Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thirty-five Years Ago - Leif at Nine Months - Manhattan, Kansas

This picture of Leif when he was nine months old, thirty-five years ago in October 1975, was taken in the backyard of the old stone house at 804 Moro Street in Manhattan, Kansas. It was a beautiful, warm, Indian summer day, and he was having a ball scuffling around in the leaves. Leif started walking at 10 months, so it was right about this time he was learning to navigate on two legs, though he also did plenty of crawling in the leaves. He looks so happy!

I remember that he was barefoot and so cute tippy-toeing around.

I have to smile when I see what he's wearing. Back in those days, we could actually save a significant amount of money by making our own clothes, unlike today when we have all these cheap clothes from Asia. I made a lot of the clothes for myself and my sons, and it was during a time when the styles and fabrics were very different than now, too. I didn't make the little t-shirt he's wearing. That was from Sears, but I did sew the overalls he has on, and even put on the gripper snaps, with a second set to make it possible for him to keep wearing it a little longer as he grew.

No one would probably be caught wearing such things these days, or putting them on their kids, certainly not stripes like those! It's amusing and fun to think of that now, and I enjoyed sewing. I did some crocheting and knitting, too. Knitting was not one of my specialties, but I did knit a "romper" for Leif and crocheted a winter cap and matching cardigan sweater.

This is another photo that was badly damaged by age, faded and spotted. It has such a wonderful smile I'm glad I could rescue it with PhotoShop.

Fall in Manhattan can be very beautiful, with all the leaves turning and falling, deep blue skies and wonderful sunsets. That was an especially good fall for us, for now our family was complete, with our two happy, healthy boys.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Leif With Rowboats in Japan - Circa 1980-1981 - Age Six

It's important to label photos. After years, it becomes hard to remember just where and when photos were taken, and as the generations pass, who is in them, but if you take a lot of pictures, finding time to do that is a real challenge. I've tried to label my photos, for the most part, or at least keep the ones from the pre-digital age in envelopes that are labeled with date and place.

These two photos of Leif were taken in Japan by his dad, probably in 1980 or early 1981, when he was five or six years old. He was such a sweet and vulnerable-looking child then, but we saw only how beautiful he was, not that he was in some way fragile inside. He always put up such a brave and stalwart front, always.

I know these pictures were taken on one of our Saturday trips to see some area within driving distance of Camp Zama, Japan, and I think this is on a lake, not an ocean inlet or the sea, but beyond that, I just don't remember. Obviously, it was cold. I think there's even a tiny bit of snow on the ground by the boat.

Leif loved boats and loved water and the sea. Of course, he loved just about anything that would "go," any kind of vehicle, the faster the better.

I heard someone say on a television program tonight that speed is the only modern feeling that man has, that all the others have been with us for centuries, and it is a major thrill. I know Leif loved that thrill from the time he was very young and it only grew as he matured.

I don't think we actually went out on the water in either of these boats. I think we were just walking along the shoreline and Leif found them irresistible.

I wonder now, if it was in some way hard for him to live in Florida and not have access to boats and getting out on the water. So many of the things he loved were barred to him due to finances, but even if he'd been able to do them, I wonder if he would have unless he had found a companion, a love, to enjoy it with him.

Tonight on 60 Minutes they were reporting on people whose unemployment benefits are running out after 99 weeks, and I thought that in a real sense, Leif was on the first wave of people affected by the economic downturn, not that he lost his job, but that he was caught in a spiral of debts he could not pay. How terrifying that must be. He never admitted to us either that he was in debt again, or that it bothered him. He remained stalwart, steadfastly insisting that he was all right, that he could handle it.

I think about that when I read reports of how the military wants to try to reduce the number of active duty and veteran suicides and I wonder how they are going to help these people if they are like Leif and will not admit they have such problems.

I miss Leif every day. I miss the boy and I miss the man. I see him in every motorcyclist that passes me going way too fast. There can never be any real resolution to our feelings about his death, but I can both smile and feel sad when I look at these photos or my beautiful little kindergarten age boy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Missing His MySpace Page

After two-and-a-half years, I thought it was time to finally memorialize and lock Leif's MySpace and Facebook pages, and I thought I was ready for that, but the same feeling of taking away yet another piece of his identity surfaced when I actually did it.

It wasn't so hard on Facebook. They were very easy to deal with and only removed the "Info" page from his profile, leaving the Wall and Photos. Since Leif hadn't done much to his page, and I had changed his Profile photo and added the other photos, it looks pretty much the same as it did.

MySpace was another story. They kept asking for a scan of his death certificate and I kept attaching and sending it and they kept saying they didn't get it. In each email, I stressed that I wanted his page to be kept and locked, not deleted, yet every time they answered me they would say they were going to delete it and then apologize and say they wouldn't. I wanted it to remain for two reasons, one as another place to remember him, but mostly because he created that page and it was much more "him" than the Facebook profile. I wanted to be able to see it, and had I known what they would do, I would at least have taken a screen shot of the main page and printed it out.

Not to be. They did finally get the death certificate and emailed back that they were deleting his page immediately. I was upset. By that time I had sent them at least five emails, stressing that I wanted the page to be kept. They apologized again, and said they were "working to restore" it, but that it would take at least 72 hours, and that if it wasn't back within a week, I should contact them again.

Well, it will be 72 hours by midnight tonight and we'll see if it's back. I just hope it will be back at all. If not, I wish I'd never told them, though having it out there and open might make the account open to hacking.

So, any of his friends who might be reading this, please visit Leif's Facebook page sometimes and remember him, and if it comes back, his MySpace page. I still feel like he was here with me only yesterday.

This photo of Leif was taken during our trip to Canada in July 1989. Leif was fourteen years old.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Memories of the Heart

Tomorrow, Leif will be dead for two-and-a-half years, yet it seems like yesterday that he was here, so much a part of our lives. Perhaps counting years and months is meaningless, except that we assign meaning to the time passing, and it is also a way of measuring how far we have come in our lives since his death. Tomorrow I will finally notify Facebook and MySpace to "memorialize" his accounts, and this week I closed the last of his email accounts. Somehow it seems like the time is right.

In a strange quirk of fate, that last email account of his sent out blank email messages to quite a few people in his address book. The messages were blank and had no Subject line. I got one of them. It was eerie, and really startled some people who got them. I don't know how it happened, whether someone manage to hack his account, or what, though I don't think so since there was no other unusual activity. Some people thought that perhaps he was sending some kind of a message, some form of goodbye. Several of them fervently believe this.

The messages were sent in groups and so some of those who got them replied to the others. It was interesting to see conversations develop among some of Leif's friends and acquaintances who didn't now each other. It was also odd to see which people got the blank messages and who didn't. I suppose with such an unexplained circumstance, it might be tempting or even easy to attribute it to Leif himself, and I have been told by friends to accept it as that. However, I doubt it.

Never-the-less, it seemed to come at a coincidentally meaningful time, since I was about to close these accounts.

That same day, to other interesting things happened. I went into the garage and a small brown wren flew in and perched in front of me briefly, then flew away, and that night, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and heard an owl hooting over and over in our big oak tree. That, too, was eerie.

If I were a superstitious person, I would see these all as signs, especially coming in a group of three on the same day, but I think that's just the human mind looking for patterns. I know we have owls in the neighborhood. I've seen one (very large) twice, but have hardly ever heard them, certainly not long and loud as I did that early morning.

So, if Leif was here saying goodbye, or letting us know he's around, I'm glad for it, though I don't believe that to be true. Regardless, there was something comforting in the three occurrences.

I still have bouts of sadness. I still miss him. But I also can remember the feel of his baby body and the energy in it, the alertness and the delight in his little face, and be so glad he was mine.

This photo was very badly exposed, but it's one of few I have of Leif and me that that period of his life. It was taken on May 7, 1975, when he was not quite four months old. We were at Bluemont Elementary School in Manhattan, Kansas, the school near us where Peter Anthony was in kindergarten at that time, and they were having their spring picnic and field day. Peter W. is laughing at my "Princess Leia hairdo."