Sunday, May 29, 2011

Leif in my dreams

I wonder how often I dream about Leif. I don't usually remember my dreams, any of them, but most of them that I do remember are not about Leif. Freud said dreams were wish fulfillment, but most of my dreams certainly aren't anything I'd actually wish and often make no sense. However, three days ago, I had a dream about Leif that could be described as wish fulfillment.

Leif was happy! That's the best thing about the dream, that he was vital, alive, happy, and smiling. He was the man in this picture, the hopeful man who graduated from college in 2003, his teasing, humorous self. He was slimmer again, and walked with a spring in his step.

Oddly, he was driving a vehicle that looks almost exactly like the Chevy Flex in the picture, a vehicle I was completely unaware of and I had to go looking on the internet to try to find a picture of what appeared in my dream. (The photo is from the Chevrolet website.) Odder still, he had some kind of contraption inside it that was a barbecue smoker and he was quite proud of that. He took pieces of equipment out to show me. I'm sure they bear no relationship to what would actually be in a smoker. One piece was a long sort of white metal tray. I don't remember the rest.

I do remember that when I awoke I was quite surprised that he would be driving a Flex, since he was always crazy about sports cars and loved his Mazda RX8, but then I remembered that he was also drawn to trucks and once had a big old Ford 150. Maybe he would have seen in the Flex a kind of enclosed truck that looked manly and full of muscle. The Flex he was driving was blue, like this one.

In the dream, he was together with J., the love of his life, and they were loving and affectionate and happy together.

It seems my mind was trying to write a happier ending to Leif's story, one I know he craved and wished for. Someone to love, especially J.

I was so glad to see him happy. I wish he had been. I hope if there is some kind of afterlife, he is happy now.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Senators Tell VA to Reduce Veteran Suicides

Senators Tell VA to Reduce Veterans Suicides

The senators can tell the VA all they want and it won't bring about the results without enough funding, enough psychologists and psychiatrists, with enough time to treat those who need it. If you read this article and see that the VA suicide hotline received 14,000 calls in April, 450 a day! Any those are only the veterans willing to pick up a phone and make that call. Many others will never do that.

Adequate treatment facilities are costly and while the US taxpayers say they want good care for veterans (like a lot of other things they want), they don't want to pay more taxes to make it possible. Even with adequate treatment, some veterans will never seek it, and we have to stop fooling ourselves that suicidal depression is like having an earache - you just take an antibiotic and it's gone. Even prolonged and excellent treatment will not save every veteran that is contemplating suicide. We don't have the means to make them well and whole.

Prolonged and repeated deployments are wreaking havoc on soldiers lives and as a nation we just seem to see them as "heroes" doing their job and serving their nation, without seeing the destruction we are visiting on them in body and mind.

Leif's military service, including his time in Bosnia, was the beginning of his descent into depression and despair. It wasn't the only reason for his suicide, but it was a contributor, as it destroyed his health, his marriage, and his career, and all his efforts to rebuild his life came to naught. To our knowledge, he never sought help for his depression and, like so many, felt it could not change the circumstances of his life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brandy in a glass "gun" bottle

Another thing that made both of us think of Leif in Russia was this gun-shaped bottle of liquor. Leif would have been able to identify the gun, which I think is a Kalashnikov AK-47, Russian army rifle, and probably figure out what's in it. I think it's probably brandy from Armenia. Leif would have thought a rifle-shaped bottle a lot of fun and would have kept it as a souvenir if he'd been there. The cost is about $31. Leif loved both guns and alcohol, both to his detriment. They brought him a lot of pleasure, but in the end, also harmed his health and the combination most certainly brought about his death, so it's a bittersweet thing for me to see something like this I know he would have found a delight and amusement.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chain Mail Shirts - Remembering Leif in Russia

We recently returned from a two-week trip to Russia, which put a stop to my blog posts for awhile. It was an interesting trip and there were so many things a long the way that reminded us of Leif, things we would have liked to share with him.

One afternoon we went to the History Musuem in Moscow. It is just outside the Kremlin and a beautiful old building. Although there was little English to tell us about the exhibits, we enjoyed the progression of Russian history from pre-history times until the time of the czars.

One of the things that made of think of Leif was the medieval battle accoutrements, armor, chain mail, swords, axes. Leif loved those things and when he lived in Kansas he was an avid member, and fighter, in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). One thing that amazed me was when he bought big spools of heavy wire, spun it around a rod, cut links from it, and made himself a chain mail shirt. I can't even imagine how many hours that took him. In order to work on it, he hung a large, heavy metal pipe from the transom between the living and dining rooms at 710 N. 9th Street in Manhattan, Kansas, and hung the shirt on it. It passed through the sleeves and held it up straight so that he could add to it.

When finished, the shirt weighed 52 pounds. We all tried it on and wondered how the knights could ever have engaged in battle wearing armor and chain mail with such incredible weight. I think that chain mail actually weighed considerably more than metal armor, but either way, a knight (medieval or modern) would be carrying probably a minimum of 55-60 pounds of armor or mail, and the weapons were heavy as well.

However, modern army infantrymen, especially machine gunners like Leif was, have to carry more than that and still be able to march, run and fight. Leif was used to that heavy load from his time in the infantry, so putting on a 50 pound shirt to go fight in the City Park wasn't the ordeal for him that it would have been for any of us.

The top photo is of Leif at the City Park in April 2003, not long after he finished the chain mail shirt, and before he got his fancy new armor later that summer. Imagine trying to move and carry on a sword or axe battle in that much bulk and weight. Leif loved it.

The other photos are of chain mail shirts in the Historical Museum in Moscow. Leif would have been interested in their construction. There are various ways to make chain mail, various patterns. The middle photo is more like his. The lower one uses much heavier iron rings that seem to have some kind of fastening or locking mechanism on them.

There were more chain mail shirts there, and many interesting suits of armor. I wish Leif had seen them.

When Leif died and we had to clean out his apartment, we had no room to keep all of his SCA things, and no use for them other than memories, so we gave them to his friend Jason, including the chain mail shirt, and hope that he found other SCA members who could use them and perhaps remember their original owner and creator. We have only photos.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Rare Sweet Kiss

How rare and precious this photo is to me now, taken some 34 years ago when Leif was only two tears old. It was at a party at Rocking Horse Country Day School on Charlottesville, Virginia and Peter caught this kiss. Leif's usual form of affection for me was to jump on my back. He was so small and yet so large for his age. He was always a "presence." 1977. How long ago that seems, and yet I can remember just how he looked, how he felt, how he smelled, the softness of his hair, his rascally brown eyes.