Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Romantic Correspondence Continues

Leif had trie to get together with LA but things kept interfering with their meeting in person. She lived in another town, which complicated things further. However, they continued to talk on the phone and communicate via instant messaging and email. Leif continued to reveal more and more about himself and his feelings about the relationships between men and women. LA's prolific and tantalizing letters elicited more writing from him. In this one, he explains his attraction to women, theorizes why he is attracted to thin, clear-skinned women, and what kind of dominance he wants to have. He tells us how important it is to a man to have an attractive wife and why. As he says, people don't say these things out loud, but he is willing to put a lot of faith in LA's understanding of his male viewpoint.

Sadly for him, he lost the weight battle. I wonder whether he would have felt any differently in early 2008 than when he wrote this in July 2005, though I doubt it.

At this point, he and LA had been corresponding for about a month.

Saturday, July 23, 2005 11:38 PM
Subject: more babbling please

Hello My sweet.

I love it when you babble. It's cute. One thing that I may not have told you before is that unlike many men I actually find your peculiar, irrational, feminine emotionality rather appealing. Don't get me wrong; if you start to get neurotic and irritating I might get annoyed, but I am extremely rational and perhaps a little emotionally repressed. I love the fact that women are so much more emotional. I find it fascinating. In fact, I find women utterly fascinating period. And the more archetypically female the better. Women are so beautifully alien to me. I just cant get enough of them.

On one hand I understand women well, better than most men, but that understanding is like the sort of understanding a biologist has of the way a bird flies. You understand how it flies and the reasons it flies but that does not mean you understand what it would be like to fly, and that is fascinating, like watching a bird and trying to comprehend what it might be like to be one of those beautiful creatures. That is kinda how I see women, as beautiful alien beings which, no matter how much I study them, remain irresistibly inexplicable.

I also like the fact that you feel comfortable talking to me about your emotions. I like that. It means you trust me.

I guess I have an unusual idea of what dominance or power means to me. Many simply enjoy the idea of simple power, the ability to do what one wants and to get other people to do what one wants. And yes, that has a certain appeal. However, I am reminded of a saying I heard in the military when it comes to leadership. It says that POWER is described as the ability to make people do something they do not want to do. There are many means to power; bribery, coercion, fear, etc. By contrast, LEADERSHIP is defined as the ability to make people want to do what you want them to do.

There are many powerful people. They can say, “you will follow me into battle because if you don't I will burn your homes,” but the true leaders are the ones whose people follow them willingly because they are just that cool and noble, whose people follow them because it is to their advantage, not just to their detriment not to.

To me, achieving dominion over a woman like you is not so much about being able to force you into submission. Rather to me it more like the ability to tame a wild animal. Sure, any brute can lasso a horse, put it in a corral and then, with help from others, tie it down and mount it and force it into submission, but how many can walk up to one in an open field and over the course of a few days or weeks get close to it, touch it, and earn its trust to the point that the horse will let him on its back without coercion? How many could make that horse a loyal friend that would actually protect its master? That is a true accomplishment.

I see the winning of a woman the same way. Any man can rape a woman, beat her into submission, force her to comply with his desires or suffer pain and degradation if she doesn't. That is no challenge. There is no satisfaction in that. But how many men could get a woman to voluntarily open herself to him? Let him in where he pleases? How many could obtain her willing subjugation? How many men could have a woman on her knees pleasuring him willingly and eagerly and thankful for his presence? Not many. That is the power I seek.

And while any man can claim a woman and “say she is mine because I say so,” how many can say she is mine because SHE says so? I can tell you that if you are desirable, as you must be, getting hit on all the time, that there is no greater feeling of pride that a man can have than to walk into a room with a woman that every man in the room wants and desires and have them all know that she is his by choice and chose him above all of them. It is the greatest status symbol a man can have, to have the woman that they all want.

This is another important insight you should have when it comes to your own appearance. Men compete in everything in life. And we compare everything. The quality of a man's woman is part of that competition. The man that shows up with a "catch" is held in very high esteem. "Wow, he must be a real man if he got her" kind of thing. A man who has a fat ugly wife that doesn't take care of herself looks very badly for the man. Now we would never say any of this aloud, but for example I have a customer that I consider to be a good looking guy. He is of decent height, is well built, and has a winning smile. I would think he is a good looking guy. His wife is not very pretty, is fat, and she doesn't seem to make any attempt to look good for him. I see them and I pity him. I think not only that he could do better but that he must have little self respect to stay with her, and I think that she is disrespecting him by not having the decency to try and look good for him. It shows a lack of respect for him.

Ultimately, be it power, wealth, or whatever, all male competition comes down to the pursuit of quality mates. The man with the quality woman is held in higher esteem even over the rich and powerful. A lot of that is tied to her appearance, and while you can't control everything about your looks or weight, a woman that "lets herself go" and doesn't even attempt to stay fit for her man is disrespecting him in the worst way. She is saying, “I don't care about you enough to look good for you and I would rather eat a pint of ice cream a day even if it makes me look unattractive to you and lowers your esteem among your friends.” I hate women that do that to their men. It is so insulting. Sure, while everyone get a little out of shape with age, some women don't even try to look nice. Sweats, T-shirts, pony tails with no make up. It's like they just stopped caring about their husbands now that they got the ring. That is one thing I have always respected about my mother, is that she believes it is herduty as a wife to do her best to look as good as she can for my father, within reason, not only for his sake when they are alone but for the way it effects him publicly.

In fact, this can even affect a man's career, as a boss that sees an employee with a beautiful, loving, happy wife sees a man worthy of respect. By contrast, if he has a crude, ugly, overweight, unkept, wife that is rude, he will think less of that man. On some level he is thinking, “man, if that is the best you could do, you must not be much of a man.” A very sad thing when a woman changes like that. he not only disrespects herself, she disrespects her husband.

Also, it can affect how the man treats you. A man that is proud of his wife wants to show her off, wants to buy her pretty things and take her out on the town and show her off. He wants everyone to see his beautiful wife and think how lucky he is to have her. He wants to keep her happy because she makes him happy. By contrast, if she is unattractive, particularly due to things she can control like her weight and her grooming, and her behavior, then he wants to hide her. He is ashamed of his wife and does not want anyone to se her. He resents her and does not want to do anything for her as she is not doing anything for him. It can be a vicious circle as she does not want to do anything for him and he does not want to do anything for her.

There is no greater feeling than to be proud of your mate and wanting to show her to everyone, like “Look and me and the gorgeous creature I was able to tame,” as opposed to having to go out and know that every one is thinking, “look at the horrid bitch that poor slob is stuck with.”

Anyway, just some stuff I thought you should know. I think it goes for men, too. I struggle with the genes myself and don't have the will power to stay in as good a shape as I would like.

That is also one of the reasons I am so attracted to thin women. I think that people naturally try to find the person that will balance them and make the best children. I am big and strong and fight with being overweight. I also had bad acne as a child, so thin clear-skinned women are very attractive to me. I guess I think mating with one of them would save my kids the same demons and balance them out.

Anyway, there is a bit of my own babbling for you.

You asked about “chemistry.” Chemistry is when you BOTH feel a strong desire, a level of excitement, and euphoria around each other, and feel very comfortable. I have been on many dates where things were forced, a bit flat. You might even like what you see but the person just doesn't seem right. Chemistry is when you just like each other a lot and get along effortlessly, and you want to be close and touch and kiss and can't get enough of each other. Basically, it comes down to if you feel good around each other and if it seems natural or forced. And it must be mutual or else it's just one person's desire.

I must say that chemistry, in my experience, is almost always immediate. You feel it and then it is confirmed over the course of a few hours. A first meeting can be a bit awkward but you feel a desire to get closer and then you wait to see if you can tell if the other person feels the same. Then once you get past the guarded stance and acknowledge that you both like each other, then you just feel really good around each other. It is largely a feeling of validation that happens when two people like each other and they know that the other likes them back. I like you and you like me and all is well with the world.

Well, anyway, I will chat with you some more. Since I am not going to see you I, am going to be a bad boy and drink some beer and play some games and I will sleep in. I hope to talk to you tomorrow. Gimme a call some time. I miss your voice.


Sadly, I have few photos of Leif during the last three years of his life, because I didn't see him as often in those years. I've posted most of the good ones already, sometimes more than once. I liked to post photos that were taken at about the time of the events I'm writing about, but in this case, I don't have a good 2005 photo to use, so I'm posting one he took of himself in August 2003, actually two years before he wrote this email to LA. He took it in the living room of the house where he was living at 710 N. 9th Street in Manhattan, Kansas, a couple of months after he graduated from Kansas State University. I think that period from 2003-2004 was his handsomest period during his post-army years.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leif's Birthday

It was a time to remember, to cry, to feel his loss so deeply, a time to share our grief, and time to wish that today, the day that would have been Leif's 35th birthday, we could see him happy, well and successful, not visit his remains at a cemetery. It's a sad form of remembrance, but it feels like the right place to be at this moment, the right commitment to his memory.

It was a beautiful day, the kind he would have loved to be out riding or driving, and oddly enough, when we parked our car at MacDill AFB after we had visited the cemetery, I looked to our right and the next car was a silver Mazda RX-8, the kind of car Leif drove. Such an odd coincidence.

And tonight there is a glorious full moon. Leif loved the moon and stars.

I'm going to drink a beer in his honor tonight and light his special candles, the ones made for us by Darlene and Marcus, and from Peter W's cousins in Heidelberg. It's not like having him here to celebrate, but at least we can remember the day of his birth and be glad he was with us for 33 years, even through our tears at his absence.

He Would Have been 35 Today

If Leif had lived, today would be his 35th birthday. It's still hard for me to realize he won't be coming for dinner, that we can't take him out, won't get him a present. It's the second birthday since his death, and it all still seems so wrong that my beautiful son isn't alive.

It's hard to look at the photos of the last year of his life and see how he deteriorated physically, how sad he looked, how much weight he gained. He looked ten years older than he was, and it happened so fast. What terrible things depression and an unhealthy lifestyle can do to a person!

Last year in January I posted a lot of photos of the birthdays in his life. This year, just today, one of him as a baby with me, and one on that last birthday two years ago. That's the span of his life, in those two photos, but there was so much in between, so much adventure and so much heartache.

Today I will go to the cemetery. Peter W., his dad, says Leif isn't there, and of course, he's right. Leif was a living, breathing, thinking human being, not a small pile of powdered bones, but it's symbolic. Where else can I go?

I was participating in a focus group today, a group of "senior citizens" who all participate in music. It was for a research project about how music affects one's quality of life and it is focused on seniors. I had never met the others in the group and it was interesting to see how they spoke about the role of music in their lives. We all talked about the joy of it.

But there was something I didn't say. Music does bring joy, but it can also bring sorrow. Music is not only full of it's own emotion, but we associate many pieces of music with things in our lives, and some of those are sad. I've already written about how some pieces make me cry so I don't listen to them any more, and how hard it is to sing some of them. One of the choruses I sing with has chosen to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the musical "Carousel." I loved this piece when I was a young teen. I purchase the sheet music with my allowance and I still have it. It's normally a beautiful, uplifting song. But not now. Now I find myself thinking of Leif and how many years he walked on with hope in his heart, hoping he wouldn't walk alone, but his hopes were dashed and he did walk alone. I know the song is probably referring to God being with you but even that, it seems Leif did not have, at least not that he felt it. I have a hard time singing that song because I know there are people who do feel alone, so along, and hope is hard to keep.

Two years ago, on his last birthday, Leif was here for dinner with us, actually the night before because of his work schedule. We had a good visit, but I was a little sad that I didn't get to make his favorite foods for him because he was trying out the Atkins diet again. I took it as a hopeful sign that he wanted to lose weight, and we made filet mignon for him. Maybe things would have been different if he hadn't lost his GI BIll stipend in February, taking away his last hope of being able to pay his bills (though he didn't tell us that). Maybe hope would not have deserted him.

How glad I am that I took pictures that night he was here, the last birthday I would ever see him.

Happy birthday, Leif, wherever you are.

The top photo was taken on January 27, 2008 at Leif's 33rd birthday dinner in Sun City Center, Florida. The second one is Leif with his mother, Jerri, on March 14, 1975. He was six weeks old. It was in Manhattan, Kansas.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another Short-Term Love Begins

In June 2005, at roughly the same time Leif was writing to J about the end of their relationship and to his friend about his wild ride around Tampa Bay on his motorcycle, he struck up a correspondence with LA, a woman he met through an online dating service. I say "met," but they didn't actually meet until they had corresponded and talked on the phone for well over a month. This was to be Leif's new mode, spending a lot of time getting to know a woman before he was willing to meet her in person. This woman was a very prolific correspondent and he seemed to love it. The email between them was by far the most I saw him write to anyone. She brought out a willingness to express himself that I didn't see with anyone else, at least not to that extent. And, he quickly began to hope for a real love and romance again. After only corresponding for about a week, he wrote the message below to her.

July 3, 2005

Now its my turn to babble at you while a bit out of my mind. I have had a a few drinks and am tired and am freed of my inhibitions and logical nature. This will be one of the times you get to hear my thoughts without the filter of goal oriented, logical reasonisng. Enjoy and and try not t hold it against me or take too much advantage.

I know I have been telling you not to get your hopes up but I should be telling that to myself instead. I am not sure what it is but I have an instinct about you and I think we may have something. Despite my better judgement I am getting my hopes up. I have waited so long to meet a woman I could be happy with. Have I told you that I think that the most brilliant symbol in the universe is the Yin Yang? That is such a profound sybollic image for me, a full circle made of two parts, each flowing into the other, each one half of the whole; complete opposite, but each having a little of the other inside them so they can understand each other. But therwise opposites. Neither is complete alone.

That is how I have always felt. Like I was a Yang looking for a Yin. I am a brilliant man, tall, strong, and some say good looking. I am very smart and educated. Talented, and from what I hear, pretty good in bed. I am on one hand one hell of a guy.

On the other hand.....

I am a complete mess.

I am a horrible bachelor. I hate cleaning. I am totally inept at all things domestic. My bedroom is covered with piles of clean clothes that I will likely never fold. My kitchen will always be full of dishes that need to be done. I am on one hand very independent and impressive, and on the other a completely hopeless mess that needs a woman to take care of me.

I like the idea that two people can take care of each other, that a man can care for and support and provide for a woman and she can make a home for him and their children. I have much more respect for a woman that can be a good wife and mother than one that can be a CEO of a company. Not that women can't do such things, and not that I wouldn't respect a woman that chose to or doubt their capability, but I believe that the feminine tasks often considered "Women's work" are some of the most noble and valuable tasks in society.

I believe that the most perfect relationship we could hope for is one where each person takes care of the other, performing all the tasks that the other is not suited for.

Yes, he should have been telling himself not to get his hopes up, but as I've written before, once something "clicked" with a woman, he was racing ahead in his hopes and dreams, wishing so hard that he'd found the one who could be the person he was writing about above, the one who could make a home for him, give him something to come home TO, someone to work for, someone to complete him.

One of the other things he discovered in the course of this correspondence was how fulfilling it was to find a woman who was intelligent and literate. Here's what he had to say about it:

I never used to think that was a priority to me, having an intelligent mate. Friends told me it was what I needed but to be perfectly honest, and a the risk of sounding a bit arrogant, I am *($(%*&ing brilliant. I think I already told you that I test at between a 120 and 140 IQ, so I am used to being smarter than everyone around me. The only woman I have ever known that can match my intellect is my own mother, which in combinaton with my father's very strange and different sort of brilliance, produced my mind.

I never made finding a smart woman a priority because intelligent conversation was not something that I necessarily needed from a mate, if you can understand that. I can get philosophical discussion from a platonic friend. What I need from a woman is physical and emotional intimacy.

The problem I did run into, though, which I didn't foresee, is that on some level I did not have the same respect for women that I felt to be my intellectual and educational inferiors. While I never did anything to deliberately make any of them feel inferior, I would just be myself and some women, including my ex wife, would not understand what I was talking about, and as she said to me, "I feel stupid when I am around you," which is not something I want to hear. I don't want to hear that me being myself makes my significant other feel bad about herself.

By July 17th, he was falling in love with a woman he had never met, thinking already about a future together. In typical Leif fashion, he wrote things to her when he was drunk, when his inhibitions were loosened. Leif was a mellow drunk. Even when he'd had a lot to drink (and at his size and with his history of drinking, he could drink a lot without appearing drunk), he was lucid. I think one of the reasons he drank so much was to lower his inhibitions . . . and also to help himself sleep, to chase away the demons and the depression, but in the end, so much alcohol was terribly bad for his health, made him gain a lot of weight, and probably increased the depression he was trying to escape.

However, in July 2005, he was still hoping for love, falling in love fast, and writing this to LA after corresponding and talking just over three weeks. The subject line on this email was "Slightly Drunken Ramblings."

Hello My Sweet.

It is late, not  really late, but kinda late, and I am not really drunk, but kinda drunk. Just cracked my 6th Corona, which is enough to have me feeling mellow and a bit less inhibited.

Somehow I feel compelled to talk to you, though I am not sure I have anything specific to say. What does that mean? That I crave contact with you for no reason in particular. The truth is, I missed you tonight. That is a strange and bitter-sweet feeling. I have not even met you, yet I already am missing you.

Tonight I am filled with incomplete thoughts, things that are going on in my heart and mind that I can't necessarily articulate. I do have one thought in my head that is bouncing around. I seem to remember saying it to you, but then it may just be deja vu and I only thought of saying it to you.

That thought is that I want to tell you things that some other part of me says I should not. It is that the part that remembers all those stories saying how you do not reveal to much and never admit to anything so that you can maintain power etc., all those bullshit games that people play to get what they want according to what players of the dating game tell us what we are supposed to do. Don't reveal to much. Don't give up control, don't be too enthusiastic. I HATE THAT!!!

I have always hated the game. Hated the bullshit maneuvering, manipulation, and defense mechanisms that people use to try and get what they want without ever exposing themselves or relinquishing control. Never give up the advantage. I am sick of it. Does no one know how to be honest anymore? Does no one have the courage? I suppose not. I have been guilty of romantic cowardice on many occasions.

So that part of me is trying to tell me that I should keep my mouth shut and maintain the advantage. That may be the way to play things if I was looking for a piece of ass but I feel something different with you. The very thought of not being honest with you disgusts me right now.

Pause, sorry if I am rambling or if this is a bit random and disorganized, but as I said, this is not a coherent thought. I am just typing what comes to me.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that I feel a real connection to you. My rational mind tells me I am nuts and that I should not put much stock in this but my heart is in another place. You said you had a feeling about us. Women's intuition. I, too, have a feeling, a feeling I often try not to indulge.

I suppose that after my last relationship with J, where I got my heart broken so badly, I am wary of getting my hopes up. I don't ever want to feel that way again. Yet I can't deny what I am feeling with you and that my instincts tell me there is really something here.

So anyway, I am rambling again. What I am trying to say is that I have a powerful feeling about you. I am, despite myself, very hopeful about what may become of us. I have often dreamed and hoped that I might one day meet that perfect girl that could complete me, that could fulfill me and give me everything I need and want, and who needed and wanted everything that I could give. But now I am on one hand elated that I just might have found her, and terrified that this could just be a cruel joke played by the fates.

I hope this is not a dream that will not be. On the other hand, I have many thoughts that are quite premature and things that few men would ever acknowledge. I picture moments in our future. Moments men are trained not to get into and images we never seem to want to admit.

I find myself lying in bed, or alone and tired and bored at work, and I have images come to me that are beautiful and wonderful but of which I have no guarantee they will ever be. When I am in bed going to sleep, I often find my arms around a pillow, imagining it is you, and imagining we have been together. I imagine what it would be like to tell you that I loved you and to have you tell me so also. I miss saying those words and meaning it. I love the thought that if we do work out that someday I might be saying them to you everyday. Of course I imagine making love to you but I also imagine our lives later. Imagining our wedding. Imagining you pregnant with my child.

This may be a little much. Now I worry about scaring you off. I am not insane. I am telling you things because I am conflicted between my practical self and my hopeful self.

I am suddenly fading fast. Beers gone, very sleepy. Bottom line, LA, is that you are special to me and I have a very strong feeling about you. I want to write more but I must crash. I hope that you will value this uninhibited glimpse into my mind.


Despite all his love of gadgets and guns, his need for speed, his cars and motorcycles, deep inside Leif was an old-fashioned romantic looking for an old-fashioned relationship, one of love and rather traditional roles . . . but he would have wanted a woman who could tolerate those aspects of his personality that would have been challenging, and I wonder if he could have curbed them, or moderated his drinking. Perhaps. Sometimes it is love that makes things change. We will never know.
The photo of Leif was taken May 31, 2003 in Dover, Delaware at his brother's home where we were holding a surprise family reunion in honor of Leif's grandmother's 85th birthday. He had just graduated from Kansas State University and was opening his graduation gift from his brother. He was 28 years old.

Love That Stands the Test of Time

Leif never really let go of any of the women he loved and continued to be in contact with them as long as he knew where they were. He was realistic enough to know he wasn't going to get them back but their friendship was important to him despite the fact that he had insisted in writing and in conversations that was impossible for men and women to be friends because if they were attracted enough to each other to be friends, sex would always get in the way. I know of seven women that Leif said he loved. Of those, three never worked out to a real love affair, two left him (devastated), one broke it off leaving him bewildered and lonely, and only once that I know of did he end a relationship.

In a sense, he carried a torch of differing degrees for all these women and I think, given the chance, he would have tried again to have a relationship with them, except that he had learned not to trust some of them and would have been afraid of the consequences in a new relationship no matter how much he might have still loved them.

But looking back on how he reacted, it seems to me that the ones that hurt the most were the two that left him because he had committed deeply to those relationships and he wasn't the one walking away. I've just been writing about how much he loved J and how he never stopped. The women he was involved with after J were all to painfully aware of his love for her hanging over them as a shadow, no matter how many times Leif told them it was over, that he was not getting back together with her, and that he didn't trust her with his heart any more. Those facts didn't diminish the love he still felt for her, and it was hard for them to accept.

Thinking about this, I started wondering whether, if J hadn't left and given back the engagement ring, the relationship and his burning love for her would have survived. When someone leaves and the other person in the relationship is still so much in love, where is that love to go? Some men would have become bitter and hateful. Leif said he was angry and hateful for a time, but then he forgave her and went on loving her the rest of his short life. I think in a sense it's much easier to love someone who isn't with you, because you can idealize them, remember the good times, minimize the bad ones or forget them altogether, and pine away for their presence without having to deal with the problems of living together, finances, children, and everyday life. No worries about who's going to take out the garbage or put the kids to bed. No one making demands. I think because J left Leif at the height of his love for her, a week after he proposed to her, for the rest of his life he was thinking about what might have been, what he was missing, but never had to deal with what it would have been like to try to build a life together.

Would his love have been strong enough to last through raising a little girl and maybe more children? Would it have lasted through the inevitable financial difficulties Leif always seemed to have because of his impulsive spending? Would it have lasted through the daily grind of work, deciding who had to do the wash, cook, wash the dishes? Would it have lasted through after months or years of the times when Leif would be doing his own thing on the computer for hours on end and not want to pay any attention to anyone else?

I don't know. It might have, but Leif's lifestyle would have had to change enormously if he were to become a good husband. What about the risky motorcycle riding? The impulsive spending? The drinking and guns? What about staying up way too late and perpetually being short on sleep? What about his terrible housekeeping? Would he have changed? Would J have demanded it of him? She was so young and he was so dominant.

I wonder whether he would have stayed in love, whether it would have worked out, and whether it would have saved him, but another part of me says that it's probably better that J left before there was a wedding, before they built a life together that might have then fallen apart. She may have been right to leave, though it would have been better not to tell him she loved him so, better not to accept his proposal in the first place.

The proposal was a a beautiful idea to Leif. He was so pumped up about it, so ready, and so proud of the beautiful set of rings he bought for her. If she had said no, he would have been crushed, probably not any more so that a week later, though, after he had announced his engagement to the world.

In a sense, though, the proposal was a symbol of Leif's being in a hurry when he was in love. He dated so many women with whom he didn't click that when he found one with whom he did, he fell in love fast and was ready to move to a more permanent relationship, even marriage, very quickly. He talked about taking it slow, when I would talk to him about his romantic involvements after his marriage ended. I was very worried that in his need for love and companionship, he would jump into a relationship too quickly and be hurt again. He could agree with me theoretically, but once he found a woman he wanted, he no longer saw any potential problems, until they were staring him in the face. In one sense, I had to admire his renewed optimism and willingness to take a chance on love. On the other, I worried that he wasn't sufficiently cautious.

His friend Michael told him that he was "in love with being in love," and wanted that feeling of magical closeness and desire so much that he built it up in his mind.

Today Leif's dad and I had another of our endless conversations about what might have helped him live, whether a continuing loving relationship might have given him that gift, but we will never know. Maybe depression would have taken him even so.
Leif took this photo of himself with the camera on his computer in November 2007, one of the times when he was depressed. It was taken in his apartment in Tampa. He was 32 years old.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Escapist Driving Way Too Fast

During the very same time Leif was back in contact with J and telling her how her leaving had affected him, professing his love, and seeming to us as though he were still depressed, spending endless hours online playing Planetside and drinking himself to sleep with several beers every night, he was portraying a far different picture, at least for a short time, to some others. Reading his email now, it seems almost schizophrenic.

On the one hand, he was in a new job and had hopes of rising in the company to a substantial income. He was looking for female companionship and love online with and and other dating sites. He spent most of his off-work time at home, though he was dating, and most of his time at home online playing games and looking for women. I was still worried about him. And also worried because although he was earning a good living and basically had no living expenses living with us that year, he wasn't saving any money for his eventual move to Tampa. Instead, he bought his new super-fast Suzuki motorcycle.

We had never liked him riding a cycle, partly because we knew of the inherent danger (which he pooh-poohed) and partly because we were certain that it increased that danger immensely by driving far too fast, which he did in his car as well. It was a continue worry to us that he would smash himself up in a motorcycle crash and either kill himself or be maimed for life. I've posted exchanges between us about that before, including the account of the accident he did have, ironically at a low speed in Tampa in traffic when a car swerved in front of him. I always kept my cell phone with me in case he had to call in an emergency, or some emergency personnel called me. I will always remember the call that I did get that July 2007, from a young couple who stopped and helped him when he had the accident in Tampa.

I guess we were all lucky that he never killed himself or anyone else with his cycle or car. I am thankful for that. I'm thankful he never injured or maimed himself or anyone else. And reading the email I am going to post makes me aware just how great that danger was.

Leif wanted love, a home life, a purpose. Maybe if he'd found it, he would have modified his behavior. Maybe not. We will never know, but I do know that I told him that if he was going to continue to live like that, he'd better get a large term life insurance policy and be sure if he married he had a wife prepared to be a widow or take care of an invalid. He peppered me with statistics showing that most motorcycle accidents happen in a cycle rider's first six months when they are not experience riders, but that didn't satisfy my concerns.

Despite Leif's desire for a home life and love, he didn't seem to grasp that the kind of life he was leading was not going to help him find that. He did what he did because his life was empty and he filled it with thrill rides, hooked on adrenaline. He loved riding more than anything else in his life. As he stated to me more than once, he would rather be homeless than without a motorcycle. It really was an addiction for him. I sometimes wonder whether even that had something to do with his suicide, that because of his debts he might have to face giving up and selling his cycle . . . something his dad had urged him to do, though we didn't know the extent of his debts that final time around until after he died. He hid that from us, thinking, I'm sure, that he didn't want us to know he had gotten in over his head a third time, and this time worse than the others.

But in June 2005, three months after moving to Florida, he was still hopeful, still alternating between the hope of a bright future in a new, sunny, warm place (so that he had less problems with his asthma), the hope of meeting a new love, the joy of owning a new, super-fast cycle, and the depression that was still there after losing J. Like many men, he "medicated" his depression with expensive man-toys and dangerous, fast living. He got far too little sleep most of the time, drank too much, and drove too fast.

Leif lived like there was no tomorrow
And it became tragically true.

It took less than three years from the time he wrote this "triumphant" email (one which horrifies me at his admissions of extreme speeds) to a male friend to the suicide when riding no longer overcame the dark depression. He might not have lived as long as he did if anything had gone wrong on a ride like this one.

It seems to me there is way more than a little self-delusion here, for a man who is writing to his lost love and missing her terribly, the same lost love he was still writing to two months before he died. That man was escaping through adrenaline. He was not happy. It may have been a euphoric day for him, the one he describes, but it never lasted. This may be a portrait, the best one I've seen, of the possibility of bipolar disorder.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005, 6:01 PM

Want to know the real reason you see less people online? How's this for an excuse for absence?

So, Sunday I chill out and play PS cuz it's raining. Watch a movie for a change and finally got to bed around 2 a.m. Wake up at 5 a.m. to go to work. Work from 6:30 a.. to 1:30 p.m. Come home, post topic about Markov play. Go to doctor's office to make sure I am in good standing for when the VA audits my disability.

So, then I get out of there and decide to find out where the doctor's office road goes. OOOOh, lots of secluded straightaways for doing wheelies. Twist the throttle a few times, scare some cows at a farm I didn't even know was there and end up on Hwy 301 south. Pass the light and hit the throttle again. Roll down the wheelie and chill looking at the big puffy white clouds and blue sky and walls of green trees on either side and think to myself how unfair it is to the rest of humanity that they don't live in sunny Florida.

I glance down at the speedo and an amused smile comes over my face as I realize I am doing 103 down 301.

While I consider 103 mph a perfectly reasonable cruising speed on a nice lonely highway I sadly ran into traffic and had to slow down. Damn semis throw up so much sand. OK, drop a gear, twist the gas and zoooom right around the semi. Ah, sand free fresh air again. OH LOOK! 135mph. OK, maybe I should slow down.

By now I am way down the road. Could turn around in some farmer's driveway but why? It's gorgeous out. Why turn around? To go home and play Planetside? I think not. So, sign says 35 miles to Sarasota. Why not? I haven't rode through Sarasota yet.

So I cruise on down, hit the coast and run down Anna Maria Island through Bradenton Beach. Stop at Coquina Beach to check it out. Drooled a bit at a way to hot and probably too young Yummy Redhead in an Ursula Andress bikini.

So, back on the road. Rolled down to St. Armand's Circle and did a loop. Hopped off at Lido beach, watched some bikinis, listened to the waves crash and then headed into Sarasota in search of a beer and grouper sandwich.

Sadly, could not find a nice salty beach bar with grilled mahimahi to die for so hit Hwy 41 north to head back. Then saw the sign. "Motorcycle Mondays" at Hooters. 10% off your bill if you rode in. I'm there. Got me a big grouper sandwich and sucked down two ice waters and an Amber bock while watching a parade of hotties in tit-hugging tanks tops go by.

Paid the bill, ripped a wheelie out of the parking lot and headed back.

Was about to hit the turn for the interstate home and then impulse got the better of me. Cranked the throttle, turned left and hit the Sunshine Skyway over Tampa Bay on my way to to St Pete Beach to watch the sunset. Looked around. It's a long bridge and no cops around, so after a moment to appreciate the view, twisted the throttle and rolled up to the top of the bridge at 140 mph. Rolled it back to enjoy the view front the top of the Skyway bridge, then looked down to see a huge gap in the cars. A question entered my mind: how fast could I get this thing up to before I catch up to those cars ahead? Answer: 150 mph as it turned out. Rolled it back a bit and cruised through traffic at about 85 till I hit St. Pete Beach.

Pulled up to the "Daquiri Deck" in St. Pete Beach just in time to sip a pina colada as the sun went down. Started up around towards Tampa again and realized I was gettin tired. It was 9:30 p.m. and save for Hooters and the daq I had been in the saddle since since 4:00 p.m. So I was up around where this girl I used to date said she lived.

So I called her. She invites me over. I am all hot and sweaty. Need a shower bad. She says let's jump in the pool. So there I am floating on my back in an 80 degree pool with a chick in a bikini thinking, “Wow life really sucks. how am I going to survive?” (sarcasm)

So it starts to get chilly. We go inside and get out of the wet suits. She starts showing me the latest sex toys she has to demo at her next couples' party and we chit chat about that. {One thing leades to another . . . } Then I must say goodbye. Looks like rain is coming and she has to work early. Life's rough.

So I am riding down Adamo Drive on my way towards Brandon, making my full loop of Tampa Bay and it starts to thunder out. I am a bit refreshed from a fresh swim but I could stand to get out of the saddle for a bit and don't want to get wet.

There isn't much on Adamo but closed car dealerships but I happen to notice a sign at "Showgirls" full nude club that says "Free admission with Military ID." I think, Hmm, I got a military ID. It's right here. It's gonna rain and if I am going to be stranded inside till it blows over I might as well be surrounded by hot naked chicks.

So that was fun.

Hung out, stared at all the yummy pussy that filled the room and fought off girl after girl trying to take me upstairs for a lap dance. I kept telling them I was just chilling but they just wouldn't stop. I am like, Look, I just came in here because it was free and I didn't want to get soaking wet and freeze on the ride home. They didn't take the hint and finally one particularly well-endowed one brought a friend and they double teamed me. They keep asking, "Why don't you like us? Don't you want to go have some fun?" To which I finally replied, "Look sweetie, don't get me wrong. You a babe, but not two hours ago I had a girl that didn't cost me a cent, so why would I want to pay you $25 do do far less?" They finally let up, as did the rain.

So, I hopped back in the saddle and on the way back home decided I was sick of I-75 and there are not likely to be a lot of cops on lonely Hwy 301 at 1:30 a.m. on a Monday night. I was right and ooooh what a sight. A lone, endless, perfectly straight road into the blackness. The little devil on my shoulder peeked behind to make sure the coast was clear. Yup, not a car in sight. No traffic. Throttle twisting back farther and farther.

70 mph, 80 mph, 90 mph, 100 mph, 110 mph, 120 mph. Such speeds are routine and commonly achieved while passing or heading up onramps on this thing. But then I kept twisting. 130 mph. Wind getting intense. Don't want to take eyes off the road. Curiosity gets the better of me and I look. 145 mph and still climbing like mad. 150 mph.

I look ahead to make sure there is plenty of road before I dare to take my eyes off and look down at the speedo again. Still miles of nothing ahead. I glance down quickly. 165 MPH!!!!! and still pulling hard. This thing is beyond evil. I shut it down and coast back to the speed limit and savor the shit-eating grin on my face. Then I look behind me. Nothing. Look ahead of me. More nothing. So now what? DO IT AGAIN, but this time in a lower gear so I get there FASTER. Muahahahahahah. Some day I will see the top end of 187 mph.

After some more foolish but fun life endangerment I make it to the intersection of my home. Take a right, hammer the gas, rip a nice power wheelie and then coast to the light and turn onto my street. A nice leisurely ride past all the houses looking at the moon, into the driveway and drop my keys on the counter.

I head to the computer and see a message from this girl from The one that is a real estate broker by day and a exotic dancer by night. You should see the pictures. Tells me I shoudl come out to her club tonight so we can finally meet. I think I just might. May not see me online tonight either.

And that was a $)#*&%ing MONDAY!!!

I wish I had two accounts so that I could TK myself next time I log on for having this much fun.

Well, the bike is beckoning. Got women to meet. Some guy that wants to to give me a job at almost double my already generous salary, an ultra hot rich stripper girl to meet tonight, and two other girls that want to get together tomorrow.

Yea,h Summer in Florida.


The photo of Leif on his Suzuki (which was stolen from his apartment complex parking lot in Tampa after less than a year) was taken as he rode out of our driveway on November 7, 2005, almost exactly two years before he wrote the email to me saying his life was purposeless and bleak. What a contrast.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Telling Her Why Men Are Happy With "Real" Women

After Leif wrote to J about what happened to him after she left him, which I posted last, she replied some days later. She told him she often ran from the things that would make her the happiest and from commitment, and that she also ran because she couldn't believe he loved her. She was insecure about her looks and figure, and those insecurities were made worse because Leif had a large collection of pictures of "hot chicks," to whom she didn't think she could compare. His reply explains a lot about his own (and some other men's) psychology, and trust Leif to find a way to compare choosing a woman to choosing a car!

However, the end of this letter is terribly poignant. Leif, the hurt man who was so devastated by her leaving him and breaking the engagement, does is best to make her believe she is wonderful and worthy of love.

Thursday, June 30, 2005, 12:11 AM

It's funny reading this and then looking at pics of you. I understand what you were feeling but I look at the pics from Christmas, or Thanksgiving at my grandma's, and of you in that gorgeous black dress you wore to the WWC party and I just can't help but think how beautiful you looked. Women are always so much more critical of themselves than men ever are. I was so in love with you and I thought you were gorgeous. I remember reading things from your ex and he said things to you that were similar about the beauty of seeing you as a mother - when you thought you were fat.

It is cruel that women are tormented so.

Let me try to give you some perspective, because while you certainly have some demons to vanquish your appearance should be the least of them. I always loved looking at you, touching you, and was completely in love with you.

But as to guys looking at and fantasizing about these models and porn stars and such, surely you knew someone growing up that had a poster of a Ferrari or Lamborghini on his wall. What guy hasn't had dreams of having such a car? Every teenage boy had a poster of a hot car at some point in his life. It is a dream, a fantasy, and that is all.

In reality men drive Hondas and Chevys and Fords and they love their cars. When a man goes shopping for a car it is no different than shopping for a wife. He has many choices. There are sedans, SUVs, sports cars. There are many different models and sizes in each category from many makers. Inevitably he choses one, and in most cases it is not a Lamborghini.

Now I know what you are gonna say. They can't afford the Lamborghini. And to some extent that is true, just like most men aren't rich and famous enough to date a super model. There is that factor, but there is more than that.

Even if we could afford such a car, would we really chose to own one? What would it really be like? I will tell you. One, you can never be comfortable with it. You will always worry, worry that as hot as it is, someone will steal it away from you. Worried that someone will run a shopping cart into it. Worried it will get wrecked. Always worried, because it is too remarkable to just enjoy and be happy with.

Also, it is expensive. The insurance is crazy. It's high maintenance, expensive parts and up keep. And impractical. Can't do anything real with it because it is so exotic and fragile

No, realistically men like their Hondas and Chevys and Fords. They are HAPPY with them. But don' t think that if a Ferrari pulls up along side they aren't going to check it out. They are going to look and say, “Wow, look at that thing!” But if someone asked them, “Would you trade your beloved Mustang GT for a Ferrari and all that would go with owning it, most would be tempted but in the end they would say, “No, I got a good thing going here. Not going to mess it up.”

It is the same with women.

Looking at a hot girl is like looking at a hot car, but when we think about being with her, it's just like the hot car, a fantasy; but the reality wouldn't be that great. You'd always be paranoid that she would leave you for some Brad Pitt type. A woman like that is always getting offers from other men. Do you trust her enough and are you confident enough in her love that she wouldn't find someone better than you?

You talk about your insecurities about your body. Do you have any idea how nuts and paranoid my flabby ass would be if I was dating Angelina Jolie? I would be insane with jealousy, afraid that any minute she would find a better looking man and leave me for Brad Pitt. I would not be able to even feel safe or secure or content in her love for me. You never want your woman to be significantly hotter than you or "out of your league," so to speak, because you will always be waiting for the day she will wake up and realize she can do better.

Men look at hot girls like they look at hot cars. They like the idea of them but not the reality. In reality they want a match for themselves, a normal girl for a normal guy, one they can feel comfortable and secure with, and when they have that wonderful feeling of love and satisfaction they would not trade it for the hottest girl in the world because enticing as that may be, she is but a dream and dreams are not meant to last.

I loved you because with you I had a feeling I had never felt before and it was wonderful and I wanted it to last the rest of my life. I was in love with you and I thought you were beautiful, not just your flesh but your soul.

I have dated many women since we broke up. Many are good people but I compare all of them to you and none measure up. I have had sex with many of them but it is always a mediocre experience. It's like I am going through he motions but I am never really into it. It is flat, empty and unfulfilling. After the magical lovemaking I remember with you, it's just sex, and not even good sex.

But anyway, the point of this is to make you understand that you should not think so poorly of yourself. If nothing else, read these words and believe them as they are the truth. I loved you just the way you were. I picked out the gorgeous ring and gave it to you because I wanted to marry you and spend the rest of my life with you just the way you were. I have never been as happy in my entire life as those few months when you loved me, and I have never been so sad in my life as when you took that away from me.

You are a beautiful and tragic person, a scarred and scared soul that deserves to be loved, if only you will have the courage to let someone love you and trust them when they say they do. You are not perfect. Who is? I am very flawed myself. I have many good qualities but I have many flaws as well. Everyone has those insecurities. There were times when I thought to myself how lucky I was to have you and how scared I was that you would leave me, as I wondered, and still wonder, if I will ever find something so wonderful again. Fears that turned out to be well founded.

Just know, J, that if nothing else there was a man that loved you just the way you were and that you don't have to be anything more. If you want to get thinner, get a boob job or whatnot for yourself, hey, do so if it would help your self esteem, but you are a beautiful person just the way you are.

Know that J. Read this sentence over and over if you have too.

Leif loved me just the way I am. Leif wanted to marry me and spend the rest of his life with me.

Keep telling yourself that 'til you start to believe it.


The photo of Leif was taken April 4, 2004 in Manhattan, Kansas. I never liked that particular pair of glasses. Leif always wanted fashionable specs. I thought these were just kind of "evil" looking. They seemed to small for him, to me, and were bent so that they fit his face pretty much like a glove. I still have his last pair of glasses. What am I to do with them? I donated the others to the Lions Club vision program, but the last pair he had, I can't quite bring myself to part with.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Love of His Life

Leif dated many women that he liked but did not fall in love with, but when the chemistry clicked, he fell in love fast. He wanted love more than anything else and looked for it with passion and zeal.

The relationship with L. apparently didn't develop and he had a period when he wasn't involved with anyone other than casual dating from late 2002 until August 2003. In May 2003 he graduated from Kansas State University and in August he started working at the Sykes call center in town. There he spotted J, a 5' 7" redhead, the perfect height and hair color for him, and she looked quite a bit like Gillian Anderson (Scully on the X Files), a actress he was crazy about. She was separating from her husband and had a two-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. She was having a hard time making ends meet with a child to support and a low wage job, and Leif's protective instincts came to the fore. Again he wanted to rescue the damsel in distress. He feel deeply in love with J and moved her and her daughter into the house at 710 N. 9th Street. I think the months he had J in his life, from August 2003 to March 2004 were some of the happiest of his life. He glowed and beamed.

I came across an email I wrote to him about living with a two-year-old and how to handle it, in response to something he asked me. He was trying to learn how to be a parent, and he cared a lot for that little girl, too.

J professed to love him deeply, and said so in person and in emails. He bought her a beautiful ring and proposed to her on February 27, 2004. She said yes. Then, a week later, she got cold feet and left him, going back east to her family. At first he insisted she would be back, that they would get back together. Then they were going to meet in another city. Then finally she didn't answer his calls or email. She had left with a phone on his account and ran up bills he couldn't pay, and she didn't send him money for them, saying she didn't have it. I'm sure that was true, but it was another hurt on top of losing her.

Leif was in a deep depression a second time. We were very worried about him. It was one of the reasons we started making trips to Florida and trying to find a place to live here. We had planned to do that anyway, but we did it sooner than we had anticipated partly to get Leif out of Kansas and give him a new start, hoping to counteract his depression.

For a time, it worked.

It would probably have been better for Leif if he hadn't had any further contact from J in email, IM, on MySpace or by phone. He hadn't had any nearly a year, and then, in May 2005, almost three months after he moved to Florida, she contacted him. They had several emails stretched out over a month before she disappeared for another three months. She contacted him again in October 2005 and they talked on the phone, Then she disappeared again and didn't answer brief emails from him asking if she were still "there" in November 2005, January 2006, June 2006 and July 2007. I think the last time she sent an email to him was in October 2005 and the last time he tried to contact her was in July 2007. I know they had a few conversations during those years. However, he never stopped loving her or thinking about her, though he realized they would never get back together and indeed, he didn't trust her at that point.

Leif was very open with the women he was involved with after J, and told them about her. They could see he still cared deeply for her, loved her, and found that a threat. Leif told them repeatedly it was over, which was true, and that they were not getting back together, which was also true. He told them that he didn't trust her, which was true . . . but it was also true that he still loved her, and they felt that.

Leif wrote a lengthy email to her on May 26, 2005, after she had contacted him, explaining how her leaving had affected him. Some of what he says was modified later, in the last three years of his life, but he never stopped loving her.

Leif not only forgave the women who hurt him, he continued to be in contact with them, or tried to reestablish it. He needed their friendship, their love, and their affection. He reached out, but knew he could not trust, knew he would never have the relationship he really wanted.

Here is what he wrote to her (edited):

Date: Thursday, May 26, 2005, 2:34 PM

Hey Jessie, It's late. Been a very long day. I am a bit drunk and have had a bit of fun playing Planetside. Game is losing it appeal as the short hours of sleep and long ours of work catch up so I thought, what better time to write you? They say a drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts. So this must be the real skinny.

So what has happened since you left? I assume you might want to know. At least I hope you would want to. I am curious what happened to you myself.

After you left I was crushed. I am sure you remember the phone calls, the break downs and the heartache, and a fight or two. The last one was the last I ever heard from you.

There are some things I want you to know. Some things you need to know if you are to understand what transpired after your departure.

The first thing you need to know is that you were and likely still are the only woman I have ever really been in love with, at least that returned or professed to return that love. You need to know that I was sincere in my intentions to marry you and I honestly loved you so much that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Regardless of any hardship or difficulty, I still recall the months from August 2003 to March of 2004 as the very happiest of my entire life. I try to remember that and the joy I felt rather than the pain that came after its loss. As much as I sometimes want to hate you for hurting me, I can also thank you for giving me hope that such a feeling is possible, even if I couldn't find it with you.

After you left and cut off communication I became very depressed. My parents were rather worried about me and were concerned I might sink into suicidal depression, as I had once experienced when stranded in the army in NY after Nikko left me. I was really bummed, but not that bad off. In my typical fashion I managed to hide the pain from all but the most intuitive and closed myself off from others.

As a distraction I finally picked up that online game, Planetside, and got addicted. I did little else but work, sleep and play for a long, long long time. That game is now both my salvation and my curse, as I am still very addicted to it.

For the next 6 months after you left I was so hurt I could not even think of dating. Any woman I met got compared to you. Frankly, they still are compared to you and few measure up in the ways that matter, at least that matter to my heart. Many have had fine qualities that make them good people but I have not felt any affection for them.

Bottom line is, for 6 months after you left I couldn't even think about dating anyone. You took a piece of my heart with you and until it grew back I couldn't imagine giving any of it to anyone else.

After that I realized that I was terribly lonely. I missed you terribly and had no real friends left in Kansas. I went out now and then but either was terribly disappointed by the uninteresting Kansas women, or if one was interesting, losing you had so destroyed my confidence in myself that I hadn't the balls to approach a woman to ask her out.

So, for the next 3 months or so I was just a pathetic lonely wuss that spent his life playing video games and drinking a lot because they were the only things that I could enjoy.

After that my parents found this house down here and decided to buy it. That is a whole nother story, but bottom line is, it got me to Florida. At that point I decided I did not want to date anyone because I might get attached to them and then decide not to move.

So, I basically spent the last year of my 20's alone and miserable. I did not want any attachments that might make me hesitate about moving to Florida.

Since then I have arrived. I have gotten a good job and the new bike and am doing pretty well. I started dating again. Dating is weird and a pain in the ass.

I must say that I have a rather different outlook now. I am much happier overall here in Florida and have much less need of a woman to fulfill me. At this point having a woman in my life is kind of gravy and the few I have dated seemed to like me and I am now rather selective. I date when I have time and nothing I would rather be doing, and have someone I like enough to go out with. For a while I was juggling like 3 girls, none of which really interested me, so I decided it wasn't worth the trouble and stopped seeing 2 of them.

Later on I will be going out with the one that remains. Her name is R. She is 25, professional, divorced, has a baby girl, is tiny, at like 5'2", but with big D cups. Fun, chic, good taste in stuff. I like her a lot but I doubt I will ever be in love with her. That is the sad truth. There are lots of women out there with great qualities and personalities but I have never felt such attraction to them like I did to you.

So this leaves me with rather conflicted feeling towards you. On one hand I have never found anyone I was so compatible with sexually. Every woman I have been with since felt a bit awkward and unfulfilling. I know how to push their buttons but few know how to push mine. I so miss the sex we had as it was magical. My mind tells me I am better of without you as I don't think I can rely on you and that you have some growing up to do yet. And my heart is torn both ways.

They say the opposite of love isn't hate, it is indifference. I know this to be true. I loved you deeply and you made me happier than I had ever been. When you took that away from me I hated you intensely.

I eventually had to forgive you. I know that what you did you didn't do out of malice. I know you didn't want to hurt me, that you weren't trying to be mean. I know that it was your own weakness, not maliciousness that made you do what you did. You disappointed me greatly and while that is very disappointing it is much easier to forgive someone for weakness than it is for just being mean.

So, while you don't want to spend the rest of your life knowing that people you loved hate you, likewise I don't want to spend my life hating the person I loved most. So while I want you to know exactly what you did to me, I also want you to know that I forgive you. You don't have to be afraid of talking to me. I will not try to punish you or make you feel bad any more than you will likely do to yourself after reading this.

I must admit that I still love you. I am sure that part of me always will and unless I find what we had with another, part of me will always want you back. I just don't know if I could ever trust you again.

Well, that is all I have to say for now and until you respond. Other than I could still gripe about the phone bill you left me which from the sound of things you won't be paying me back for anytime soon.

So there you go Jessie. Ball's in your court. You decided what happens next.

I am gonna ride the bike up to Tampa and get an estimate to fix it, then go get some Japanese food with R. Maybe see a movie.

Take Care of yourself



This photo of Leif is a self-portrait he took on June 22, 2004 in the bedroom he couldn't stand to sleep in for months after J left. He looks so sad and serious.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"How Many Children Do You Have?"

Such an innocent question, one we all ask when we meet someone. Usually, we are all proud and happy to answer it, but it poses a difficult situation for those of us whose children have died. Do we answer with the number that are still living? (Even sadder for those who have none left.) Or do we answer how many we had?

It would be easier in some ways to answer that we have one son. That prevents the inevitable questions that lead to having to answer that one of our sons died, and then the questions about how, and having to answer that he shot himself, which always leads to a shocked silence. People don't know how to respond. Would you?

But it's not easier for me, because I cannot ever forget Leif, that he was and is a big part of our lives. He always will be. We had TWO children, not one, even though Leif is no longer with us. So, I always answer that we had two sons but one died. And I answer the questions truthfully. It may not be as comfortable as just telling about Peter A. and his family, but it's the only way I can do it. I cannot deny Leif's life, and I also think that avoiding the subjects of death and suicide is not right. People have tried too hard over the years to deny the reality of depression, mental illness and suicide. We have to be open about it or people will never feel it's all right to get treatment.

And how should someone who is confronted with the answer that the person they have just met lost a child, however they died? I don't know whether all bereaved parents would feel the same as I do, but I think the easiest thing to deal with is a simple, "I'm sorry. That must be very difficult for you." Just leave it at that unless the person seems to want to talk more about it. If they do, and you want to (that's another important consideration - don't feel you must if it is too difficult for you), then just say, "If you'd like to tell me about it, please do." If not, just say something like, "I'm know this is terrible blow for you. I hope you have someone to talk with about it," and go on to something else.

Don't be surprised at the emotional reaction of the grieving parent (and make no mistake, they will grieve all their lives, though in different measure at different times). Sometimes a parent who has lost a child can talk about it quite matter-of-factly and you might think they are "over it" or even callous about it, but that's not the case. It's just that at that moment, they are in control. Another time, the same parent might tear up or even burst into tears. It depends a lot upon what's been happening in their lives at that time. It's a lot harder, for instance, when milestones are close, like their dead child's birthday, Christmas, New Years (it's always hard to start a new year without a beloved son or daughter; New Years brings it home that another year without them has gone by and another one is coming), Thanksgiving, or other special days relating to their family. Sometimes they have had some significant reminder of their child that has made them feel especially vulnerable.

It's embarrassing to cry in front of other people, especially someone you've just met, so don't act like they are breaking down or get all flustered about it. If you feel so inclined, just give them a hug. Let them regain control. Believe me, they are fighting for it!

How many children do I have? TWO. The answer will always be TWO. Leif lived. He will always live in my heart.


This photo of the four of us was taken by my sister Sherie in our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas in July 1976. Leif was 18 months old. Peter Anthony was seven-and-a-half years old.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Looking for Love After the Divorce

We moved from Puerto Rico to Manhattan, Kansas at the end of the summer in 1992 when Peter W. retired from the army. We were very sorry to have to move Leif between his junior and senior years of high school, just as we'd had to do with Peter A., but Peter was more outgoing and made the transition more smoothly and happily than Leif did. Puerto Rico was the first place he had blossomed socially and it was hard for him to leave behind a great group of friends, and hard to leave K., his first real love, too, even though the romance between them had not developed as he had hoped.

When he entered his senior year of high school at Manhattan High School, he found more disappointments when he tried out for a part in the musical and didn't get one, after his triumph as Kenicke in "Grease" at Antilles High School. He was naturally reserved and shy like I was at that age, so he didn't make friends at MHS, other than Jason Palenske. The second semester, he was already taking classes at Kansas State University part time so he spent little time on campus and never really became a part of the social scene there or did much of any dating.

As a student at KSU, though, he did find women to date and I can remember several of the ones he dated. However, it was Nikko, who he met at the SCA Lilies War, that won his heart. He has later written that he didn't have the same kind of overwhelming love for her that he later felt for J., but it was clear that the two of them were in love and were like two frisky puppies together. I've already written about their courtship, marriage and divorce and continuing friendship, and that he was terribly hurt and broken up over the end of their marriage, which lasted from October 1995 to October 2002, though they were separated the last two years of that time.

Back in Manhattan when he was medically retired from the army, he was initially too depressed to date, but eventually he did get back into the dating scene, which he hated, and he found it hard to find women his age and with his level of experience in that town, which was full of young college students.

However, in 2002, he was in love again, this time with someone who had been a friend for some years. I never met L. and Leif only talked to me about her once or twice and only sent any comments about her in email to me once. That email is below.

Leif professed in email to several women over the years that he wanted a marriage like Peter W. and I have, one with love, affection, loyalty, commitment, and being there for each other for a lifetime. He said he wanted a woman like me, which I found very flattering. However, he was not willing to do what Peter W. and I have done to make a relationship like that work. He wanted to continue to be aloof when he pleased, spend as he liked, drive dangerously, drink too much, and not make himself the kind of long-term mate prospect a woman like me would look for. He seemed to think that if he just found the right person, it would all fall into place. I once asked him what he was willing to make it work. Sometimes he seemed to think he would make changes, and other times he basically said a woman would have to accept him as he was (which is probably the truth), yet those things about him made it harder to find someone who could love all of him and not just the wonderful qualities he did have.

As with others, the romance he hoped for with L. did not happen. I never found out any more about it.

And the time from when he came back to Manhattan from the army so terribly depressed and when he was in love with L. was a time we were terribly worried about him because of his depression. The email below was one he wrote in response to one from me,.

Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 23:37:18 -0500

My Dear Son,

Maybe I'm just worrying for nothing (a common problem among mothers), but I am concerned about you when you say that nothing much matters to you or that there isn't much you care about. If I take that literally, it means there is little in life that you enjoy or find worthwhile, and that's a very sad thought, given all there is to enjoy and be thankful for. Sure, there are also lots of things in life that, to use a phrase you might use, "suck," but I hope there is some joy in your life, that there are things you care about and some goals or dreams you care about achieving. If you really are depressed to the point where you have
little interest in all the things available to you, or the possibilities life offers, it really is time to get some help. I love you and care about you and your happiness with all my heart. I am happy when you are animated and seem to be enjoying something. I hope for the best for you in life.

Love, Mom

His reply on May 22, 2002:

I suppose it is just that I have become very jaded. It is not that there is nothing in life for which I have any passion but rather that I have been consistently disapointed by the impossibility of attaining any of the things that I have had any passion for. So I suppose as a defense mechanism I have just stopped dreaming of things that cannot be easily attained. There are some things I have passion for but this is where you would find yourself in a position of conflict because the things I have passion for are the things that, in yours and Dad's min's, I should avoid. Things like new motorcycles and computers and Playstation Twos. All the things that I am interested in or have any passion for are the things I am constantly getting shit about from you or dad because it is not smart financially.

I think I told you once that I would be homeless before I would sell my motorcycle. That is still true. And I really couldn't care less how financially irresponsible it might be to buy a $10,000 motorcycle when I am still paying off debts from other toys. You want to know what I have passion for? There it is. The few dreams that I have left that are not so farfetched that they are not worth pursuing, and things like those motorcycles are tangible dreams. Screw delaying gratification till it makes good financial sense. You can't imagine how tempted I was to go down and buy one of those bikes now during their spring sales event. They are sending bikes out for $49 a month. Sure, in the long run you get screwed financially, but to me, even if I paid $20,000 for that $10,000 bike I still wouldn't have felt like I got ripped off because there is no amount of money that is too much to pay for a great motorcycle. I am sure you cannot understand that but that does not surprise me. Trying to explain a motorcycle to a non-rider is like trying to explain sex and orgasm to a virgin. You simply can't understand.

But other than that I do have a few things that I care about. I care about gaming and I care about Zaon. It is a very promising and interesting thing. Sure, I will likely never see a cent out of it but I am contributing to the creation of a product that I value. I also dig the computers. I am sitting here typing this on one of my 3 monitors or my "global domination center" of a PC. I dig the PS2 and I am getting into fixing up my car.

I am passionate about driving. Fortunately I have the sense to hit the backroads when I get the urge to really push it. There is nothing liek the sensation of having the car slide on all 4 tires at the very edge of adhesion, and you know the tires have got to be screaming like banshees but you can't tell because you can't hear anyhting over the 1500 watt stereo. Or leaning into a curve at 135 MPH with the throttle wide open, still accelerating as the bike rockets along a deserted Kansas highway.

I have passion in my life but it is not the sort of thing you generally would want to hear about.

On a tamer note (but don't tell her that) I have passion for L. I shouldn't, but I dare say I love her. Probably have for years. But like so many other dreams I fear that she will be yet another to slip through my grasp. Hopefully not. And I have certainly not given up, quite the contrary. I am playing my cards slowly and with great calulation but I am nevertheless going for broke.

But anyway, there you have my answer to your concerns. It makes me wonder which would trouble you more, me not expressing any passion, or me expressing passion for all the dangerous, expensive, and irresponsible things that you disapprove of and can't understand.


That is a portrait of a depressed man.


The photo of Leif was taken in our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas on February 16, 2002, three months before he wrote this email, in one of his more sociable and silly moods.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Falling in Love at Seventeen

When we lived in Puerto Rico, Leif was in his sophomore and junior years of high school. We arrived there in August 1990 when he was fifteen years old and he left in July 1992 when he was seventeen. Initially he had some problems, being harassed as the new "gringo" but he got through that and had a great group of friends. It was the first time he had blossomed out and had a lot of friends, both boys and girls, and even had them over for parties. He found several girls very attractive but his interest wasn't reciprocated, or, if it was, the girl wasn't yet allowed to date. There were a couple of girls who had quite a case on Leif, and he had fun with them, but wasn't infatuated.

I don't know the date any more, or even whether it was during our first or second year in Puerto Rico, though I think it was the second one, that he met K. at a party we went to. It was given by one of the men who worked with Peter W. in the JAC Office, and Leif wasn't keen on going because he felt he wouldn't know anyone there. However, he decided to go and it became a fateful and pivotal event in his life.

K. was a very beautiful and intelligent young woman and Leif fell for her. It wasn't "puppy love." (After all, I can hardly dismiss falling in love at seventeen. I did, and I'm still married to Peter W., whom I married as soon as I turned eighteen.) Leif never stopped loving her, though after several years he did manage to stop yearning for her and look for others. They had a few dates but like so many of Leif's loves, his feelings were not reciprocated. It's a sad fact and I've always wondered about it, that it seemed that Leif often fell for women who didn't love him back, and with those that did, the relationship didn't last.

Leif usually had little interest in writing anything, let alone long messages or letters, except when it came to expressing his feelings to women or getting to know them. Then he wrote copious letters or email messages. When we lived in Puerto Rico, email wasn't yet something most people used. He wrote his school papers on our old Atari 1040ST computer, which had no hard drive, so he had his own 3.5 inch floppy disks for his files. When I sold that computer prior to moving to Florida, I saved all of the text files any of us had created in case they might be wanted or useful someday. After Leif died, I looked at his files to see whether there was something I could post on the blog, and in the past, I have posted some of the papers or opinion pieces he wrote.

One very personal letter I found was his declaration of love to K. I don't know whether he sent it, or what the reaction or reply was. I do know that the relationship did not develop further, and that even when we moved back to Kansas, he tried to find out where she was going to college in the hopes he might be able to go there, too, and see her. That didn't happen.

One of the things I found interesting about this letter is that he talks about having been in love before, but I never knew about him being in love with anyone else when he was younger, or even having a girlfriend or any dates. If he was "in love" before he was sixteen or seventeen, it must have been a crush on someone he kept to himself. I wonder who it was.

He ends this letter with permission for K. to share the letter with her family and friends but not to make it public for all the world to see, as these are his innermost thoughts. That gave me pause about publishing it here, but he is no longer alive and it is such an integral part of the man he became, such an important part of his story, that I am going to print it. It allows a lot of insight into the depth of feelings he had for the women he loved, how important it was for him to have the connection, and how terrible the loss of it made him feel.

Dear K,

This letter may come as a surprise to you but it has been all too long in waiting for me. I am writing this letter not to ask you for anything but only to inform you of the feelings that I have keep secret for far too long. I think I shall never forget the night I met you at Mr. C's house. I had gone to that party reluctantly, thinking that it would be boring and uneventful. In retrospect I realize that my decision to go anyway was either one of the best or worst decisions I have ever made. Meeting you changed my life significantly. I had been introduced to a woman, to which I was unaccustomed. Not a superficial, gossiping little girl like most of my fellow students but a woman, secure and confident but yet vulnerable and attractive, impressive but not intimidating, assertive but not aggressive, demure but not submissive, an almost perfect balance of Beauty, intelligence, and personality. I had always known women who were: beautiful, smart, entertaining, fun to be with, sweet, mature, but never had I encountered one that possessed all of these qualities. Until that night.

They say ignorance is bliss and they are quite right. I was happy, content to flirt with the attractive but insubstantial girls of Antilles, having fun and a few laughs but no relationships. Naturally I was happy. After all I didn't know what I was missing. Forced to live a lifestyle that uproots you every three years or so, I had trained myself rather well not to allow myself to get attached to any particular place or person. But I have arrived at a point in my life that I need to attach myself to somebody. I have been alone for so long now that I'm not sure I know what it is like to be in love anymore. And so I was unprepared, unprepared to fall in love again. The more time I spend with you the more I realize how unusual and special you are. Unfortunately I also became more clumsy in my dealings with you. I have always been comfortable talking to members of the opposite sex and have often laughed at others inability to express themselves in the presence of a woman. But now I understand all too well the feeling of wanting something so badly that you are afraid to do anything that might risk it.

If you think back to when we had just met and I barely knew you, you will remember that I was much more aggressive and sure of myself. I was playfully affectionate and concerned only by what felt right at the moment. Later, as my feelings transformed from a casual attraction to serious romantic interest I began to become cautious, too cautious. I was afraid to touch you, to tell you how I felt, afraid of anything that would be interpreted wrong, that would make me seem to be pushing you. So afraid that I did nothing, just waited and hoped that it things would just work out somehow. But I also knew that there was no hope of that.

In addition, adding to my fears were the mistakes that I had made in the first few weeks of knowing you. The time I criticized your driving and the time I dumped you off my shoulders at the beach. You may have long since forgiven me for these things, which most would consider trivial, but I have never forgiven myself. They may sound insignificant but I knew afterward that I had hurt you and there is no greater guilt than that of knowing you have hurt someone you love. There was also the time at Pizza Hut that me and Will pried from you your reason for hating water skiing. Although I am truly honored that you would trust me with such a personal piece of information, we had no right to pry into your personal affairs and bring back painful memories of things that are none of our business.

All these things and my fear of rejection by a person who I respected so much kept me from telling you how I feel. But now things have changed. I know who I am and what is important to me. I know that It is better to live with no than maybe. I must know where I stand so that I may either take the next step or get on with my life.

I had managed to get along for several months with out seeing you and was doing just fine. Out of sight is out of mind as they say. But seeing you at your brothers' party brought back every feeling every desire tenfold. Even as I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with L. I could not help but glance over to see what you were doing. I saw you interacting with all your friends. I watched you as you lived this life that I am not a part of and felt hurt as you so innocently ignored me. So I immersed myself in the conversation with L. I doubt she ever suspected just how close to tears I was at that night. When I got home I let down my guard. There was no one there to see my pain and so I let it all lose. I had already been depressed that week (and most of this year for that matter) and that in addition to seeing you was more than I could bear. I went to the playground at the elementary school and climbed one of the Jungle-gyms. There I sat, staring at the lights of San Juan crying silent tears as I resolved my feelings for you. It was then I decided that I could no longer float between friend and lover. I had to become one or the other.

I had intended to tell you this on Friday night but that would have been impossible with seven other people around and I could never have remembered everything I wanted to say. That is why I have chosen to write you a letter instead of telling you in person. I have waited so long to tell you this that I wanted to make sure I got it right, all of it. I needed a way to tell you how I feel without sounding corny or overly dramatic, (which i'm afraid this letter may be) but if you like I will be happy to tell you anything in this letter in person at any time. I wanted to tell you how every time I see you I long to touch you, to hold you, to kiss you, to take you in my arms and never let go. And if I had less respect for you and your wishes, I might not have been able to resist doing just that.

You once told me that you were tired of looking for somebody and that you would like someone to look for you, for a change. Well Karen, somebody has been looking and he has found what he was looking for. The only question is, can he reach it? If I am reaching you, if something in this letter touches you, then you will know where to find me. If not please do not cause your self any pain over what will happen to me. I can't have that on my conscience. They say that it is easier to love than to be loved. Having received a few of these letters myself I must say that it is true, it is always easier to be hurt than to hurt another.

I have been prepared for a long time now to deal with your answer, whatever it may be. I offer my love and ask only this: that you be as honest with me as I have been with you. Because to have you because you felt some obligation or guilt would be meaningless.

If ever you need a friend or a shoulder to cry on or just want to talk, I want you to know that I will always be there for you. There is an old saying that says "old lovers make the best friends." Well, that is also true of would-be lovers and you shall always have a friend in me.

All my love,

P.S. Whether or not you share this letter with your friends and families is up to you. I would not object to you sharing it with your close friends but given the fact that these are my inner most thoughts and emotions I would prefer that they were not distributed openly for everyone to hear. Share what you must but keep the rest between us. I am including a picture and hope that you will either give me one of you or allow me to take some. Also, if you feel bad about dinner then I'm sorry but I'm a little old fashioned and perhaps too generous. If you like you can take me out next time.


These two photos of Leif were actually taken of him with K. on two of their dates. I believe they were taken in April 1992. I think he looks kind of like some debonair Spanish caballero. You can see how happy he looks. The chain mail he is wearing around his neck he made himself. I think there were few high school juniors who were already able to grow a beard and mustache.