Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity

I know Leif would have loved this. He was a fan of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, someone who greatly appreciated good comedy and political humor and satire. He would have totally approved of this Rally to Restore Sanity. I wish he were here to see it.

This photo of Leif was taken in our living room when we lived in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was in about 1985 when he was about 10 years old.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What would Leif have had to say about this?

Exoskeleton defines a new class of warrior, an article and video from Scientific American, shows new technology for the infantry soldier, set to be in use by 2015. It brings the boots-on-the-ground soldier closer to his sic-fi counterpart and the avatar characters Leif loved to play in both computer and online games like PlanetSide. He would have made a good source of ideas and outstanding critique. I wonder how he would have seen this as useful in combat, or how it would change it. I wondering he would have been anxious to try it out.

Leif was always keenly interested in weaponry, strategy, and the gear and capabilities of soldiers and had piercing insights about them. How I wish someone had seen that incredible talent and put it to use.

This photo of Leif, which I have posted before, was taken in Uzbekistan in the fall of 1998 when he was taking part in UN exercises.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So Many Reminders

On Tuesday I attended the funeral of a neighbor, a man who died of a stroke at 79, someone who had been active in the community, raised several children, a man who was friendly and outgoing. He will be missed, not only by his family but by the community he served.

As I was there at the funeral service, a Catholic Mass, I was struck by how different it is to have a funeral for someone who has lived a long, full life, who has raised children, enjoyed grandchildren, contributed to many organizations, had a host of friends, and someone like Leif who was only 33 and had none of those things. There is an additional and burdensome sadness in knowing he never had them and never will, in realizing that so much was missed.

These people, at least outwardly, all were so sure of their belief in the afterlife and what it would mean, while Leif was a nonbeliever and I think that if there is an afterlife, it is vastly different than our imaginings of it.

The funeral made me profoundly sad for a couple of days, and no matter how many times I told myself how fortunate I am, in so many ways, and to count my blessings, not just mourn for what I have lost, I could not shake it, but then I started to come out of that low place and appreciate the beauty around me. The full moon last night. The lovely sunset. My home. My wonderful husband. My son. My grandchildren.

It's funny how a small and unusual thing can give you a lift. This evening, I stepped into the garage to check whether Peter had closed the garage door when he left. He hadn't, but before I could press the button to close it, a little brown wren flew in, perched for just a tiny moment at the back of the garage, and then flew back out again. I knew we had wrens somewhere in our bushes, but I rarely see them, and never that close or in the garage. It was something sweet and precious, that moment, and it made me think of all the moments gone by that I can remember with love and joy . . . even if their memory also brings sadness that they will never come again.

This photo of me and Leif was taken on July 20, 2004 at the dining room table of our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas. It was a wonderful evening, one of those warm memories. Peter A. was there with his family. Leif's friend Michael was there to visit. We decided to use Peter W's German beer steins. Leif, Peter A. and Michael had provided a supply of interesting and unusual beers for all of us to try (Leif, the beer connoisseur), and we were telling stories and jokes, laughing, taking pictures. It was one of the happiest evenings with the family together, one of those memories to be treasurered. I am showing Leif a photo I took with my camera, and this one was taken by Peter W.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Friend Names a Baby After Leif

This photo is of Leif when he was almost a month old, taken in Manhattan, Kansas on February 23, 1975. I miss that little boy!

Today I received word that another of Leif's friends has named a child after him. A little girl bears Leif's middle name, Ashley, and her father is also a friend of Jason and Melissa, who gave their son "Leif" as a middle name.

I am immensely touched that these friends cared so much for Leif that that named their children after him. How I wish Leif had realized how deeply he affected so many lives, how much people loved him. How I wish he had not felt so alone.

Now I wish he were here to see these namesake children grow up.

And I wish he'd had children of his own.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Right to Bear Arms

On Monday, June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental right to bear arms (article from the New York Times). When I heard about that decision, I immediately thought of Leif and how fervently he would have approved. A paragraph he would have liked, from the article,
The decision extended the court's 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that "the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.

Leif long maintained that police do not protect us, they react after a crime has been committed, and that it is up to us to protect ourselves. He also maintained that gun ownership was critical to keeping our civil liberties, and over time, although I never wanted to own guns, he convinced me of the value of those arguments.

I have often wondered, since his death, whether he would have any different opinions if he could come back and talk to me now. Would he still maintain his beliefs, or would he feel that if it hadn't been so easy for him to have guns, he might still be alive, for another chance at life?

I've thought long and hard about that, and I think Leif would still say that people should have the right to have guns . . . and, as he had before, the obligation to use them responsibly . . . AND, that they also have the right to take their own lives.

Although I will never know what the real state of his mind was when he decided to pull the trigger, or whether he thought much about how it would affect those he left behind, I know he had thought about it earlier in his life when he considered suicide and decided against it. I think he would say it was his choice and he made it, and that such a choice does not mean that the right to own a weapon should be abridged.

That will always be a problem for us, that people will use them, and make their own decisions about how to do so. I am only thankful Leif never used a gun on anyone else!

The photo is one Leif took of himself in 2002 and used as his avatar on the ZAON website.

Friday, September 10, 2010

He Loved Gadgets and Machines His Whole Life

This photo of Leif was taken when he was only nine months old, in the dining room of our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas in October 1975. He was fascinated with my typewriter (long before the days of computers, and this one was a manual typewriter at that), and he wanted so badly to explore it and get at it that I put it on the floor and let him. He was completely absorbed in examining it, and I found that so interesting that I had to go get my camera. Then he looked up.

This photo is similar to one I have of Peter Anthony at about the same age, exploring the same typewriter. Both my sons were totally captivated by gadgets and machines, especially if they could either be manipulated or had some kind of propulsion. It was an interest they maintained all their lives.

This photo was badly damaged, not only faded, but covered with horrible black spots that came from black photo corners on other photos on the album page. I was amazed that I could rescue it this well with PhotoShop, and I'm grateful for the chance to see it again more as it was when I took it, and for the chance to see that intent baby look on Leif's face. It was obvious from the start that he was smart and inquisitive.

A computer keyboard became an important tool for him, but this was the first one he got his little hands on.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happier Days

We were so lucky when our sons were children. The problems were small and solvable. They were healthy and strong and intelligent, and although exasperating at times like we all are, mostly a joy and fun to be with. I can look back on those times now and marvel that though I was often tired out, I was also happy, and I miss those days.

I often told my sons that it was much easier to be a mother to children than to grown sons, because my role in that past was clearly defined. Even if I made mistakes, I knew I was supposed to be responsible for them, to take care of them, advise them, teach them, and the problems I faced were manageable, though not always easy.

When they become adults, living their own lives, it's so much harder, not knowing when to give advice or opinions or when to intervene . . . when I didn't, they asked me why I hadn't; when I did, they did not welcome it or follow my advice, and often I really had none to give because I didn't KNOW what was best for them and didn't want to say the wrong thing. Leif would deny his depression or the depth of his indebtedness when I did ask him about it. He wanted to keep his problems to himself and try to solve them on his own. That would have been admirable and manly, had he been able to do it. He did try, but in the end was overwhelmed.

I look at this photo, taken in the Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas (where Leif was born) when he was only two days old, and remember how glad I was to have him, how happy he was mine. I'm glad I didn't know then I would only have him for 33 years, and how sad his adult life would be.

Beware of wanting to know the future. It's best that we don't.

Photo taken on January 30, 1975

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Miss Him

Was I ever that young? Was he ever that small?

This picture was taken on the sun porch of the old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas on February 9, 1975, when Leif was only 12 days old. He was a big baby, but still so small.

I was worn out, but I was happy. I had Peter W., Peter A. (who was six years old) and Leif. Life seemed so complete and so full of the future and hope.

i haven't posted on this blog for a long time, but it's not because I haven't been thinking of Leif, not because I haven't missed him. Thinking of him and missing him are with me every day. Sometimes it's harder than others.

It was a joy to have Peter A. and his family here for a visit, the house full of the seven of us, lots of activity, lots of hugs and love, lots of fun, but it was all so bittersweet. I couldn't help but remember the times Leif had been there with all of us, couldn't help thinking how much he would have enjoyed going go-karting with them, racing his brother around the track. I couldn't help but think about the grandchildren I would never have from him. In an odd sort of way, having them all here made his death even harder, even while their visit kept me busy and distracted, with no time to write.

When they left, I didn't have the heart. I thought, I shouldn't just write something sad; people will think I'm pathological, that I should be over his death by now . . . even though every mother and father I've ever talked to who lost a child said they NEVER get over it. They just learn to keep living. They learn to deal with the sadness when it breaks through. I guess I am pretty much there, but those days are hard.

Tonight I looked at the Picasa albums of all the photos on this blog, over a thousand of them, and then the tears just came, again, like they did when I was talking to Peter A. when he was here, about how hard it is to know that my son was so unhappy he took his own life.

A few days ago, driving home from my mother's house late at night, I found myself asking Leif (expecting no answer) whether it had been hard to make the decision to die, whether it was hard to pull the trigger, whether he had to get really drunk to make himself do it . . . or did he do it because he was drunk and not thinking clearly? What did he think about those last minutes of his life? Did he think of us? Of his lost love? Of all the dreams he had that had turned to dust? Of his pain and sorrow? Or did he just think about how to load the gun and how to hold it so it would do the job completely?

Those are morbid thoughts, but they are the kind of thoughts the mother of a son who shoots himself thinks, though thankfully not all the time!

i also think about how his little baby body felt in my arms, how warm, how sweet he smelled, how his eyes were so alert and searching out everything, especially loving bright colors, how he loved to be held, loved me to sing to him, which I did every night when i put him to bed for at least the first ten years of his life.

i think about how much I miss his conversation, his laugh, his smile, the baby smile and the little boy smile, the teen smile and the rascally young man smile, the grown man smile. I miss his curiosity, his knowledge of technology.

I remember his quirky sense of humor and how he loved "The Mind of Mencia" and George Carlin.

I remember how he loved Orson Scott Card's Ender series.

I remember how he loved beautiful cars all his life.

I remember his beautiful brown eyes.

Soon it will be 29 months since he died. I will never forget, never stop missing him.