Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Brilliant Thoughts About the Sexes"

Brilliant Thoughts on the Sexes
by Leif Garretson
June 29, 2001

"There are three parts to the male psyche, the first being the brain. The brain is hard to please (at least for some of us). It needs to find stimulation that is at least of an approximately equal level (so us smart guys got it tough). The brain is the balance between the others and has veto power over all decisions. However, that power is rarely used when it is being bullied by the much louder voices of the other two.

The brain's greatest enemy is boredom. If the brain is not entertained then it will begin to complain to the others. If the others are having too much fun themselves then those complaints will not mean much, but in time the others will likely lose enthusiasm and relent in search of a better mate for all.

Second is the Libido, or more simply the dick. The dick is simple. It is relatively easy to please. However it is very difficult to satisfy. It always wants more, and more, and more; the dick is never silent except when it has been recently pleased. Otherwise it is constantly pestering the brain to get it what it wants. The brain helps to guide the dick as best as it can and they do attempt to cooperate. However, often times the incessant pestering of the dick will wear the brain down and he will give in even if he is not really that interested.

This happens even more when drunk, as alcohol affects the brain the most. At this time, though, the heart can get in the way because it is often afraid, since it gets the brunt of disappointment, for it is the only one with the capacity to hope. But if it can be convinced then both will give in so that the dick will shut up.

Finally there is the heart, and it is normally the quietest but when it sees something it wants, really wants, then it has the loudest voice and the other two do not dare challenge it. It is more patient than the other two and can wait a long time for what it needs. However, it can either bounce around brightening the others’ day with it's excitement, or sulk around bumming the others out with it's longing. Because of its patience it often indulges the other two and allows them to have their fun while it waits for its ultimate goal.

To put a case in point, I am patient and will wait and hope for you since you are one of a very few women that have hit me in all three. But that does not mean that my heart will deprive the guys above and below of the cute joggers that live next door while I am waiting for you to dump whatshisname. If a girl is lucky to win over two she is doing well but if you get all three then he will be yours for as long as you continue to satisfy all three.

To do this you must first please his heart by making him feel loved and wanted. Please his mind by stimulating him and entertaining him as well as have your shit together so that his brain isn't forced to veto you because you are ruining his future. And finally, you have to make sure that his dick get satisfied at least often enough that he's unwilling to risk the dry spells of single life in order to pursue someone more willing to satisfy him.

So simplified: don't f--- up his practical life and keep him entertained and you will have his mind. Make sure he gets laid enough that he doesn't start looking for someone else to pick up your slack. And don't bore the dick either. Try new things :-)

And finally, for the heart: make him feel loved and make him feel needed. They are different. For example, a hug can be given or taken, offered or accepted. If you have a bad day and you come to him for a hug, that is you asking for love from him to fill you up. While he will feel needed and be glad to do it, remember that you should also offer a hug when you can to fill him back up.

Let him know that you don't just want affection when you need it. Then you will seem Needy and a drain and then he will not want to give you hugs because it feels like he is giving and giving and not getting it back. Then you will think that he does not want to touch you but it is not that; it is that you seem to him like an emotional leach.

Try giving love when you don't need it. I love to be touched and I love hugs and kisses, but I want to be on the receiving end sometimes, too. If, for example, she had come up behind me while I was sitting here typing and had put her arms around me and given me a kiss just cuz she wanted to show me she loved me, then I would get a warm fuzzy and feel much better. I would be receiving love and would then be a lot more receptive the next time she needed some loving.

Also, men don't tend to do the asking when they need emotional support. It is a macho thing so, take initiative cuz we need it just as much as you do. We are just supposed to act like we don't.

You may have heard the whole men going into their cave when they are mad or sad thing. Well, it is true, but it is hard to tell the difference between a man that needs to be alone and a man that needs to be comforted. So the best advice is to try to be affectionate, even ask if you should leave him alone and if he turns you away, do not be insulted or hurt. He just needs to be alone.

But if he does not turn you away you will win big points. A man’s default emotion when he is upset is anger. That is what you will see, and don't think that that means he is unapproachable (unless you are the reason he is angry; then a completely different rule book comes out). Try to be nice to him and if the problem is something else and he is not too pissed to respond, he will likely soften and feel much better.

And if you really wanna be good and he really is in a foul or surly mood, try a massage. If he turns you down on that one, leave him alone for about an hour cuz he must be really really pissed about something. Or for extra browny points, sex is a real winner. The man who says no is likely struggling to suppress homicidal urges.

Anyway, we can discuss this more later if you like. I will give you the next dissertation in a different email."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another Movie Leif Would Have Loved

I just saw another movie Leif would have enjoyed, as much for the brilliant religious satire as for the humor and the interesting social commentary, as much for the characterization of truth and gullibility as the message about the social importance of some kinds of lying and the enriching qualities of fiction. "The Invention of Lying" would have engendered of of those great, lively discussions our family always loved. How I wish we could have shared that with him!


This photo of Leif was taken in Thailand in December 1981. It just seems to go with the funny themes of the movie.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Last Love of His Life

Although Leif keenly felt the loss of his sense of purpose in life when he no longer was living with and trying to help D, he knew the relationship was not a healthy one for either of them. He was lonely and depressed. Although he did not want to get back into the relationship, he desperately needed companionship, love and a reason to live. He continued with his philosophy classes at USF, and it was there that he wrote his final paper on happiness and morality, the one he left on the "desktop" of his laptop computer along with the sad photo of himself the night he died. He emailed that paper to me not long after he wrote it and we discussed it, but to this day I don't know whether it was supposed to be some kind of a signpost for me or not, either when he first sent it to me, or when he left it on his computer. I believe the latter one was, but whether he was trying to convey something about his state of mind to me when he first wrote and sent it, I don't know.

He was struggling financially as well, using his GI BIll to help cover the loss of household income from D. However, he was spending foolishly. He had gotten cash from insurance for his medical bills after the motorcycle accident, but instead of banking the money to pay for the expenses that didn't get billed until long afterward, he spent it. I expressed my concern about his spending the fall of 2007 but he insisted to me that he was fine and that he wasn't really spending more than he had, just "wheeling and dealing." I foolishly believed him, since he had the extra GI Bill income and was still working full time at Humana. I think he believed he could pull it off, that he would be able to gradually pay off his credit card bills and stay afloat with that extra money, but it was a futile hope, since he didn't seem to be able to stop spending and then the medical bills from the ER came in, months after the accident. Of course I didn't find out any of that until after his death.

Meanwhile, he continued his quest for love and dated several people that fall, and once text messaged me that he thought he had a crush on one of his philosophy instructors. Another time he was briefly gleeful at having met a library science student that seemed promising, but it went nowhere.

He seemed preoccupied at Christmastime and when he came for his last birthday dinner with us, didn't connect with us in the way I was used to. He was more emotionally flat and preoccupied with his laptop and phone. However, we saw him two more times after that, once in February for dinner at Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse in Brandon and then at our house on Easter in March. Those times he seemed much more like his old self, engaged, relaxed, and even happy. Although the financial rug had been pulled out from under him when he lost his GI BIll in mid-February, the financial disaster didn't hit until the end of March and the beginning of April, and in that time frame he had been on a quest to find love again and thought he had found it. I did have an inkling that he was living paycheck to paycheck (paychecks including the GI BIll checks) when I invited him for dinner the first weekend of February 2008 and he texted me back:

"Think i will stay in. Just paid rent etc broke till va check clears bank no gas for SCC trip"

When I commented about his being broke and asked about it he texted back:

"Well I am not broke broke but I don't want to tap into reserves always broke in first that is when the biggest bill is always due. Remember I had to pay tuition lastmonth extra $750 of expense I don't have most months"

Actually, he was broke, broke, with his credit cards maxed out, and having to pay tuition and car and cycle registrations in the same month had taken a bite, and I don't have a clue what "reserves" he was talking about.

However, he seemed to be so much happier and more hopeful as he started email, text and phone conversations with DT and quickly became enamored, as he so often did. She lived in another town and had children, so it took them awhile to be able to arrange a date, which gave them more time to talk. Leif actually liked that because he felt it was better to build a relationship before meeting, and before sexual issues got in the way of getting to know each other. They met for their one and only date on March 15th. He drove to her town and came home very late. He sent me a text message saying:

"Mmm so tired but so worth it"

Our text conversation when like this:

Me: Glad it was good. Glad you got back safely. Hope you can stay awake at work. So, what was so great?

Leif: Simply put. Everything. She is perfect.

Me: Ah, I'm glad she's great. Just take it easy. It's a first date. Takes awhile to learn enuf about someone, as you have seen plenty of times in the past. Would love to see you find a good match.

Leif: True but the way I operate by the time of the first date we have often had more communication than most couples have in a year

Me: That's good, excellent, but not the same as long term involvement, as past experience shows. People act differently when in the attraction phase and in the have to make it work phase.

Leif: Something just occurred to me. Remember how I always used to say with my neck I need to marry a masseuse? [DT] is a professional massage therapist.

Me: :-D interesting. Does she want to do it when she gets off work, too?

Leif: Surely not all the time but she is very giving and affectionate so I doubt she would leave me to suffer if I needed it.

Me: Boy, from first date to contemplating marriage? Whoa! (And surely you would be most appreciative and rewarding!)

Leif: LOL well that would be a ways off. Just musing over another way she is just right.

He was quite dreamy and excited about her and even sent pictures to me. Following that one date, they continued to be in contact via phone, messaging and email. They set up a second date for a week later on March 22nd, but unfortunately for everyone, her mother had a heart attack and she had to cancel it. He started texting me about the cancellation of the date and his feelings about her. In answer to something he wrote, I became concerned that he was trying to move too fast, and I sent him this, trying to be a bit silly about it to make him smile:

"Mommy Tip #4
Timing is critical. Procrastinate too long, you lose out. Jump in too fast, you may scare off the objective. This works with relationships, too, especially between men and women."

That sparked a long answer from him, one of the longest emails I ever got from him.

"from Leif Garretson
Date Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 1:27 AM
Subject Re: Timing

I am trying to balance prudence with passion with [DT]. I have told her I am in no rush with her. It's a tricky proposition to balance honesty with intelligence. Honestly, it was damn near love at first sight. Which is what I wanted. But I have not revealed that. I have mixed feelings about tonight's events. I am of course disappointed that I did not see her but I think it maybe for the best. While there was some pretty hot making out on the first date we stopped at that. I told her I kinda wanted to wait as I want her hooked on my personality before she was hooked on anything else.

I have noticed a pattern in my relationships. It goes back awhile in its history. Back to Chicago and Puerto Rico, where I had many friends that were girls. I was privy to many inside conversations with women that few men ever hear. I heard everything men were doing wrong with young women I really liked and had affection for. I decided I would never be one of those guys that would be talked about the way I heard my girl friends talk. I learned a lot and paid attention. I had several opportunities to experience sex had I chosen to do so, including practically fighting off a girl in my bedroom at Ft Buchanan. It just never seemed right for something you do just once. So I waited till it was, and it was sooooo worth it.

Care to guess when it happened? Here is a clue. It was not in PR or Kansas or any other territory of the United States. It was on that ship, the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, where I met that gorgeous British casino cashier, JF. That last night of the cruise I did not come back to the room, not only was I doing what you likely suspected but I was doing it for the first time. The fun fact about that is that afterwards I told her it was my first time and she did not believe me, as surely a virgin could not have been that good.

At this point I had a major ego boost and an egotistical requirement. Now that I knew I was good I HAD to be good. Not just good but great. And if I am to believe every woman I have ever been with, I am.

So where did this lead? Well, it ties into other traits I have and the effect that the combination has. I find that first of all, sadly, most women have had very poor experiences with men. Many women are happy just to have a man that doesn't hit them and think that is a find. That is tragic, but compared to most men I am a prince. I treat them well and am a gentleman. I am also very honest and I don't play games, and women tend to trust me readily and I don't betray that trust. Then we have mind blowing sex and they THINK they are in love with me. They feel more comfortable and secure with me than ever before and great sex feels like genuine intimacy and they are sure they are in love with me.

Then later....

once the euphoria of the beginning wears off, they start to look at day-to-day life with Leif, and then they see my flaws. I am independent. I am aloof. I am often insensitive. I also am usually stronger and need them a lot less than they need me. Thus, like with Nikko, it turns out she realizes that I do not engage her like she wants me to. Then they realize I am not what they really need.

Thus I am in no rush with [DT]. I am very disappointed not to see her but I am kinda glad I was not pressured or tempted to have sex with her prematurely, as I want much more from her and am prepared to give much more."

It wasn't true, though, that he needed them less -- he just needed them in a different way than they needed him. He suffered terribly when he lost them. It's so hard to read this and realize that here was a man thinking long term about a new relationship and yet in only 17 days he was dead.

Sadly, because of DT's mother's health and her job and family responsibilities, just as Leif had fallen in love, she had to pull away from him. He sent several text messages a day after her mother's heart attack and rarely got an answer, and if he did, it was a word or two. She did not answer his calls. Although he understood she had other obligations that took priority and was very busy, he felt left out.

He sent her a message hoping they could get together on their mutual day off, Tuesday, April 8th, but did not get a reply. He had gotten two very short messages on Saturday, April 5th, and sent seven messages over the course of four days to her:

":-( ok. Miss you what about Tuesday day"
Sent on Saturday, Apr 5 2008 at 1:52:31 PM

Sent on Sunday, Apr 6 2008 at 8:59:57 PM

"Miss talking to you"
Sent on Sunday, Apr 6 2008 at 10:40:15 PM

"I don't like it when I don't hear from you for days. I miss you too much. "
Sent on Monday, Apr 7 2008 at 12:52:36 AM

"You're doing that not answering me for days thing again. :-("
Sent on Monday, Apr 7 2008 at 9:30:12 AM

"Working today?"
Sent on Monday, Apr 7 2008 at 4:26:42 PM

"Thinking of you"
Sent on Tuesday, Apr 8 2008 at 10:08:39 PM

He got no replies until the this one, which arrived after he had been dead for over 12 hours. He never saw it.

"Thinking of u too"
Received on Wednesday, Apr 9 2008 at 8:18:30 PM

He had seemed so up, so happy, so hopeful about this relationship, and I was so happy for him, even though I feared he had fallen in love too fast and was worried he would get hurt again. I'd had a dream in mid-January that "something good" was going to happen to him, and when this relationship began, I hoped that was what my dream had foretold.

It is so hard to reconcile Leif's death with the man who was in love again, who seemed so happy for the last couple of weeks of March, who talked to finding a job in her town and moving there to be near her.

I can only think that the combination of his financial collapse, which must have made it look impossible to continue a courtship, especially one requiring long drives and a lot of monetary outlay for gasoline, and her withdrawal must have made him feel that love was once again out of reach, that he would never have someone to complete his life and provide the intimacy he craved so much. He would certainly not have wanted to reveal his financial situation to her. It would have been humiliating, but even knowing all of that, I can't put it all together. I can't get from the man who was participating in a lively email discussion earlier the evening before he took his life, the man who was partying with his friend until the wee hours of the morning, to the man who, after they left, shot himself.

DT was his last love. I'm sorry it didn't develop into something wonderful for both of them. I'm sorry he never found the love and intimacy he needed, but I'm glad he had that one date, something that made him happy for a time.

This photo of Leif was taken January 7, 2008, three months before he died. It was three weeks before his 33rd and last birthday.

The Rollercoaster Ride of Romance and Disappointment

Leif's relationship with D continued to be a whirlwind of a rollercoaster ride. It was only a few months into their relationship when he began to see a pattern of behavior that was to to be the biggest problem between them. Things would go well for awhile and he'd be content with their life together. Then things would go downhill, usually after a drinking bout when D would lose control. They'd only been together for less than four months when she attacked him on one of those occasions and he called the police to keep things from escalating out of control. Although he broke up with her, like later occasions when similar situations occurred, Leif didn't have the heart to tell her to leave when she had nowhere to go, and despite the problems and what he called the "drama," he didn't want to be alone and he also didn't think he could afford the apartment by himself. As time when on, and as he always did until the end, he took her back. He cared about her despite the many issues that often made him miserable, and even afraid of what might happen to him. He came to believe that she had bipolar disorder and felt things would be improved with treatment, which he helped her to get. For some months, things got much better and he was enjoying life and her company.

He realized he loved her when she didn't come home one night. By the next morning, he was frantic, but found she had come back, and that she had been in an accident and at the hospital. At one point, he took her to visit her family in Georgia and it was then he told her that he loved her. I don't know whether D ever fully believed that Leif loved her. She's had such a harsh life and had been treated so badly that I don't think she felt she deserved love and happiness, though certainly she wanted them. She loved Leif and wanted him to marry her, but he was wisely cautious. As he wrote,

State of our Union
Saturday, March 3, 2007 1:28 PM
From: "Leif Garretson"

Hey D,

I think it's time for us to talk about where things stand in our relationship and where they are going. Things have changed a lot lately, some good, some bad. Some need to change again. Some I have already talked to you about. Some I have not. Here we go.

First, I love you, and I dare say I an IN Love with you. That is a good change. At least I hope it is. In the past I merely had affection for you. I had liked you. I had enjoyed having you around. In a word, I was content. But I was not in love.

I eventually realized I loved you and that you were my best friend but that I was not actually in love with you. I stayed with you because you gave me what I needed; sex and companionship and rent money. That is what I need. I wanted Love but I had not found it. I was ready to leave you a few times because the drama and strife outweighed the benefits.

So what has changed? Well, you did. You, at least for awhile became a happy person. This was around the time you started treatment. You were being responsible and happy and silly and fun.

You say you would take a bullet for me but then you break promises to me all the time. That is a big deal to me. I have been let down left and betrayed so many times. Loyalty and reliability are a big thing to me. Aren't they to you too? Given how many people have f#%&& you over, isn't one of the best qualities about me the constancy of my reliability? Isn't that what makes you feel safe and secure? In fact, isn't the only real insecurity that you have centered around whether you can trust your heart to love me? Well, I have that fear, too. I have resisted falling in love with you consciously because I didn't want to get hurt again like I did with J by opening up my heart to a person that has let me down over and over again and can't keep her promises to me.

You want me to marry you. That is the ultimate promise. You are promising to be my beloved partner and guardian of my heart for all time. Do you expect me to be able to trust you enough to do that when I can't trust you not to buy a bottle of Bacardi on a bad day and put us both in danger and pain? Seriously. How can you expect me to make that leap of faith and not only make but accept and trust that promise from you when you can't keep a little promise like not drinking liquor. I am not even asking you to quit drinking, just stop drinking THAT! Can you ask yourself that question? How can I expect Leif to promise me his heart and believe me when I promise to love and be the guardian of it when I have broken so many other promises not to hurt him? Ask that of yourself. Use it as a way to look at yourself and decide who you want to be. Then decide to become that person.

Remember the last BSG when Baltar claimed to be a far boy from Aralon? Remember how he changed who he was to become the Virtuous Caprican right down to his voice? We that is what you can and must decide to do. Not nearly so drastic as to change your voice, though it would improve things if you stopped cussing like a sailor in public around nice people. Just decide that you are going to rise above your past and become a polite professional Classy lady that people can count on.

It really not as hard as you think. You just have to decide who you want to be and become that person. Wanna know the secret? You reinvent yourself. You decide that the person you are is not the real you. It's who you were forced to be to survive your past. The real You is better, stronger, more reliable, polite, punctual, classy; you pick the adjectives. Just decide that if you are not happy with who you are today, decide who you want to be, and become that person tomorrow.

So when I did I know that I loved you? Well I think it was about a month ago when I started to realize it. In january things were getting better. We were having more fun, really having a good time. Then it all came down.

Ok, so you f$(*& up and lost your job. That is another thing you need to embrace honey. Excuses are like assholes. Everyone has got one and they ain't good for nothing but shit. Being responsible goes right along with being reliable. You keep up your obligations no matter what setbacks you have and you keep those obligations in mind and don't do things that will make it impossible to fulfill them.

I get that you are depressed and tired and you know what? So what? It's time to be a grown up and do what you got to do. That means getting your ass out of bed no matter how shitty you feel and doing what a grown up does to survive. And to remind you, it's not just about you anymore. You want me? You got me, and I come with bills and responsibilities. You want to marry me? Show me that you are going to be there for me and have my back, and not just on your good days.

When did I know I loved you? When you had the crash. When I thought I had lost you, worried that you were gone. I was truly afraid you could be dead or raped, or who knows? I was terrified about what might have happened to you. I could not sleep. I finally left very late to get some beer to help me sleep. I was miserable with worry. When I woke up I was deeply saddened that the bed was empty and you had not slipped in in the night, safe. I woke up with a pitiful sad look of worry on my face as I prepared to go to work and keep my obligations while my heart was dead with worry.

Then I heard a sound and called out to you and you answered. I felt a rush of emotion. I didn't know if I should be mad at you, relieved, happy, all I knew was you were alive and you were home and I ran to you. I held you and tried not to crush you because I wanted to squeeze you so tight. I was so happy you were all right I just wanted to cling to you. It was all I could do to eventually pull away and go to work. I was so happy you were back and safe. It was that night and morning that I knew that I am in love with you. As they say, “You don't know what you got till it's gone.” And I want you to know when you are in your down stages that it would destroy me if I lost you.

I can't explain to you why I love you other than that you give my life meaning. You give me purpose. I read somewhere that that is what men really need. to have a purpose and to succeed at it. Well, my purpose is to help you. To save you. To love you. It's the one thing I can do that matters to someone. It's the only thing that I do that matters to anyone. You say that the world wouldn't miss you if you were gone and that no one cares. Well, I feel the same way. Other than my parents, who would mourn my passing? Would the world even notice if Leif Garretson didn't show up for life tomorrow? Doubt it would. I am not a cop, a soldier, a paramedic, a doctor. What does my life mean to anyone but you? What good am I to anyone but you? This is the question that every man battles with; what value do I have? What meaning does my life have? What is my purpose?

It's the same reason why horses carry their mounts. It gives them purpose. They know their place and that they belong there. It's the same for all men. It's the same for me. You give me purpose. A man sees his mate much like a woman sees her child. If it seems I act like a father to you at times, that is why. My purpose in life is to take care of you, to protect you from the world and yourself. It's hard. It's a battle, but it's what I do. It's what gives my life meaning, because if my life means nothing to anyone else, it matters to you. You give me meaning in my life. But the other part needed is success, and lately I haven't felt very successful in helping you. But then, all I can do is help you help yourself.

I am here to take care of you but I am not purely a charity. I have needs and I have expectations. I have responsibilities. And you have been neglecting me lately. I know I have already exhausted your attention span so I will shut up now. Felt good to write it. I just hope you read it and take it seriously.

I love you,

I don't know exactly what happened after this email (which I have heavily edited), but things did not get better. There was another breakup, despite the love he had professed, and over the same issues, but once again, Leif did not force her to leave the apartment. They came to our house for Mother's Day 2007 and D told me she was upset and hurt that Leif was dating again. He told me that he had finally come to realize that whether they loved each other or not, the relationship was dysfunctional and destructive, and he said he was trying to help her see that they did not have a future together, but to help her find one without him. I asked him how I should treat her and he said, "As a good friend of mine and my roommate." It hurt D that he was dating others and though he had broken up with her, since she was still living in his apartment, it felt wrong to her that he was seeing other women. She finally got upset enough to go to stay with a friend. I was hopeful that both of them would get on with their lives and that the relationship would be over because I was very worried about the consequences of it continuing.

However, not long after D left the apartment, on July 12,2007, Leif had the motorcycle accident and was taken to the ER. I no longer remember exactly how D found out, but she took buses from where she was staying to the apartment, packed fresh clothing for him in a backpack, and took buses to the hospital. She loved him and came to be with him. When he was released from the ER, I wanted to take him to our home so I could take care of him, but he wanted to go back to his apartment. He could not take care of himself without help at that point, and D wanted to be there to help him. I was concerned about the consequences of that, because it put the two of them back together and I feared that was not a good idea.

D did take good care of Leif for a a time. He had surgery on his shattered collarbone and was in far more pain than he expected. During that time, he enrolled in the University of South Florida, which was not far from his apartment, in an effort to use his GI BIll benefits to help out with his expenses, since he wasn't going to be able to count on D helping out with the rent.

We were going to take a trip to China and needed transportation to the airport. We knew Leif was short on cash so we figured it would help him out if we paid him to take us there rather than paying some other transport service, and asked him to come stay overnight at our house on September 15th and take us to the airport on the morning of the 16th. We left for our three week trip, not knowing until we returned that when he got home from the airport, D had been drinking again and attacked him. He took a photo of himself all scratched up, and said she had tried to grab a sword to use on him. He called the police. That was the end of them living together, but he keenly felt the loss of purpose he had found in trying to help her better her life. He again felt useless and had no focus. It was two months later in November when he sent me that email that life held more pain and misery than happiness and he had no purpose in life.

However, true to Leif's past, he continued a friendship with D and played Dungeons and Dragons with her and others just two nights before he died.

I think it's terribly sad for both of them that they couldn't have found happiness together, but this relationship is such proof that love really doesn't conquer all, that love is all too often not enough.


The photo of the contemplative Leif was taken on a PT boat taking us from Olongapo to Grande Island in the Philippines, in August 1982. Leif was seven-and-a-half years old.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Uncertainty of the Future

I just saw this Tennessee Williams quote and it made me think of Leif. Did he feel that way the night he died?

"There is a time for departure, even when there's no certain place to go." ~Tennessee Williams

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Myth of Closure

I was listening to a news story on television this morning in which the reporter was yet again saying that a family would finally have "closure" about their daughter's death when her killer was executed and I immediately thought how wrong she was. I've thought this every time I've heard such a story, whether it's about a case like this or a burial or finding the body of someone missing. Yes, it closes a chapter; something is finalized, but there is never "closure" on the death of one's child. The loss is always there. Something might have finally ended, some wait for "justice" or finding a body, but the endless questions of why will always remain and "justice" will not bring back the dead. There is no such thing as closure for the family. Perhaps there is for the justice system and there press, but not for the family. No answer will ever be sufficient. No legal revenge will ever wipe out the hole in a mother's heart.

Leif did not die by someone else's hand and we are not waiting for law enforcement to find his killer or bring someone else to justice, but for us, too, the endless questions and loss remain. Closure will never happen. The best any of us can hope for is a gradual fading of the acuteness of grief and loss to the point where it doesn't dominate our lives. It will never be gone.

This photo of Leif was taken at the Manhattan Kansas City Park pool in July 1976. Leif was 18 months old. He is wearing a little terrycloth bathrobe I made for him, In those days, I sewed many of the clothes for the boys and me.

Reconciling the Life of the Boy and the Man

I need to get back to finishing the series of posts on Leif's loves and relationships but it's hard, hard to write about them, hard to be fair about them, hard to give a picture of his life and not hurt others, and in the meantime, I'm trying to deal in my mind with the conflicting pictures of my beautiful, brilliant little boy, who clearly was much more vulnerable than any of us realized, and the tall, strong, brilliant but unhappy man who ultimately took his life. So many of the photos of the last years of his life make me sad, realizing I could see the unhappiness there, realizing there will be no more chances to find the love and happiness he missed, but at the same time, trying to understand that there were moments of happiness among the days of misery.

Coming to terms with Leif's life and death is not easy, not for me, not for his father. I realized tonight that we had him in our home for the best years of his life, the happiest ones, though of course they were not universally happy. That at least makes me glad, that we were able to give him a good home life with loving parents.

I still think nearly every day that I want to just hold him and comfort him, and that will never happen. Even in death I wanted to hold him, to touch him, even though I knew he would not feel it. I would have.

This photo of Leif was taken in our quarters at Fort Sheridan, Illinois in May 1987 not long after he had picked out "Scamp," the kitten in his baseball mitt. Leif was 12 years old.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bittersweet Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, that celebration of romantic love and friendship, didn't strike me ahead of time as a day I'd be feeling sad or missing Leif. It sneaked up on me as I was feeling loved and loving with Peter W., who is so sweet and tender to me. It struck me with a force, the memories of Valentine's Days past with my sons, helping them get their classroom Valentine's ready for school, sometimes making their shoebox Valentine "mailbox," receiving the Valentine cards they made for us at school, enjoying Valentine candy, and sometimes cookies, together. It was fun.

Even after my sons were teenagers, or grown men, I sent them Valentine cards and for years, also a small monetary gift, enough to take a date to a movie or go out for coffee. It was a chance for me to tell them I loved them, not that I needed one, since I took the opportunity whenever I could, but on Valentine's Day I could dress it up a little with a card.

I miss doing those things, but the things I miss most are being able to tell Leif that I love him and knowing he is alive and well. I will never have those again.

I hope he knew I loved him. Of course he did.

I am fortunate to be loved on this day of love, but I still miss my son. It's as though I spent years creating a beautiful garden that I loved and worked in with joy, doing my best to protect it from predators and disaster, and then some terrible storm came and destroyed a whole section of it, utterly destroyed it, leaving me only with memories of what once was, and wishing so hard that I had it back.

The photo of Leif is his school photo, taken in the fall of 1981 in Japan. He was six-and-a-half years old and in first grade. That was the year that this sweet little boy was taller than his teacher! The Valentine is an antique one, sent to my mother in the early 1920s. I enjoyed scanning old Valentines and printing them on cards. This is one I would have sent to Leif for fun.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fifty Years of Remembering - Fifty Years of Wondering Why

Today it has been fifty years since my father died. On that cold winter night of February 10, 1960, he got up around two o'clock in the morning, went into the upstairs bathroom next to his bedroom, and took cyanide. There hasn't been a February 10th in those fifty years that I haven't thought of him and wondered why, wondered what my life and that of my family would have been like if he hadn't been depressed and decided to end his life, wondered what it was that made him decide to do it the night he did. What was the catalyst? What was the last straw? Or did he plan it for a long time and then just get up the courage to go through with it?

Like Leif, he gave no clues he was planning it. He left no note to explain it. Yet he had everything that Leif did not, a wife and family, a profession, an advanced degree, a home, friends, and he was not in debt, nor did he have any problems with substance abuse. And yet he was still so unhappy he took his life at the age of 46. I mourn for him and for the misery he must have felt, and wonder how he hid it so well from everyone around him except our mother, to whom he had said he felt "dead inside" and that he felt he wouldn't continue to succeed at his job because he couldn't concentrate and think up new research problems for his graduate students. The eternal question why will never be answered.

Did Leif inherit the genes for depression or bipolar syndrome? Was he doomed by some twist of genetic fate?

He looked like his grandfather. The photo of my father was taken in 1938 wen he was twenty-five years old. When Leif was twenty-five, he was in the army and I don't have many photos of him at that time that are straight-on head shots that I could compare with his grandfather, so the one in this post is from 2003 when he was 28. If you can imagine him with hair and without the beard, maybe you could see the resemblance.

They never knew each other. My father never saw a grandchild. I was his oldest child and was only twelve when he died. He died fifteen years before Leif was born, and yet in some minute and unintentional way, he may have contributed to his grandson's final fate.

Like my questions about my father's death, the questions about my son's will remain forever. I will not likely live fifty years beyond Leif's death, to be 110, but I will likewise never forget April 10th and never stop wondering what made him pull the trigger in the wee hours of April 9th.

I will always love my father and my son. I will always be glad they were in my life, my father for only twelve years, my son for thirty-three. And I will always miss them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Does He Reveal?

The "Live-In Girlfriend Job Description" I posted yesterday reveals as much about Leif and the relationship he was hoping for as it does about the situation he found himself in. The fact that he referred to a "promotion" to wife shows that he was hoping and thinking that things would work out and go in that direction.

Leif was attracted to women that he felt needed some kind of male protection, someone who aroused his protective instincts, but someone who also was physically attractive and alluring. It was a kind of classic "damsel in distress" that gave him purpose. However, once he had "captured" this damsel, he invariably felt he needed to change or improve her, whether it was a simple matter of dyeing her hair red or a more thorough makeover including teaching her how to dress and behave like a lady, for Leif DID want a woman who behaved like an elegant (but sexy) lady in public. He wanted to be the knight with the beautiful lady that everyone else would look at and envy him.

However, though Leif wanted to change his woman, much like Professor Higgins in "My Fair Lady," he also didn't want to change himself and resisted all efforts to make him change. This created plenty of friction, as his ladies didn't see that as fair and didn't like some of his faults, particularly his intemperate spending.

D really did need Leif's protection and voice of change. She had had such a difficult life that she had never had the opportunity to live the kind of life Leif grew up with or could offer her. I think part of his attraction for her was that he felt he could teach her a different way of life and new ways of interacting with the world, and probably that was one of his attractions for her as well. The "job description" refers to going to school and bettering oneself, and helping each other to curb destructive vices. Leif tried hard to get D to go back to school and get a degree so that she could find better jobs, but during their time together, she wasn't ready to try it.

He didn't go into detail about the destructive vices, but one he must have been referring to was over consumption of alcohol, something which wasted a great deal of money, caused him to put on weight, and caused D to lose control of her actions at times. They both needed to stop drinking, but they couldn't seem to do it. Another was smoking, which he does refer to. I don't know whether Leif ever really clearly realized how destructive drinking was for him or not. I do know that once or twice he admitted to me that he needed to cut down and even toyed with the idea of joining AA if he could convince D to do it, too. I don't know whether Leif was an alcoholic or not but I do know that he drank far more than he should ever have.

The "job description" was one of Leif's many attempts to refine the gold he saw in D. There was much that he found endearing and appealing, but they both had many complaints about each other as well. Unforunately, although they both cared about each other, it was not a good match and they were in for a rollercoaster ride with many swift turns and ups and downs before the relationship finally ended.

This photo of a silly Leif up in an apple tree was taken in the yard of our house in Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany, in June 1979. Leif was four-and-a-half years old.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Troubled New Love Relationship Begins

When his mostly phone and email romance with LA trailed off in October 2005, Leif began dating again and meeting the dates through and He told me that some guys asked why he was willing to shell out the membership fees and he said that it would cost more than that to hit the bars and other places trying to find companionship, and that he had found them to be terrible places to meet people.

On January 25, 2006, he got a "wink" from someone on that piqued his interest. He had been an ardent fan of Douglas Adam's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" since he was in junior high, and he met few women who had similar reading, or television, interest. Thus he was impressed when D emailed him "42," the classic answer to "life, the universe and everything." He was instantly interested in meeting her. I believe they first met on his 31st birthday, January 28, 2006. She was about to move out of Tampa with some friends and he didn't want her to go. He first began bringing her to our house, where I met her in early February. We weren't willing to have a friend of his (any friend) move in, though, I don't know whether it was Leif's idea or D's or both, but they decided to get an apartment in Tampa together.

Leif knew he was going to have to move out of the three rooms he occupied in our house before I completed the move from Kansas in September, so he saw this as an opportunity to move out and live with someone captivating who could help with the rent, and he hoped it would "go somewhere," in his terms.

D was very different from other women Leif was involved with, at least the ones I'd met. She was street smart and had had a very tough childhood. She was funny and cute, mercurial, and talked so fast it could make your head swim. I liked her, but sometimes she was so hyper she made me nervous. I remember standing with both of them in our kitchen when they announced that they were moving in together in Tampa and saying, "It's too soon. You don't know each other well enough yet. You've both had some very sad and tough times and neither of you can emotionally afford another romantic disaster." I told D that I didn't have anything against her. I didn't know her well enough to have any negative feelings about her, but I was worried they were making a big mistake to move in with each other after only knowing each other for three weeks or less. They both pooh-poohed my concerns. I think Leif thought that he would be able to enjoy her companionship and what he then felt was an endearing flightiness and have someone to share expenses. I don't think he ever felt he was going to get in too deep. Although he was captivated when he moved out of here, he wasn't yet in love.

They found an apartment in Tampa and we asked them whether it was a good neighborhood. Leif told us it was. Unfortunately, it wasn't. It was in that apartment that they were robbed a mere five months later in July 2006. It was a small two-bedroom, ground floor apartment in an older complex. Since I was still going back and forth to Kansas in those days, I didn't see much of Leif except once or twice each time I was back in Florida, and only heard from him occasionally.

D was a part time model and she modeled at the Daytona Bike Week. Leif took her there in March for modeling jobs. Things did not go smoothly and the trip cost him money and time he didn't really have to spare and he was falling into debt again, though he didn't admit that to us at all. D had trouble holding down a job and with Leif's spending habits and the added expenses of an apartment, utilities and a second person, he was not able to keep up with the financial situation. He did admit to us that money was tight, but not that he was building up credit card debt fast.

There were other issues that cropped up between them that spring, and in an attempt to deal with them in a light-hearted manner, he wrote a "job description" of a live-in girlfriend. Leif was not, in general, a demanding man, but he did have standards and he did have expectations. Though he chose to handle this in a somewhat joking manner, you can read between the lines about why he felt he should write it at all. Things were rocky, but he was still hoping they would work out.

From: Leif Garretson
Subject: Job Posting
Date: Wednesday, April 5, 2006, 8:52 PM

The following document shouldn't be taken too seriously or literally, and considered with a sense of humor, for it is an analogy or metaphor. It is not intended to suggest that a Girlfriend is an "employee." So read it, learn from it, and reference it if you need to.

Position: "Live In Girlfriend"

Employer: Leif

The following is a listing for the position of Live-in Girlfriend. This is a semi-permanent to permanent position with potential for advancement for a qualified and dedicated individual offering significant benefits proportional to the applicant's qualifications and performance.

Applicants must be female and either bi or heterosexual. They should be between 21 and 31 years of age and seeking permanent satisfying employment. Motivation and high sex drive are a must. As they will be working for a very sexual and visually oriented employer it is necessary to maintain physical fitness and an overall attractive and stimulating appearance. The appearance and behavior reflect on the employer and a successful applicant must be willing to put her best foot forward in representing herself and her employer. As part of the specifics of the appearance required, any applicant will be expected to maintain a slender build, typically weighing 100-130 pounds, unless unusually tall or short. Applicant must, with reasonable exceptions, maintain a well-kempt, feminine appearance that is attractive to her employer. The quality of that appearance and the consistency with which it is maintained will be directly proportional to benefits and compensation both, deliberate and unconscious.

Applicant must accept that she is in a mature environment free of unnecessary drama or conflict and excessive outbursts or immature, overly emotional behavior; particularly, ones which may disturb neighbors or embarrass the employer will not be tolerated. No allowance or exception will be made to this rule for use of alcohol, as immature behavior is not excused due to inebriation.

A successful applicant must be driven to better herself and assist her employer in doing the same. She must cooperate in joint efforts to maintain physical fitness and/or curb destructive vices.

The person that will succeed at this job is one that will take pride in her position and who will seek to make her employer proud of her. She should understand that her actions do not exist in a vacuum, but rather that everything she does, private or public, to include personal appearance, demeanor, and behavior, reflect on her employer. Only a person that is able to portray themselves in a positive and flattering light that will reflect well on her employer amongst others, so that she is a credit to him, will have opportunity for promotion or advancement.

She will have to leave past dramas or patterns of dealing with difficulty behind and embrace a more mature, enlightened way of dealing with things.

She should seek to better herself through the pursuit of education and employment and make goals for each.

Ultimately, to advance from this position to a more permanent one, such as "Wife,” she must be willing to consider breast augmentation to an impressive but not ridiculous bustline.


Applicant will be expected to maintain a generally attractive, feminine, appearance. Clothes, hair, make-up, physical fitness and behavior are aspects of this. Slovenly, lazy, or unkempt appearance are not acceptable save for sick or morning after-days. Barring such exceptions, or obvious work-related attire, will be expected to look nice, with hair and make up done and decent clothes. Applicant must take pride in her appearance as Leif's Lady, as she is a representative of her employer.

Applicant will be expected to maintain reasonable employment and contribute to household expenses as well as her own. Leif may, at his sole discretion, chose to supplement this income to provide clothes, lingerie, make up, etc., to make the above task easier, or out of simple generosity. Any activities suggested by the employer he will expect to pay for, such as dinner out, etc. However, the applicant should be pulling her own weight and not be excessively asking for help with expenses that are not shared. Contraception is considered a shared expense. However, things like cigarettes, or other expenses which are not necessary for the fulfilling of any expected tasks, are not Leif's responsibility and should be budgeted for or eliminated by the applicant.

Any individual that accepts the position must expect to be sexually available as well as desirable.

A live-in girlfriend will be expected to cook, clean, and do laundry, though will not be solely responsible for those actions. Leif will participate in all to the degree necessary or appropriate and no further explanation of these tasks will be given unless it becomes disproportionate to the point it is a problem.

A successful applicant will also share as many non-sexual activities as possible, such as movies, TV, and games whenever possible and should keep in mind that if the above requirements for attractiveness and sexual desirability are met, she should not have to compete with things like PlanetSide. Historically, it is evident that when a girlfriend is thin and hot and sexy, PlanetSide does not see much of "Graeloch."


Below is some clarification, explanation or justification for the requirements above, to explain why they are so important.

Weight: I have discussed some of this, but partly it is that opposites attract. I look for in a woman what I see lacking in myself. I am attracted to very thin, slight, feminine women. I am a conqueror and I want someone that looks ripe for conquering, not someone that looks like a worthy adversary. Also, because after the conquering is done, I am a protector. Small, fragile women make me feel protective and powerful. Visually, a light, cat-like build turns me on. Call it shallow if you like; I know what I like. I may not give you shit if you are not as thin as I like, but my desire will not be there.

Appearance and behavior: Again, what you look like, say and do is a reflection on me. You are not just D, you are Leif's Girlfriend. Be one that I would be proud of. Don't ever be one that I would be ashamed of because of how you look or behave. Again, think of what you think My Lady should be like. If you were to write a story about me in this or any other time, and you had to describe my Lady, the woman that you would expect to see at the side of a man like me, what would she be like? How would she look and how would she act?


The two photos of Leif with the blue hair were taken on his last day of seventh grade in June 1988 when they were having some kind of a goofy dress-up day. He was a student at Northwood Junior High School in Highland Park, Illinois. They may seem an odd choice to put with this post, but since it starts out mentioning Douglas Adams and "42," I chose them because that was the period when he read those books and practically memorized them. He could recite whole passages. They made a profound effect on his life and he talked about them all the years he lived after this.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The End of the Short Romance

It's very hard for me to write about Leif's loves. I want to be fair to both sides and to keep confidences, but since Leif's life was so much about the quest to find love, to find a woman to complete him, it's impossible to tell his story without writing about his romances and the women he loved. Since I began this series about his loves, I've written the posts days apart, partly because it's taking me a lot of time to think about what to say, and partly because I'm at a busy time in my life when there aren't enough hours to devote to this. I can't do it all from memory. I have to go back and read what Leif wrote, too.

By the first part of August 2005, Leif had been carrying on a very prolific correspondence with LA and they had also been on contact by phone often. He felt a real connection to her and had high hopes that when they eventually met, they would have the "chemistry" that he wrote to her about and that he so desired. And so it was. After meeting her only one time, he was already talking about her to our family and arranged to bring her to visit us for an afternoon and evening with dinner, while his brother and his family were visiting. Peter A. was very curious about LA. He wanted a chance to give his stamp of approval . . . or not. Leif even went to the unprecedented step of asking LA to correspond with both me and his brother, and she did. I was impressed with her writing and the things she said about Leif. When we met her, she was dealing with a hearing problem from an ear infection, but she seemed very sweet and we liked her.

Leif was taken with her femininity and slender, fragile looks, and thought he'd found a willing companion on Planetside. However, I don't think they actually saw each other in person more than three times when she began to withdraw from the relationship that she had (at least in her email) so wholeheartedly thrown herself into. It began with a death in the family. Leif offered sympathy and wanted to be there for her, but she told him that she mourned privately and asked him to give her space. He took that to mean not to call or email, and didn't for about a week but then loneliness got the better of him and he did contact her. From that point on, things seemed to deteriorate and she was more and more distant until finally in October 2005, they broke it off, though I don't think they had seen each other since the end of August. In all, I don't think they actually saw each other more than three or four times, but Leif had called her his girlfriend and invested a great deal of emotion and hope in the relationship. He wanted it to continue.

I will probably never know the full truth about what happened between them, but I do know that in the fall sometime, perhaps around the beginning of October, Leif's erstwhile fiancee, J, contacted him again, telling him he was the best thing that ever happened to her. Leif knew his heart couldn't trust her not to hurt him again but all the same, he was still carrying a torch for her and couldn't help but wonder what might develop. Apparently, as he did with his later loves, he told LA about this contact and she felt threatened by it. Rather than have him hurt her and leave her for J, she pushed him away herself.

Nothing but an occasional contact ever did develop with J, and Leif seemed bewildered about why LA had pushed him out of her life. He genuinely missed her, but went on to date others, still hoping to find someone. When his last romance broke up, he tried once again to contact LA and get back together, saying, "I thought we had something" and "I miss you." He did not get a reply as far as I know. I'm not sure she got his email, though.

In the end, although the two of them clearly had some feelings for each other and some characteristics each liked, I don't think it would have made a good long-term match. Leif had written to her that people said "it would take a strong woman" to love him, and that's true. Leif was not always easy to be with. He could be exasperating, moody, financially irresponsible, and insensitive, all things a wife or lover would find hard to live with. He wanted a woman to be interested in the things he wanted to do, like PlanetSide, riding a motorcycle, sci-fi and guns, all things fewer women find compelling. On the other hand, he was undemanding in most ways and very patient, had a lot of love to give and could be very affectionate.

Like all the women he had loved or would love, I don't think he ever really gave up on the idea of being with LA, somewhere in his heart.

Since I have no new good photos of Leif during 2005, I'm posting a photo I like of Peter W. and Leif in Puerto Rico, taken at Hacienda Buena Vista in June 1991. Leif was sixteen years old.