Friday, April 16, 2010

Leif and His Family and Friends

One of the things I'll be sad about not including in this blog is more photos and stories of Leif's relatives and friends. This blog focuses so much on him that except for the parts about a few friends and his love interests, you'd think he was a solitary man. In many way, he was. Leif was an introvert, like me. Both of us tend to keep to ourselves unless we are with people we feel comfortable with and know well enough to easily converse with. Leif could be the life of the part, the center of a discussion, the leader, but often he stayed to himself. Unfortunately in the last year of his life, he was far too solitary. He did not socialize with his fellow employees or know any of them well (in great part because they were stuck in cubicles on phones) and never made many friends in Tampa or joined any organizations that might have provided him with friendships. He was lucky that his friend Michael moved to Florida and enjoyed time with him, but Michael lived a hour's drive away.

Leif also never seemed interested in maintaining contact with people he cared about after he or they moved away. When he was in high school I asked him about that and he seemed to indicate that it was emotionally hard for him, that it was easier to let go. And besides, he was a lazy correspondent. Later, when email was prevalent and the internet made it possible to find people from one's past sometimes, he did make contact with a few, but didn't seem to keep it up.

The constants in his life were our family members, not just the immediate family, but his grandmothers, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Although he didn't see much of them for years while we were living overseas, when we moved back to Kansas he did get to see several of his cousins fairly frequently.

This photo is of him and his first cousin Rick in July 1976 in Manhattan, Kansas. Rick is one year older than Leif. The photo was taken by my sister Sherie, Leif's aunt. Leif was a year-and-a-half old in this photo.

We had many large family gatherings that we all enjoyed. Often they were at my mother's house, a dinner for all those with a birthday that month, or Christmas Eve, or Easter, for instance. It was usually 14-16 of us around the table and everyone would stay and linger at the table, talking. Leif enjoyed those dinners very much.

It was not good for him to be living alone in Tampa without a supporting network of friends. The only family he had in Florida was us, his parents, and his maternal grandmother, and we lived a half an hour away. And what thirty-three year old man wants his social life to be with his parents and grandmother?

Leif was a man who most of all needed someone to love, who lived him back and as he put it, was the "guardian of his heart," and a group of uplifting friends who could keep him in a happier mood. How sad he was so alone. I'm glad he had the friends he did, and the family he enjoyed, but unfortunately, they were far away.

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