittersweet. I couldn't help but remember the times Leif had been there with all of us, couldn't help thinking how much he would have enjoyed going go-karting with them, racing his brother around the track. I couldn't help but think about the grandchildren I would never have from him. In an odd sort of way, having them all here made his death even harder, even while their visit kept me busy and distracted, with no time to write.

When they left, I didn't have the heart. I thought, I shouldn't just write something sad; people will think I'm pathological, that I should be over his death by now . . . even though every mother and father I've ever talked to who lost a child said they NEVER get over it. They just learn to keep living. They learn to deal with the sadness when it breaks through. I guess I am pretty much there, but those days are hard.

Tonight I looked at the Picasa albums of all the photos on this blog, over a thousand of them, and then the tears just came, again, like they did when I was talking to Peter A. when he was here, about how hard it is to know that my son was so unhappy he took his own life.

A few days ago, driving home from my mother's house late at night, I found myself asking Leif (expecting no answer) whether it had been hard to make the decision to die, whether it was hard to pull the trigger, whether he had to get really drunk to make himself do it . . . or did he do it because he was drunk and not thinking clearly? What did he think about those last minutes of his life? Did he think of us? Of his lost love? Of all the dreams he had that had turned to dust? Of his pain and sorrow? Or did he just think about how to load the gun and how to hold it so it would do the job completely?

Those are morbid thoughts, but they are the kind of thoughts the mother of a son who shoots himself thinks, though thankfully not all the time!

i also think about how his little baby body felt in my arms, how warm, how sweet he smelled, how his eyes were so alert and searching out everything, especially loving bright colors, how he loved to be held, loved me to sing to him, which I did every night when i put him to bed for at least the first ten years of his life.

i think about how much I miss his conversation, his laugh, his smile, the baby smile and the little boy smile, the teen smile and the rascally young man smile, the grown man smile. I miss his curiosity, his knowledge of technology.

I remember his quirky sense of humor and how he loved "The Mind of Mencia" and George Carlin.

I remember how he loved Orson Scott Card's Ender series.

I remember how he loved beautiful cars all his life.

I remember his beautiful brown eyes.

Soon it will be 29 months since he died. I will never forget, never stop missing him.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday Pancakes - Thinking of Leif

I've been cleaning up my office in preparation for a visit from my granddaughters, who "get" to sleep in there on the floor on an air mattress, and I keep finding more reminders of Leif, little things, a photo here and there, a computer trackball, the zippered case with software for the computer he built in about 2003. Sometimes finding those things brings a smile and some memory I hadn't thought of in a long time, sometimes they bring sadness that he's no longer here. It will always be that way, but I'm getting a lot better at looking at the wonder of having had him in my life for 33 years and not always turn to the sadness of losing him.

When the boys were still young enough to be living at home, we made pancakes on Sunday morning. Homemade ones, measured from scratch, and the boys enjoyed helping mix the batter. It was a Sunday tradition, kind of a ritual, that we all liked and looked forward to. You see, I started them young. :) This photo was taken in Charlottesville, Virginia when Leif was two years old. I loved those times together.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Recipe for Longevity: No Smoking, Lots of Friends

Recipe for Longevity: No Smoking, Lots of Friends(Click on this link to read the article.)

As I read this article, I couldn't help but remember how Leif's circle of friends shrank and his contacts and personal intereactions with others diminished over the last year of his life. It wasn't that he didn't seek companionship, but that he focused solely on finding a mate and when he thought he had, he found it so hard to be apart and out of contact. He had little contact with the friends from his past and didn't make new ones in Florida, at least not lasting ones, and the few new contacts he had weren't the kind of healthy and close ones that would have helped him thrive and survive.

Science is coming closer to realizing and documenting that we need love and friendship to be healthy, and perhaps even to survive, in some cases, but what it doesn't tell us is why some people are good at finding those social contacts and friendships, and others aren't, why some are good at keeping them and others don't. What is it that makes the loner, the lonely, that way? Is it lack of social skills? Is it shyness? Is it an inferiority complex? Is it fear? It is some other mental or emotional, or even biological, factor?

Why do some people suffer alone, in their homes or apartments, go to work and come home without ever having a meaningful human interaction?

And does our current world that offers so much ersatz contact and entertainment through television, cell phones and the internet give people the illusion that they are in contact with others, but yet they suffer all the same symptoms and health problems, the same emotional pain, of those who are isolated?

This photo of Leif was taken at the Michie Tavern area near Charlottesville, Virginia in the spring of 1977 when Leif was just over two years old.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Persistence of Grief and Mourning; Remembering How to be Happy

I was reading an article about how new experiences create new pathways in the brain. It was focused on positive new experiences, ones that would enhance one's life and help to keep the brain functioning. It talked about learning new things, trying new things.

What it didn't say was what happens to us when new experiences are thrust upon us that are negative, traumatic, or terrible. How do those experiences create new pathways in the brain? They do.

It occurred to me that the intensity of grief and mourning for someone as close and loved as a son, or for others a daughter, spouse, sister or brother, parent, someone deeply loved and part of one's life, must create new pathways of sadness and longing that are indelibly etched upon the brain.

When we are mourning our losses, we go over and over those pathways, over and over the ground, asking questions, trying to over and over to remember every detail and nuance, trying to understand and fathom how death could have taken away someone so loved. Each time we go over those details, think of our loved one, feel our grief, those pathways are strengthened. It can become an obsession.

Each time we think about the death; each time we think about our sorrow, it is reinforced, strengthened to rise again and again.

It's hard to get past grief because the neural connections we formed as the bonds with our loved one are still there, still yearning for that contact, and now, added to them, is a whole new set of sad ones related to their death and all that surrounds death; the funeral, disposing of their belongings, contacting friends and relatives, taking care of their affairs.

How can we get past it, when we are in essence practicing our grief a dozen times a day?

Some people never do get over it. They mourn and are sad the rest of their lives. Some get past it, manage to function, but are brought back to their grief when a reminder catches them. And some are able to move on after a time.

I've given a lot of thought to how they do it. I think first and foremost they have to want to get past their grief and sadness. They must have other good things in their lives and they must have hope. But I think the most important aspect of recovery is a conscious decision to work at it.

How does one do that? When we are depressed or sad, we don't feel like doing any of the things that would help. We don't want to be with people. We don't want to socialize. We don't want to have fun, because nothing sounds like fun. We don't want to exercise. In fact we don't want to do much of anything and we don't care about much, either. No matter what someone outside our grief might say we have that is positive and good (and regardless of whether we know we have much to be grateful for), we see and feel the hurt, the loss, the pain.

We have to also be able to forgive ourselves for wanting to return to a normal life, because there is a guilt about being happy when someone you love is dead.

Although I have come to see that much, what I don't know is how a person gets to that point, a point where he or she is able to do the things that will help them heal, to want to live again, to try to turn away from those strong and demanding mental pathways to something new and happier.

How does one "give up grief" when it has become the "habit" of the brain?

Does time heal? Yes, the acuteness of grief subsides, but what is left in its place? Sometimes lethargy, depression, and sadness. Sometimes they fade and the grieving person emerges into a new life at some point.

I think that partly what happens is determined by that conscious decision, which can only come when the deepest grief has passed, but another part is beyond our control. There are things in the brain we cannot begin to control. If we are saddled with a genetic disposition to depression, the death may well be the "switch" that turns on a lifelong battle with depression. Even when it is not a deep depression, it can sap the joy out of life and dampen down its pleasures.

I think Leif fell into depression when he lost his loves, not through death, but never-the-less through the death of relationships he so badly needed and wanted. To be cut off from love is excruciatingly painful.

For those of us recovering, we also have to somehow remember how to be happy. That sounds foolish to someone who hasn't been in this situation. Why would anyone have to remember how to be happy? But it's true.

I started thinking about that a few days ago while swimming outdoors at sunset. They sky was beautiful, the water warm, the evening balmy. Although I was glad to be swimming, I realized that I wasn't feeling the happiness and joy I used to feel in that very place and situation before Leif died, back in those days when I would look forward to a text message "conversation" with him later in the evening. I decided I needed to try to remember how I felt when I was happy, to remember what happiness was.

At first, I could remember WHEN I had been happy, and I could recount to myself things that had made me happy, but I didn't feel it. It still had the subdued, flat feeling of a mildly depressed person.

But I kept trying. On bicycle rides, instead of just looking down at the street and pedaling along, I made myself remember how I used to enjoy looking at the houses and yards to see what kind of landscaping they had, at the ponds, at the clouds, so often beautiful in Florida, and the birds. I remembered how I loved to listen to the mockingbirds sing. I didn't feel as I once did, but I began remembering that I HAD felt it and recalling what it was like.

In the pool, I remembered how I loved to float on my back and look at the clouds, swim toward the palm trees and marvel at how it was like being on vacation for a short time each day.

At home I remembered how good it felt to accomplish a task, not just what I had to get done each day, but something more, and something creative. So I created two photo books and began to work on getting some other things done that have been waiting for a long time.

This wasn't easy, especially the "getting things done" part. And it's not without backsliding. I don't yet feel as happy and energetic and motivated as I did before Leif died, and I don't know if I ever will. Even if I do, I know there will be days and moments of sadness and longing.

But I do know that I can find happy times again and that I have given myself permission to be happy. I do know that it is partly a choice, but partly a fight with my own brain and feelings.

Leif left a huge hole in my life. That isn't going to change, but I was thinking about another situation with someone I know and how she ought to make the best of her situation, and as so often happens to me, I turned the reasoning on myself. I asked myself, "Am I making the best of my situation?" I had to answer, "No."

So I am trying. It isn't easy and it won't be quick, but as I look back on the past 27 months, I recognize happy moments, however small or fleeting, along the way. I remember the first really happy trip Peter and I took in April 2009, to St. Augustine, and the best one since Leif died, to Germany in May 2010.

The tides of emotion will continue to ebb and flow. The rollercoaster ride isn't over. I know I am not yet a happy person, but I do have happy moments and I am working to have more of them.
The photo of Leif was taken in our living room in Honolulu, Hawaii in about 1984 when Leif was nine years old.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coming Home -- and not coming home

Travel and work are the best antidotes to grief and depression, even if they don't always work. Initially after Leif died, even traveling didn't take me far from sorrow and tears, but as the two years passed, I found that being gone from home allowed me to focus on my trip and destination, the people I was seeing, the sights, even though we always talked about Leif. It was as though I didn't expect to see him in those places, so his absence was not painful.

Coming home, though, has continued to be sad. Although I love my home and look forward to returning to it, once I get here I am struck again with Leif's absence, with his things in my house, and the knowledge he will not be coming here ever again. I remember that the guest room was once his room, that my office was once his living room, before I moved down here from Kansas. So many memories. So many years of expectations, of seeing him, loving him.

Peter is so good to me, tries to hard to cheer me up, reminds me of all the good things in my life. He's so loving and sweet, and he's so right. I have so much to be happy about, so many reasons to enjoy life.

But none of them bring Leif back or take into account how much I miss him.

This photo of Leif was taken in Norway in the summer of 1977 when he was two-and-a-half years old.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Leif Loved the Fourth of July

I have no photos of Leif setting off fireworks or watching them. I have only the memories of how much he loved the Fourth of July, starting when he was a very young boy. He gloried in all the noise and light, the sound and fury. He was excited when the fireworks stands started popping up. He loved setting off firecrackers and twirling sparklers, and when he was older, the larger fireworks. He loved seeing the big city displays.

One of his last Fourths he was in Tampa, down by Channelside by the bay, watching the fireworks over the water and text messaging me about how beautiful it was.

He loved what the Fourth represented, was passionate about the U.S. Constitution, and defending our liberty.

So today, when I have no photo of him on the Fourth, I am posting the back of my USO t-shirt. He would have approved.

Songs that Speak

Today was one of those days that I heard songs lyrics that brought Leif to mind, not because he played those songs, but because they spoke of the life and feelings he had. Kris Kristofferson's "For The Good Times" seemed to pour out the kind of feeling Leif might have had for his lost loves, "make believe you love me one more time, for the good times." How sad those times were gone.

i don't normally turn on the radio, or even music. First of all, Peter usually has the television on so I don't like competing sounds, but I also treasure quiet and I'm usually working on something and would only be distracted by music. Music is very involving to me. it isn't just background sound. I want to really listen to it. So most of the time when I encounter songs like this, it's because Peter has turned on the radio in the car or I'm somewhere with piped in music, or it's in a television show. The pool where we swim has a soft rock radio station on all the time, so I often hear songs there that make me think of Leif and his life. So many songs are about love and love lost. They all have so much more meaning, and so much more sadness, for me now.

I have a CD of music that is supposed to help lull you to sleep. It's beautiful, haunting music, very soft and dreamy, and I like it, but for some reason, it often brings tears to my eyes because it makes me think of Leif. I have tried to contemplate what it is about this music that I associate with him, because I know he never heard it and I bought the CD after his death. I think I know what it is. There is something about the music that sounds as though it should be accompanied by beautiful photos of the cosmos, photos like those taken by the Hubble Telescope. They should be carrying us. me, though space. And that's why I hink of Leif. He had a marvelous slide show of Hubble space photos on his computer and he loved space. i associate that with him and I imagine him traveling through space, seeing at last a place his soul wanted to go. At least it's a lovely idea, whether it could possibly be true or not. The music, though, makes me miss him.

Music is so powerful.


This photo of Leif looking so young and vulnerable was taken in Japan when he was five or six years old. I wish that I could hug him one more time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Movie Leif Would Have Loved

One of the things Leif and his dad had in common was a love of movies, and their tastes were generally quite similar, and also quite eclectic. Since Peter continues to watch a lot of movies, it's frequently a way that we are reminded of Leif, particularly when it's a movie we know he would really have enjoyed.

Leif also had a great sense of humor and loved whacky stuff. One of the things he and I had in common was an odd sense of humor and one of his compliments for me was, "Mom, you're weird.:

A few days ago, Peter W. said he thought I needed to take a break and watch a good comedy. So often, movies he checks out that purport to be comedies aren't the least bit funny to me, so I was dubious. He said we were going to watch "The Ugly Truth." When I asked him what it was about, he couldn't tell me. He requests movies by the popularity lists for moves that are new on DVD and often doesn't really know what they are.

So, I sat down in the living room without high expectations . . . and soon found myself laughing out loud and saying how much Leif would have enjoyed this movie.

If you've been reading this blog all along, and you saw this movie, you would know why that's so without me having to say another word. Mike Chadway (played by Gerard Butler) has a television show telling women how to understand and date men, and he does so in very graphic, crude and somewhat cynical terms . . . and yet he's right on in a number of ways that Leif wrote about. Of course, it's fairly one-dimensional, which Leif would have agreed with, too, saying that men have to learn about intimacy.

The female lead, Abby (played by Katherine Heigl) is a tv producer and control freak who can't stand what Mike is dishing out but in the end agrees to try his advice to land a date with a "dreamboat." It works, but in the end, somewhat predictably, Mike and Abby fall for each other.

It's cute, funny, and spouts a lot of things guys will recognize, and it's quite entertaining. Leif would have been laughing uproariously and making a lot of comments. He wouldn't in the least have minded the graphic language.

I know that there will always be these moments when Peter and I look at each other and say, "Leif would have loved that," and wished we could share it with him as we did in the past.

This photo of Leif was taken at the City of Refuge on the Big Island of Hawaii in the summeer of 1983. He was eight years old and we were just moving to Hawaii.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The mind is a strange thing. It has it's own logic and memory in dreams and creates stories and realities all it's own. And it apparently does not accept death. I say that, because although my father died in 1960, I still occasionally dream about him, and it is never in the past. It's always in the present, and he is an old man. He's been lost, and I've found him.

I don't often remember my dreams, but I woke and remembered I had dreamed about Leif a few days ago. It was a vivid dream, though the details quickly grew misty. In my dream, Leif was a young adult, maybe in his mid-twenties. He had gone on a trip with us somewhere (as he often did) and for some reason he didn't what to go wherever I was going, in a strange city. Like so many dream locations, it was not someplace real, not someplace I have ever actually been.

So he took off on his own, so like him. I was wandering around a business area looking for something, met some friends, and we went to dinner. Leif called me on our cell phones and he sounded lost. Not physically lost. He knew where he was, but he didn't know where I was and what I was doing, and he was suddenly lonesome and sad. He asked, "Why does everything have to turn out wrong?"

I remember feeling bad for him in this dream, and telling him how to come join us for dinner.

That's all I remember of the dream, except for a few details about how the location looked, but the dream seems significant and telling to me. Leif wandering around alone, asking why things turned out badly. And alive.

Perhaps I have dreamed of his death. Perhaps I have dreamed of my dad's death. If so, I have not remembered those dreams. So far, in the only ones I ever remember they are alive. Not happy. Not well, but alive. And so real.

I find myself now thinking of Leif more and more as a child and not as the man he was when he died. Why is that? Is that because he was "mine" then? Is it because those were happier days? It is because in those days I could solve the problems and keep our family whole? Is it because he was such a beautiful child?

I don't know. He was a man nearly as long as he was a child, in his years on this earth, and when I picture him and am not looking at photos, I picture his tall frame coming through my front door.

So many memories, good ones, bad ones, happy and sad ones, but he lives only in my dreams.


This photo of Leif and me was taken in Hawaii in 1983, he was eight-and-a-half years old.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Another women who lost a son to suicide was talking to me a few days before Father's Day and she said, "Why is it that these days like Mother's Day or Easter are so much harder? They're just another day."

The trouble is, they aren't just another day. They are days with significance, a significance we have been taught all our lives. They matter because humans measure time, and they designate certain days as having some kind of importance.

She said they only get "two months off," meaning that every other month has either a holiday or a family date like a birthday in it, so they are always anticipating those occasions when their son won't be with them.

I know how that feels now. We are into our third set of birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day without Leif, and soon it will be the Fourth of July (one holiday he really liked), then in the fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each one of them is another day we will realize he won't be coming, something we had an expectation of over the years, because except for such rare instances, he always WAS there. He was an integral part of our joy and celebration of those holidays, and now having to experience them without him seems saddened and partly empty. We have other family members but they haven't been with us for these times over the years, so their absence is not so keenly felt. The expectation isn't there.

I find that my subconscious starts anticipating the holiday without Leif and I become sad. It happens to Peter W., too. We both feel that Mother's Day and Father's Day are diminished, that we have only half our children (for we had only two sons) still there. Does that mean we are half the parents we once were? It's hard to be happy on those days.

It's impossible not to think about Leif's death on those days set aside specifically for mothers and fathers, for that's what we were to him, and those were days he shared with us.

I found myself fighting tears.

I made a card for Peter W. and had a hard time deciding what photo to put on it. It doesn't seem right to put a photo of our family without Leif, though he is no longer here, and that's what I did on the card last year. I chose a photo of our boys in Germany when they were small, beautiful little boys! Those days are gone now, are just fond memories now made all the sweeter because we know they not only will never come again but Leif will never be with us. I had tears in my eyes when I made the card, but I didn't expect Peter to have them in his eyes when he looked at it. He was affected, too, saddened again at the loss, asking why Leif shot himself, how he could do it.

And we will never know.

The thoughts and the feelings go beyond that. I rarely turn on the car radio but I did a day or so ago and there was some sweet and slightly melancholy love song playing, and the words just made me sad, both because, as I've written before, love songs can be interpreted as other than romantic love, and because I was sad that Leif never had the romantic love he so desperately sought and hoped for.

Coming home from a wedding on Friday, we crossed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and I think we will never cross it without thinking and talking of Leif. And at the wedding, which was beautiful, I thought why couldn't Leif have found a love like this?

The memories are everywhere. The feelings are still so strong and deep. The sadness comes back in waves. It has burrowed into my heart.

This photo of Leif, Peter W. and Peter A. was taken in April 1987 in the area of Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Leif was 12 years old, and acting goofy because he didn't really want to be posing for a photo. There were others taken at the same time that were better than this one, but these are my three guys, the ones that mean the world to me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Words of Sympathy?

Yesterday I was trying to choose a sympathy card for the family of a cousin who died and I found that the cards were so inadequate and full of platitudes that really don't help. Before Leif died, I used to write my own messages about how people could take comfort in their memories. Now, I know that such comfort doesn't come. While one may be grateful for many of the memories, thinking of them doesn't bring peace or comfort, it brings the sense of loss, of knowing those times are gone and there won't be any more.

The idea that someone lives on because of our memories seems empty and foolish to me now. The memories live on in our hearts and minds, but the person lives no more. It may be a nice thought that they "live" in some sense because they are remembered, but it isn't so. The memories "live."

The one thing that the cards say that might actually be true is that the love and care of family and friends helps. It helps one get through the grief, but it doesn't take it away. It helps one realize there are others to care about, reasons to go on, people to love, but it doesn't take away the pain or the sorrow.

So what could one, or should one say to a grieving family. I am brought back to what Jason Palenske said at Leif's memorial service, something he learned by asking his grandmother, "I'm sorry for your pain." That, and recounting one's own memories of the deceased, are, to me, what is of value, and real, not some pretty but meaningless platitudes.

A few days ago, while I was in bed, a very short poem came to me, and I think it says what I feel.


Sorrow digs deep
into the heart
and burrows down
to make its nest.

Maybe someday I will add to it. Maybe there's more after the nest is made.


Peter W. found this photo of Leif out in the garage. It is an unused Army dependent ID card photo and was probably taken when Leif was about nine or ten when we were living in Hawaii, but it could be as young as seven or eight. In any case, that would put it between 1982-1985. He looks so sweet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

26 Months Without Leif

Today it's been 26 months since Leif's death and it is still a shock. The mind still plays tricks, wanting us to think of him as alive, not wanting to let him go. He looks so alive and vital in his photos, looking out at me with those warm brown eyes.

This is another photo I had never seen before my cousin Marji sent it to me. It was taken almost exactly 19 years ago, on June 7, 1991, in Oregon when we were visiting Multnomah Falls with my Uncle Jerry. Seems amazing the weather was so cool, as we experience baking heat in Florida at the same time of year. Leif, Peter W. and I look so much younger and happier . . . and we were.

How I wish I could take Leif on one more trip . . . or many more trips. I'm glad we had the opportunities we did to be with him.

Someone commented on my last blog post, asking whether I believed in an afterlife. I've written about that on the blog before. I can conceive of the possibility, but find it improbable. However, there are so many incredible things about life and this universe I cannot say it's not possible, though even if there is an afterlife, I doubt very much that it is much like our conceptions of it.

The idea of an afterlife is immensely comforting to many people, but for me, the idea that I might see Leif again someday doesn't remove the fact that I miss him now, that I ache for the misery he went through, that I am sad for his loss and ours.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Anniversary

Sunday, June 6th was our 45th anniversary. We've had a wonderful marriage, one which Leif envied and would like to have emulated. I am thankful for all those years of happiness with Peter, and grateful that our love was strong enough to last through the grief of losing our son.

In May, I got a card from my cousin, Marji, with two photos she found in her father's things, photos that were taken when Peter W., Leif and I visited her and my Uncle Jerry in June 1991. I had never seen these photos before and I am so glad to have them. This photo was taken on June 6, 1991, our 26th anniversary, when we were with them in Oregon. We had a wonderful trip and it was so good seeing them after so many years. It was the second time that Leif met his Great Uncle Jerry, my father's only sibling, and the last time as well, and the first and only time he met Marji .

He was 16 years old and just starting to grow his hair long. He's wearing those trademark Oakley sunglasses, and his stylish Hypercolor T-shirt and those weight-lifter pants that showed off his figure so well. He's already towering over his handsome father.

He enjoyed the trip as much as we did. We flew to Oregon after attending Peter Anthony's graduation from the Air Force Academy. Uncle Jerry took us to see Mt. St. Helens and Multnomah Falls.

That summer, Leif was tall, slim and handsome, and felt like he was coming into his own. I love to think of him that way.

We went on a short cruise for this 45th anniversary and it was great, but coming home as always brings back memories and missing Leif, especially when we pass the turn-off that would go to where he lived, especially when we see all the things he brought into our house or that we ended up with when he died. For some reason, I've had a hard time with it today. Sadness comes back, no matter how much we try to escape it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Remembering Leif and all his fallen comrades in arms on this Memorial Day, those who fell in battle, those killed by IEDs, those who came home broken in body or spirit who suffer for their service to our country.

Remembering Leif's service to our country and the price he paid for it.

Remembering all the families dealing with the loss or injury of a loved one.


The photo is of the bugler who played Taps at Leif's military honors memorial service at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 29, 2008.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Many Photos Are There of Leif I've Never Seen?

When we were in Germany earlier this month, our friends the Streckers showed us some photos of us and our boys that were taken around 1980 when we were living in Germany. Several of them we had never seen before, and this photo of Leif riding on my back was one of them. How well I remember carting him around like this, usually when he got tired on Volksmarches and the terrain was too rough for the umbrella stroller, but also just for fun. He looks like he's enjoying himself, just a hint of a smile there. He looks so sweet. I'm glad I could scan it.

This made me wonder how many other people have pictures of Leif that I've never seen . . . and would love to see. I treasure every one.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reasons only bring more questions

Like I said, even an answer about what happened to Leif, from him, only brings more questions. If he died from loneliness, lack of purpose, debts and pain, WHY couldn't he find a purpose in life? Why couldn't he find a life partner who didn't bring him pain? Why couldn't he control his spending? Why did he have such a need for speed and weapons. The questions will go on all my life.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why Some Days are Sad

It doesn't take much to bring on sadness on some days. I've been having spells of it for three days now. I wondered whether it was because my birthday is coming and Leif won't be here, or whether coming home and realizing full force that Leif wasn't with us for Mother's Day did it, or whether it's just being home again and not as distracted by travel and other things. Maybe that Memorial Day is coming soon. Maybe it's all of those, plus the associations that so many daily things bring.

For instance, this morning I chose to wear a t-shirt from our 2003 family reunion. It has the logo of the family tree brooch on it that Darlene designed, and she made the shirts, too. Thanks to her, Peter A. and Donovan, we had this beautiful brooch made for Mom in Thailand. I didn't think that putting on this shirt would make me sad, but it did. I reminded me that Leif was there then, with us, hopeful for his future, having just graduated from KSU. He enjoyed the reunion, and these photos of him are with the gifts he received from his brother, Peter A., for his graduation. It made me think of the 2008 reunion, which took place only two-and-a-half months after his death, and how hard it was to have the whole family there except for him, and now, to know there will never be a family reunion with him present, nor will I ever have a family reunion like my mother has had with all her children present.

That made me think how she has a way of telling people what a worrier I am and about my "Worrier's Anonymous" t-shirt (my own design. She doesn't call it that, just describes how I worry about everything. I haven't worn that t-shirt since the day we found Leif dead in his apartment. I wore it there that day, partly because I WAS worried . . . and with good reason . . . and partly as a joke so that if we did find him alive, I could tease him about how my worrying was justified. I just can't bring myself to wear it any more. Too many sad memories of that day. And I can't bring myself to tell my mother, either. I'm not normally a compulsive worrier, though I am a planner and "speculator," but at the time I designed that shirt and put it on, I WAS terribly worried about Leif, and it seems like a harmless and amusing outlet for my worries. I had fun wearing it. The "Worrier's Manifesto" was designed and written to be way over-the-top, but I guess Mom took it seriously, even though I had good reason to worry in her case, too, when I told her I worried about her getting in and out of the bathroom on a cruise ship. I was worried she would fall . . . and she did, and broke her back. So, maybe my worries are justified in too many cases.

So, thinking about these things, with my reunion 2003 t-shirt on, I went into the living room where Peter W. was watching a movied called "New York City Serenade." I only saw snatches of it, but the last scene made me so sad. Two friends were meeting after a long time and one had a little girl and the other apparently had done well in business but was alone and depresed. He left alone in a cab and the father walked hand-in-hand with his little girl talking about the future until he lifted her onto his shoulder. I could just see Leif in that, both sides . . . the man who left, lonely and sad, and the father Leif wanted to be, with the little girl whose mother he wanted to marry. Would he have lived if he'd had something to live FOR?

That brought me back to thinking about the deep sadness I felt Thursday night, when I was again crying, "Why? Why then? What tipped the balance? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you leave a clue?"

Yes, he left that philosophy essay of his and the photo on this laptop, but that's not enough. It doesn't spell it out.

Then I thought, even if he HAD left a note or explanation, it would just raise more questions . . . . more whys. There's really no way for someone to comprehend it who didn't experience what he did.

But today a revelation of sorts came to me, because of that scene in the movie and connecting it with the email from Leif in November 2007 when he said that life held far more pain and agony for him that pleasure and that he basically had nothing to live FOR, no PURPOSE. That IS the answer. Nothing to live for. How ultimately sad.

Peter W. was affected by the movie, too, in the same way I was, and we were also hit by the West Point graduation, which should be a time of rejoicing and triumph, and yet we both wondered how many of those young men and women will die or be maimed in the wars we are fighting . . . and for what? For how many years? Why are we doing this to these wonderful young people? Is it worth it? Not to me.

Peter W. and I drove out into the country past Wimauma to pick blueberries and on the way he said he was sad today. We discovered we were both experiencing the same sadness. He said he missed my blog about Leif, missed looking forward to reading memories of Leif and seeing pictures, and to knowing what I was thinking. I miss that, too, but it's not something I can write every day, and where are the photos going to come from? I can't make more of them. Leif is not here for that. Every photo I have now is precious. It's both wonderful and terriby, terribly sad to see his handsome face looking earnestly out at me, life-size, from my computer screen. How I wish I would reach in there and hug him! I miss him so!

Picking blueberries in the sunlight was good for us. Seeing the green of the countryside was good for us. The best antidote to sadness and depression is work, action, distraction, yet so often those are the things we don't feel at all like doing. We make ourselves do them. We have to. Tears and sadness can't be the only thing in life. We can't let them take over.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Leif would have loved it - Google's Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Pac Man

Google has created a playable logo of Pac Man to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the game. How it brings back memories for me! Thirty years ago Leif was five years old and we were living in Japan. The video arcade phenomena was huge and there was a large one not too far from our housing area, in the city of Sagamihara. I think I've already written that one of our favorite family outings was to have dinner (tonkatsu) at Matsumoto's, which the Americans called the "Little Pork Place" and then go to the arcade. We would get a lot of tokens and each of us would have a bundle of them and we'd play, all of us, whatever video games appealed to us. Pac Man and a bit later Ms. Pac Man were popular and so much fun.

Leif later had Pac Man as one of the retro games on his XBox360. I don't know if he ever actually played it as a 32-33-year-old adult, though I bet he at least tried it out for old times sake.

With Leif's memory, he would remember those outings and all the fun we had together. We still played at the arcades in Hawaii, mostly at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center where the arcade was on the top floor.

How I wish Leif were here to share this with, the fun of playing it with the arrow keys on Google. I don't know how long they will leave it there, but it you want to play and remember, too, just go to Then click on "insert coin" and you'll be playing. Use the arrow keys to control your Pac Man.

And remember Leif playing when he was 5-10 years old . . .