Sunday, November 28, 2010

Memories, Music and Christmas

This weekend has brought two days of strong emotions for Peter W. and me, emotions brought about by memories triggered by music. It's amazing how deeply music affects us, how closely music can be tied to memories.

Yesterday we went to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony sponsored by the German American Club. We go every year. For Peter, it was the sixth one; for me the fourth. It's a nice tradition, with carols in German and English, and German Christmas cookies, Stollen and coffee afterward.

I was doing fine and enjoying it until we started singing "O Tannenbaum," and then the tears welled up in my eyes and I just couldn't stop them. Peter got misty-eyed, too. The song brought back such dear memories, of our boys during Christmases in Germany, of Peter Anthony singing this song with the Sachsen Kinderchor, of Uncle Helmut lighting the real candles on the fifteen-foot tall tree, of Aunt Toni with little "Peterle" and "Peterle" with his little train conductor hat, all excited about his first electric train when he was two. Of Peter A. singing the part of Joseph in the Christmas Cantata in Sachsen and Katterbach. Of Leif with such joy on his little face opening presents in Japan when he was five or six. Of baking our traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies and bread together. Of all the Christmases we spent with our children when they were small and it was so magical for them.

It's embarrassing to cry in public, something I try hard to control, but the memories brought by the music were too much for me. I loved those days so much and I miss them.

It was "O Tannenbaum" that got me started, though I had trouble with some of the other songs, too. And then Peter W. said that when he sang "Sleep in heavenly peace" at the end of "Silent Night," he was thinking that he hoped Leif was sleeping in heavenly peace, and I lost it again. Just writing this tears stream down my face. I remember saying, "I wish he were just sleeping. But I hope he is at least at peace."

Without the music, I got through the rest of the day without tears, but today I was fighting them again when I was performing with the Women's Chorus. I don't know what it is about the act of performing that changes the depth of feeling of a song. I've been singing those songs all fall without a problem, but just like last year at the concert, there were certain words that choked me up and I couldn't sing for a few measures. One of them was "Merry Christmas, darling. We're apart, that's true, but I can dream and in my dreams I'm Christmasing with you." "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is another one that stabs.

The holidays can be very hard for those who are alone, lonely, depressed and unhappy, or not with those they love, or who have lost someone they love near the holidays or recently. Leif has been dead for two-and-a-half years, and this will be our third Christmas without him. We won't spend it alone and are grateful and happy that we will be with Peter Anthony, Darlene and our grandchildren, and my sister, Lannay and her family. It will be a happy time, and we will enjoy it, but there will be an empty space in my heart for Leif, and I will no doubt fight more tears when I hear certain songs or miss him most acutely.

When our boys were young, Christmas was such a wonderful adventure, full of their wonder and anticipation, their eagerness, utter joy. How fortunate we were to have those days, those moments, those memories. Even with the tears, they are a treasure to be cherished and held close.


This photo of Leif and Peter A. was taken on Christmas Eve in Japan, probably in 1981 when Leif was six years old.

Saturday, November 27, 2010 - Garretson Scoutship: Artist's Interview

Leif was so heavily involved in helping to develop the ZAON role playing game and I was touched when Justin came out with a space ship named for him as a memorial. I hadn't discovered this video about the ship before, an interview with the designer. How I wish Leif could have known about the ship.

Leif posted so many things on the ZAON message boards, and I had hoped to go back and find some of those posts and save them, but I apparently waited too long. I've now read online that there was a database crash, and I did see that the forums had changed and I could no longer find Leif's old postings. Now, however, even the newer ones and the information about the game seem to be gone. I'm sad to see that. There was so much creativity and camaraderie involved for years in working on that game, and the message boards and the guys on them helped Leif through some very hard times in his life. He really wanted to see that game published and was proud of his association with the organization. I hope that somehow it will someday make it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Forever Linked

I don't understand families that treat their family members badly and hurt each other. I don't understand families that don't keep strong ties. There are so many that seem to feel it's just an onerous duty to spend time together.

And then there are families like mine that love to be together and gladly travel great distances to do it, families like mine that find it an important part of their identities, that want to be in contact. The mothers in my family are always bonded to their children, as I am bonded to mine. We are forever linked not just by a family name and "blood," but by love and shared memories.

It's those memories that come back, the happy and the sad, to keep those links alive, even past death. I remember Leif every day, but there are so many different things that trigger memories. Tonight it was a show on television. Peter started watching a science fiction show that took place in space and featured a fighter pilot, just the kind of show Leif would have chosen, would have loved, and would have commented upon. The moment I saw the space ships I thought of him and how he would have liked it. I will likely never look at a sci fi show or movie again without associating it with him, or see NASA photo of outer space without remembering the NASA images he had on his computer, or see the stars and moon in the night sky without thinking of him.

While we were in Egypt we saw some "falling stars," and I've seen one more since we got home. Those I associated with both my sons, Leif, because they were in the heavens at night, Peter A. because of his interest in planetary defense against asteroids.

I am forever linked to my sons, or, at least for my lifetime.

This "stairstep" photo of me with my sons was taken in Hawaii in the summer of 1980, when we were stopping there for a few days of vacation on the long move from Germany to Japan. Leif was five years old.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Month, Another Veteran's Day, Another Thanksgiving

November is a month full of memories and sometimes it makes me very sad. November 9th marked 31 months since Leif died. November 10th 31 months since we found him. November 11th, Veterans Day, when I usually like to go to the cemetery, but like last year, this year we were on a trip. And then there's Thanksgiving, which is the hardest one. I won't have either of my sons with us for Thanksgiving, so it will just be three of us, Peter W., my mother and me. I'm thankful beyond measure for both of them, and for Peter A. and my grandchildren, and all the other good things in my life, but that doesn't stop me from being sad that Leif will not be with us, that I won't anticipate his car coming up the drive with the stereo booming.

We took a marvelous two week tour of Egypt. It was a terrific trip and I very much enjoyed it, but both Peter and I couldn't help but wonder what Leif would have thought of all the wonders we saw, whether he would have enjoyed the trip, what it would have been like to discuss the history of Egypt with him.

Traveling is good for me. It mostly distracts me from the sadness of his loss, but coming home is always bittersweet. It's good to be home again, a place I love, but I'm always faced with the fact that he's not there and not going to be there, yet all around me in this house are things he did, things he gave me, and things that he left behind when he died. I want to remember him. I want those things around me, yet it still hurts to know we had all that together and now there's nothing there but memories and these things.

My browser home page has a slide show of albums I have on Picasa and two of those are of the thousand-some photos I've posted on this blog, so when I open my browser, I am treated to photos that flash by in some random order chosen by Picasa, and sometimes it makes me smile to see his baby face or a cute photo from his childhood. Sometimes it catches me unaware and a sadness hits me, but I'm always grateful for the photos, glad we took so many.

This photo of me and Leif was taken in Munich, Germany in May 1978. He was three years old. It was apparently not processed well because over time it developed yellow streaks in it. I did the best I could to rescue it with PhotoShop. It was a good trip, that one to Munich. I'd love to be able to go there again with Leif as an adult. He'd love it . . . especially the beer.