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.
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
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.