Monday, November 21, 2011

His Lifelong Love of Guns

As I've written before, Leif displayed an amazingly consistent set of interests throughout his life. So many kids go through fads of interest and drop them. He didn't. From a very early age he was captivated by vehicles and speed, all kinds of vehicles. He always loved them. He collected toy cars, boats, planes, rockets. He built models of them. He drew them. And, when he was older, he test drove them and photographed them.

As he got a little older as a child, he became interested in science fiction moves, James Bond movies, and the weaponry that both used. Most little boys who are allowed to have toy guns play with them, and those that aren't allowed to have them often pretend with a "hand" gun or improvised toy guns made of sticks and other materials. Leif had toy guns, but by the time he was in the primary grades he was also making his own, and that's another thing he continued off and on throughout his life. He drew them, and then constructed them out of wood. Sometimes, when he was a kid, his dad helped him.

When we lived in Japan, they sold very realistic "toy" pellet guns. Our boys each had one or two, and they enjoyed pretending they were action heroes. Sometimes they'd get dressed up and pose, and even their dad enjoyed doing that with them. This was much more a pastime of Leif's than his brother's, though.

I think Leif loved both the design and mechanical beauty of guns, not just the power and glamor he saw in them (the glamor coming from the James Bond movies, of course). He must have had fantasies of being the gun-toting hero.

This photo is one of a series that Peter W. took of Leif posing on the lanai of our townhouse in Hawaii. I think it was probably taken in 1984 or 1985. He's holding two "guns." The larger one in his right hand is one of the guns he and his dad made, and the one in his left hand looks like it might have been a pellet gun. He's wearing his beloved black Members Only jacket, black pants, black gloves, and his cool sunglasses.

Leif started wearing "cool" sunglasses at an early age, here about 9 or 10, and graduated to Gargoyles and then Oakleys, which he saved up for and paid for himself. I would never have spent that kind of money on sunglasses! But the cool factor was always important to him, and he would gladly pay for it.

I like his hair the way it is in this picture, but it was combed over and styled like this just for the picture. On a daily basis, he wasn't interested in bothering with that.

It's hard for me to know how to think about Leif's lifelong love affair with guns because he used one to shoot himself, but I know he was passionate about them, enjoyed them, loved shooting them, and was incredibly knowledgeable about them. If I had known what would happen to him, would I have prevented him from having toy guns as a child? I don't know. I doubt that it would have done much good. We never had real guns in our home, and he was brought up with a very strong anti-violence ethic. He never had real guns until he was grown and had left home, and he wasn't irresponsible with them. So many millions of American own guns and don't misuse them. He was passionate about the Second Amendment, too. There was no way to know or predict that he would turn one on himself. Even though we worried so much about him, even though we knew the possibility of suicide with a gun existed, we worried far more about the possibility of a terrible car or motorcycle accident.

I wondered, when he died, whether I would be able to look at these photos and enjoy them, knowing what eventually happened, but I have come to the point where I can remember his posing like this and be glad he enjoyed himself and that he never turned a gun on anyone else.

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