Sunday, January 24, 2010

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.

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