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.
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.