Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Remembering Leif and all his fallen comrades in arms on this Memorial Day, those who fell in battle, those killed by IEDs, those who came home broken in body or spirit who suffer for their service to our country.

Remembering Leif's service to our country and the price he paid for it.

Remembering all the families dealing with the loss or injury of a loved one.


The photo is of the bugler who played Taps at Leif's military honors memorial service at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 29, 2008.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Many Photos Are There of Leif I've Never Seen?

When we were in Germany earlier this month, our friends the Streckers showed us some photos of us and our boys that were taken around 1980 when we were living in Germany. Several of them we had never seen before, and this photo of Leif riding on my back was one of them. How well I remember carting him around like this, usually when he got tired on Volksmarches and the terrain was too rough for the umbrella stroller, but also just for fun. He looks like he's enjoying himself, just a hint of a smile there. He looks so sweet. I'm glad I could scan it.

This made me wonder how many other people have pictures of Leif that I've never seen . . . and would love to see. I treasure every one.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reasons only bring more questions

Like I said, even an answer about what happened to Leif, from him, only brings more questions. If he died from loneliness, lack of purpose, debts and pain, WHY couldn't he find a purpose in life? Why couldn't he find a life partner who didn't bring him pain? Why couldn't he control his spending? Why did he have such a need for speed and weapons. The questions will go on all my life.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why Some Days are Sad

It doesn't take much to bring on sadness on some days. I've been having spells of it for three days now. I wondered whether it was because my birthday is coming and Leif won't be here, or whether coming home and realizing full force that Leif wasn't with us for Mother's Day did it, or whether it's just being home again and not as distracted by travel and other things. Maybe that Memorial Day is coming soon. Maybe it's all of those, plus the associations that so many daily things bring.

For instance, this morning I chose to wear a t-shirt from our 2003 family reunion. It has the logo of the family tree brooch on it that Darlene designed, and she made the shirts, too. Thanks to her, Peter A. and Donovan, we had this beautiful brooch made for Mom in Thailand. I didn't think that putting on this shirt would make me sad, but it did. I reminded me that Leif was there then, with us, hopeful for his future, having just graduated from KSU. He enjoyed the reunion, and these photos of him are with the gifts he received from his brother, Peter A., for his graduation. It made me think of the 2008 reunion, which took place only two-and-a-half months after his death, and how hard it was to have the whole family there except for him, and now, to know there will never be a family reunion with him present, nor will I ever have a family reunion like my mother has had with all her children present.

That made me think how she has a way of telling people what a worrier I am and about my "Worrier's Anonymous" t-shirt (my own design. She doesn't call it that, just describes how I worry about everything. I haven't worn that t-shirt since the day we found Leif dead in his apartment. I wore it there that day, partly because I WAS worried . . . and with good reason . . . and partly as a joke so that if we did find him alive, I could tease him about how my worrying was justified. I just can't bring myself to wear it any more. Too many sad memories of that day. And I can't bring myself to tell my mother, either. I'm not normally a compulsive worrier, though I am a planner and "speculator," but at the time I designed that shirt and put it on, I WAS terribly worried about Leif, and it seems like a harmless and amusing outlet for my worries. I had fun wearing it. The "Worrier's Manifesto" was designed and written to be way over-the-top, but I guess Mom took it seriously, even though I had good reason to worry in her case, too, when I told her I worried about her getting in and out of the bathroom on a cruise ship. I was worried she would fall . . . and she did, and broke her back. So, maybe my worries are justified in too many cases.

So, thinking about these things, with my reunion 2003 t-shirt on, I went into the living room where Peter W. was watching a movied called "New York City Serenade." I only saw snatches of it, but the last scene made me so sad. Two friends were meeting after a long time and one had a little girl and the other apparently had done well in business but was alone and depresed. He left alone in a cab and the father walked hand-in-hand with his little girl talking about the future until he lifted her onto his shoulder. I could just see Leif in that, both sides . . . the man who left, lonely and sad, and the father Leif wanted to be, with the little girl whose mother he wanted to marry. Would he have lived if he'd had something to live FOR?

That brought me back to thinking about the deep sadness I felt Thursday night, when I was again crying, "Why? Why then? What tipped the balance? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you leave a clue?"

Yes, he left that philosophy essay of his and the photo on this laptop, but that's not enough. It doesn't spell it out.

Then I thought, even if he HAD left a note or explanation, it would just raise more questions . . . . more whys. There's really no way for someone to comprehend it who didn't experience what he did.

But today a revelation of sorts came to me, because of that scene in the movie and connecting it with the email from Leif in November 2007 when he said that life held far more pain and agony for him that pleasure and that he basically had nothing to live FOR, no PURPOSE. That IS the answer. Nothing to live for. How ultimately sad.

Peter W. was affected by the movie, too, in the same way I was, and we were also hit by the West Point graduation, which should be a time of rejoicing and triumph, and yet we both wondered how many of those young men and women will die or be maimed in the wars we are fighting . . . and for what? For how many years? Why are we doing this to these wonderful young people? Is it worth it? Not to me.

Peter W. and I drove out into the country past Wimauma to pick blueberries and on the way he said he was sad today. We discovered we were both experiencing the same sadness. He said he missed my blog about Leif, missed looking forward to reading memories of Leif and seeing pictures, and to knowing what I was thinking. I miss that, too, but it's not something I can write every day, and where are the photos going to come from? I can't make more of them. Leif is not here for that. Every photo I have now is precious. It's both wonderful and terriby, terribly sad to see his handsome face looking earnestly out at me, life-size, from my computer screen. How I wish I would reach in there and hug him! I miss him so!

Picking blueberries in the sunlight was good for us. Seeing the green of the countryside was good for us. The best antidote to sadness and depression is work, action, distraction, yet so often those are the things we don't feel at all like doing. We make ourselves do them. We have to. Tears and sadness can't be the only thing in life. We can't let them take over.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Leif would have loved it - Google's Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Pac Man

Google has created a playable logo of Pac Man to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the game. How it brings back memories for me! Thirty years ago Leif was five years old and we were living in Japan. The video arcade phenomena was huge and there was a large one not too far from our housing area, in the city of Sagamihara. I think I've already written that one of our favorite family outings was to have dinner (tonkatsu) at Matsumoto's, which the Americans called the "Little Pork Place" and then go to the arcade. We would get a lot of tokens and each of us would have a bundle of them and we'd play, all of us, whatever video games appealed to us. Pac Man and a bit later Ms. Pac Man were popular and so much fun.

Leif later had Pac Man as one of the retro games on his XBox360. I don't know if he ever actually played it as a 32-33-year-old adult, though I bet he at least tried it out for old times sake.

With Leif's memory, he would remember those outings and all the fun we had together. We still played at the arcades in Hawaii, mostly at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center where the arcade was on the top floor.

How I wish Leif were here to share this with, the fun of playing it with the arrow keys on Google. I don't know how long they will leave it there, but it you want to play and remember, too, just go to Then click on "insert coin" and you'll be playing. Use the arrow keys to control your Pac Man.

And remember Leif playing when he was 5-10 years old . . .

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where did they come from, all the visitors?

This is the list of countries with blog visitors to Remembering Leif for the year May 15, 2009 to May 15, 2010. This map represents just over 5,000 visitors to this blog from 109 countries. Thank you for being a part of this.

Current Country Totals
From 15 May 2009 to 16 May 2010

United States (US) 3,775
Germany (DE) 271
Canada (CA) 202
United Kingdom (GB) 200
India (IN) 68
Japan (JP) 49
France (FR) 46
Australia (AU) 45
Netherlands (NL) 39
Poland (PL) 34
Italy (IT) 32
Sweden (SE) 28
Spain (ES) 28
Puerto Rico (PR) 27
Philippines (PH) 24
Hungary (HU) 21
Belgium (BE) 19
Brazil (BR) 19
Romania (RO) 18
Mexico (MX) 16
Russian Federation (RU)16
Turkey (TR) 16
Norway (NO) 16
Switzerland (CH) 16
Singapore (SG) 14
Austria (AT) 13
Pakistan (PK) 13
Denmark (DK) 13
Croatia (HR) 12
Thailand (TH) 12
Ireland (IE) 12
Malaysia (MY) 12
New Zealand (NZ) 12
Portugal (PT) 12
Czech Republic (CZ) 10
Greece (GR) 10
Ukraine (UA) 9
Saudi Arabia (SA) 8
Finland (FI) 8
Serbia (RS) 8
Bulgaria (BG) 7
Argentina (AR) 7
Israel (IL) 6
Korea, Republic of (KR) 6
Europe (EU) 6
South Africa (ZA) 6
Latvia (LV) 6
Indonesia (ID) 6
Chile (CL) 6
Vietnam (VN) 5
Slovakia (SK) 5
Hong Kong (HK) 5
Ecuador (EC) 4
Estonia (EE) 4
Colombia (CO) 4
Slovenia (SI) 4
Taiwan (TW) 4
Iraq (IQ) 3
Venezuela (VE) 3
Tunisia (TN) 3
Asia/Pacific Region (AP)3
Peru (PE) 3
Kuwait (KW) 3
Lithuania (LT) 3
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA) 3
Macedonia (MK) 2
Malta (MT) 2
Egypt (EG) 2
Bahamas (BS) 2
United Arab Emirates (AE) 2
Qatar (QA) 2
Bangladesh (BD) 2
Netherlands Antilles (AN) 2
Cyprus (CY) 2
Aruba (AW) 2
Nigeria (NG) 2
Panama (PA) 2
Mauritius (MU) 1
Trinidad and Tobago (TT) 1
Paraguay (PY) 1
Faroe Islands (FO) 1
Barbados (BB) 1
Cambodia (KH) 1
Costa Rica (CR) 1
Guinea (GN) 1
Moldova, Republic of (MD) 1
Ghana (GH) 1
Maldives (MV) 1
Kenya (KE) 1
French Polynesia (PF) 1
Sri Lanka (LK) 1
Guatemala (GT) 1
Palestinian Territory (PS) 1
Algeria (DZ) 1
Georgia (GE) 1
Jordan (JO) 1
Lebanon (LB) 1
Morocco (MA) 1
Iran, Islamic Republic of (IR) 1
Bhutan (BT) 1
Bahrain (BH) 1
Saint Kitts and Nevis (KN) 1
Antigua and Barbuda (AG)1
El Salvador (SV) 1
Jamaica (JM) 1
Virgin Islands, U.S. (VI) 1
Montenegro (ME) 1
Oman (OM) 1
Guam (GU) 1

Another Year of Dots on a Map

On May 15th, ClustrMaps archived the map with all the dots on it, the ones showing where the visitors to this blog are around the world. This is the second time they have archived it, so this map shows the dots from May 15, 2009 to May 15, 2010. The first one, from the prior year, is in the column at right. Now there is a new map collecting dots, and I am humbled that there have now been 10,470 visits to the blog. Despite the fact that I stopped writing regularly in April, the visitor count seems to be fairly stable per day. I wonder why. Are all those visitors people who arrive here via some keyword search? I suspect most of them are, and then what? Do they stay and read about my son? I will never know, but I am glad this blog is here, my memorial to my Leif, who I will always, always love.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Brotherhood Leif Understood

Yesterday we had a technician here to do the annual maintenance on the air conditioning system. When he was finished, Peter told him to go into my office where I was writing a check for the service. He immediately noticed the flag case with the folded flag, the ceremonial shell casings and Leif's photos and insignia. He could have chosen to ignore it. He could have said nothing, but he didn't. He said, "Did you lose a son?"

I was surprised. I'm not used to that happening. I keep Leif's photo, the flag case and the memorial candles from Darlene and Marcus and Cordula and her family in my office, not on "public" display in the living room, so it's rare than anyone but a family member sees them. It's a private area for private feelings. But here he was, this stranger, who recognized what that flag case meant and asked me about it. I told him yes, but that he was not killed in battle. I didn't go into detail. In his own way, Leif was killed in battle, his battle with his own demons, his loneliness, his problems. I just said he was a disabled vet. I didn't have to say more.

This man expressed condolences and said he had been in the army for 8 years, had been to Afghanistan. He recognized Leif's insignia, said, "Tenth Mountain Division, right?" He said he had been part of a medevac team and told a little bit about it.

Leif would have liked to talk to him, would have liked to have shared stories with a brother in arms. He would have respected anyone who did medical evacuations.

I hope this young man is whole in body and soul and not suffering from PTSD or depression. I thank him for noticing my son and saying something. It brought tears to my eyes, partly out of a wave of sadness, and partly out of a feeling of some kind of gratitude that someone had noticed Leif and talked to me about it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Power of Memories and Associations

The last time I saw this view, Leif was with us. It was twenty-two years ago and he was thirteen years old. This photo of him was taken on that trip. As Peter and I were walking in the Heidelberg Castle gardens this afternoon, I couldn't help but remember that he had been with us on that trip, and it suddenly made me inexpressibly sad. I cried, and I said to Peter that little did we know at that time we would only have him for twenty more years.

A few days ago, we saw a fancy Audi sports car that we immediately both said Leif would have loved, and today Peter spotted an unusual vehicle, a BMW motorcycle that had a cab around the driver. I had to take a picture of it, because I knew Leif would have been interested in it, though of course he is not here for me to show it to.

Just days before that, we had a rip-roaring thunderstorm, innumerable flashes of lightning and plenty of thunder accompanied by a downpour that knocked an amazing quantity of debris off our live oak trees, and Peter said how much Leif would have loved it, how he liked to watch the lightning, and we remembered how he went out onto the porch of our old stone house in Kansas to watch such storms.

Everywhere we go, everything we do, is covered with a layer of memories of Leif. Sometimes many layers. I want to remember him, but often the way memories surface or pop up unexpectedly surprises me. It sneaks up on me.