Saturday, December 28, 2013

Leif and Two of His Cousins

 This is the Leif that enjoyed kids, loved his younger cousins, and was strong as an ox. I'd never seen these photos until my sister, Lannay, brought them to me last summer. They were taken in July 1993, when he was 18 years old, slim, and handsome and having a good time with his young cousins Corinne and Jacquie. Kids always loved him. They gravitated to him. There was something about this giant of a guy that was just FUN. He had a warmth about him and liked to joke with them. You can see how happy the girls look.

It must have been hard for him to be that tall and strong  and have his body betray him so badly with the asthma and pain from his neck and collarbone, and his shin splints. I suspect he had other medical problems he didn't confide in us, probably at the least a bad case of acid reflux, since I found medication for that.

It must have been hard for him to feel that he was getting older and not finding anyone to share his life, that he had no children.

But here in these photos he was still healthy and optimistic, still had his long hair, though his hairline was already receding, still had that wonderful smile.

He is wearing a chain mail necklace he made himself, even the links.

It's hard to believe these photos were taken twenty years ago. Where did the years go? How did they go so fast?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Missing Leif for the Sixth Christmas

I will never get over missing him, but it's hardest on Christmas, New Years, his birthday, and Mother's Day.

He loved cookie dough.

If Leif were here, he'd be eating this. He loved cookie dough, particularly this kind of cookie dough, for Norwegian Berliner Kranse. This is our family's favorite cookie and a Christmas tradition. I grew up with it, and so did my mother and her mother, and her grandmother. It's an old and strange recipe that uses both raw and hardboiled egg yolks pressed through a sieve, and it's wonderful. Leif and his brother used to tell me I should just put the bowl of cookie dough on the table and let them eat it instead of dinner.

I always loved making cookies with my boys. These were especially good for kids to help make the dough because you have to work the flour in with your hands. What kid doesn't like squishing his hands in flour, sugar and butter? We had a good time making the dough and eating it, forming and baking the sugar covered rings. I practically had to guard the cookies to make sure we still had some for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The tradition was to bake them on the 23rd.

So, I baked them today, but it was only fun through nostalgia for all those Christmases past. When my boys grew up, they no longer wanted to help, but they still liked to eat the dough and the cookies. Later my grandchildren helped make them.

This is the first time in a long time we haven't had either of our sons or our grandchildren with us for Christmas, and it seems too quiet and not really festive. Christmas is meant to be shared. My heart goes out to all those who are alone and lonely on Christmas and New Years.

I have Peter and my mother to spend our traditional Christmas Eve with, and on Christmas Day we will be joined by Leif's best friend and a friend of mine and her sister. I'm glad we will have the company and I hope they'll enjoy the cookies, but it won't be the same as it was when I was looking forward to Leif driving up to our door and Peter Anthony flying in.

This is our sixth Christmas without Leif. It still isn't right. I still miss him. I still want him to come home for Christmas, and I still get tears in my eyes when I hear the song, "I'll Be Home For Christmas." How I wish he were! He could eat all the cookie dough he wanted!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


This time of year is always bittersweet. It brings back so many memories, and I am grateful for all of the good ones we have of the years with our sons, those years when they were children and Christmas was magical, when their problems were small and we could actually handle them and really help. Those years when there was someone with young bright eyes to appreciate the Christmas decorations and help make the cookies and Norwegian Christmas bread, to sing the carols and anticipate the fun of Christmas Eve.

There's enough nostalgia in the air already, but it seems lately there are more reminders everywhere. Last Monday we went out to dinner at a Japanese steakhouse, and I remembered our years in Japan, the boys trying Japanese food, taking them to Japanese restaurants here.

Then, when I was driving home, the car on my left for a long time in a traffic jam caused by an accident was a silver RX8 like Leif's, like he was there accompanying me home.

Today, we went to the German American Chorus Christmas concert. I sang with this group for six years until their rehearsal time conflicted with Mom's retinology appointments. They sang German Christmas carols and I remembered the years we lived in Nurnberg and Sachsen bei Ansbach and Peter Anthony sang with the Sachsen Kinderchor, and how much he loved listening to Andrea Jurgens singing carols. I got tears in my eyes remembering and missing those days gone by.

We are fortunate that we had all those years together, that our memories bring them back. I miss my boys. I miss Leif. But I am grateful.
This photo was taken on July 4, 1976 in Manhattan, Kansas, in our old stone house. Leif is on the right.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pac Man Cookies

I still marvel when I find a new photo of Leif, one I've never seen before. I found this one in a box of photos that belongs to my mother. I was going through it and dividing up photos to send to the family members in them. It's such a warm, happy photo. I had forgotten about the time Lannay and Leif made Pac Man cookies together.

Lannay and her husband, Doug, were visiting us in Honolulu, Hawaii. This was around Christmas 1983 or early January 1984. I love it because we all look so happy. That's me in the background, cooking on the stove (the same stove that caught fire one night when it wasn't being used!). Lannay and Leif were rolling out the dough like sugar cookies. . . . and using a Pac Man glass (you can see it by Lannay's elbow) to cut out the circles. They had colored some of the dough pink, and some blue, though that didn't work out so well. The colored cookies are already baked and Leif is all ready to take a bite.

Although I no longer remember, it undoubtedly was his idea, just like it was his idea to bake the giant R2D2 cookies I wrote about (with photos) some time ago. What fun we had in the kitchen when our boys were kids!

It was a special treat to have Lannay and Doug there . . . Lannay was Leif's favorite aunt and they always had a special relationship.

I wish I could go back to those days. Peter and I look at photos and search for some confirmation that we gave Leif a happy childhood, as much as we could, at any rate. Leif was sensate and moody, and prone to frustration, but it's also clear that he had emotional highs and happy times. Every photo that shows them, genuinely, not just a "smile for the camera" smile, is a treasure.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

He Loved Greek Food

Last night we were at a little Greek Restaurant where the food was excellent. It made me think fondly of all the times we took Peter A. and Leif to Greek restaurants in Honolulu, Hawaii and Highland Park, Illinois.

It started after Peter A. came back to Hawaii from his AFS exchange to Greece. We would go to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center to the It's Greek to Me Restaurant and order two big tasty platters to share. The boys loved the souvlaki and gyros, and the pita bread.

At the Highland Park Restaurant we added saganaki, flaming cheese.

Leif enjoyed good food from many countries, especially the two foreign countries he lived in, Germany and Japan, and also Greece and Thailand.

He had favorite family foods I'd make on birthdays and Christmases, especially tonkatsu, potetekage, and Berliner Kranse.

I wish we could take him out for a good Greek meal again, or make his birthday dinner.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Leif being silly on his grandmother's birthday

He could be so funny, so silly, when he felt comfortable and let go. He could be impish, a rascal, but only when he felt comfortable with those he was with.

This photo was taken on July 18, 2002, in his paternal grandmother's nursing home room in Manhattan, Kansas. It was her last birthday. She was 82 and dying of gangrene, but we had a little family birthday party for her, and Leif wanted to bring some amusement and smiles to the occasion, so he took two of the birthday party hats and made horns out of them. We teased him about being devilish.

My mother took this photo, which I hadn't seen until I started going through a huge box of photos she'd had packed up for years. It's too bad his eyes are closed, too bad she didn't catch the cute dimpled smile. We'll just have to imagine it.

It's so hard to believe that less than six years later he was dead. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Does the brain forget how to be happy?

How does someone go from that smiling kid in Hawaii or the young man with the brilliant smile on the right side of this blog to the tortured soul in this November 2007 picture Leif took of himself with his computer camera? How does one go from someone who may have been moody at times and learned quite young to put a lid on is anger but still had hope, enthusiasm and confidence, and surely hours and days of happiness to someone so lonely, miserable and in debt that he decides to put a bullet in his brain instead of going to work that day?

I puzzle over this nearly every day. It still hurts deeply to think of Leif being so desperately unhappy that he would take his own life, would not reach out to us, felt it was useless and painful to go on. The email he sent to me about the same time he took this photo, in which he said that life held far more misery and pain than any kind of happiness was heartbreaking.

Today, as I thought about it, I considered the research I've read about the biochemical basis of emotions and the hereditary characteristics of deep clinical depression. It came to me because I was thinking about times I'd been particularly happy, and remembering what that was like. I wondered if Leif forgot how to be happy. Can we do that?

But it has to be beyond "forgetting," at least in a memory sense. Maybe the brain forgets how to make the chemicals that go with happiness. Maybe the depressed brain is terribly starved for them.

If it is true that some clinical depression can be caused by a gene that can be "switched on" by trauma and then can't be switched off, and true depression has a biochemical basis, a lack of the right "happiness" chemicals in the brain, then this insidious disease robs us of a profound part of our humanity.

Can someone with that depression find a way back to happiness? Would enough changes in the external environment . . . .for instance, in Leif's case, love, a mate, a sense of purpose, someone to care for, a job that was meaningful to him, getting out of debt . . . would these have ever ended in happiness, or would the chemical changes in his brain have continue to make him depressed no matter what?

And why did he deny that he was depressed? It was obvious to me that he was. Was it that male sense of pride that won't allow them to admit that they can't handle anything and everything? Particularly after he had told me the previous summer that nothing phased him, that he was the rock?

Did he really believe that he wasn't depressed? How could he have believed that, given what he wrote to me? And yet he denied it.

In fairness, I think it's hard for most people to admit they are depressed. They feel a sense of shame about it, though they shouldn't. I think they also fear they will be admonished about how much they have and they shouldn't be depressed or should snap out of it, and they know all too well they can't. They've tried.

I read something about depression a couple of days ago that was very profound. People try to talk people out of depression by counting their blessings, by essentially telling them they don't have a "right" or a "reason" to be unhappy because of all the good things in their lives, and that a lot of people have it worse than they do. I understand the motivation, and the logic, but what I read said, in effect, that telling a depressed person that they should be happy because someone else has it worse than they do is like telling a happy person they can't or shouldn't be happy because someone else has it better than they do. The emotions of depression and sadness are not in relation to what someone else has. They are have physical, emotional, and situational causes.

It's still very hard and sad for me to think of Leif coming home alone to his apartment, depressed and lonely, to eat by himself, watch movies by himself, sit at the computer alone, have no money pay his bills let alone to go out, and few friends to go out with, such that he stayed in social contact with someone who had hurt him very badly.

It still hurts to think of all the Leif could have been that he never had a chance to be.

It still hurts that he is not here. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Songs with Memories of Hawaii and Florida

Music brings back so many memories. It evokes so many thoughts and feelings. I rarely listen to the radio while driving, but not long ago I did have it on, playing a local classic rock station. So many songs they played were popular when we lived in Hawaii. The brought back memories of our time there, of Leif as a young boy in third through fifth grades, of how both my sons loved music and each had ways to play the music they loved.

They were always up on the contemporary music, and I heard what they played, or what was on the radio when we were all together in the car heading for the beach or an evening in Waikiki.

One of their favorite groups was Air Supply. We all enjoyed their music. The song, "All Out of Love" seemed particularly poignant and appropriate now, looking back on Leif's adult life, though many of their songs would be so on target.

Air Supply singing "All Out of Love" at 1983 Hawaii concert

We went to a couple of rock concerts in Hawaii. One was the Norwegian group A-Ha at the Hawaii Shell on August 8, 1986, just before we left Hawaii to move to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. I remember well that open air concert and how much we all enjoyed it. The boys liked just about everything A-Ha did, but of course, the wildly popular "Take On Me" was at the top of the list, followed later by the theme for the James Bond film "The Living Daylights" in 1987. They enjoyed the music videos on MTV and Leif would certainly have found the one for "Take On Me" creative and absorbing.

A-Ha MTV Official Video of "Take On Me"

We all liked the BeeGees, too, and on my trip down memory lane with the car radio, the song "Too Much Heaven," which carries the line "Nobody gets too much love anymore," was particularly heartrending. So many songs of lost love, unrequited love, that seem so tuned in to Leif's life of loves lost.

BeeGees singing "Too Much Heaven"

Music was such a deep and important part of Leif's life. I wish he'd somehow found or made a way to be a real part of it, playing in a band, or singing in a chorus. Maybe having something positive and beautiful in his life would have helped, and maybe he would have met people he enjoyed being with, maybe met someone to love that would have stayed in his life. I know I should stop speculating on what might or could have been, but it's hard not to wish or hope that things could have been different.

Last Sunday we were at Coconuts on the Beach over on the Atlantic side of Florida, a place we first went in December 2003, without Leif, and have always wished we could take him there. It was a gorgeous afternoon and we had a bonus. They had a live band playing, The BroHams. The lead guitarist looked like he could have been Leif a few years hence, bald headed with a kerchief tied on his head, goatee like life, somewhat overweight, wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt Leif would have liked, a kind of Leonardo da Vinci man but with a guitar. We really enjoyed the music, and I couldn't help but think that Leif might have been able to do that, if he'd had the drive to play well and found a band.

Here's a photo of the band, though you can't see the drummer behind the guitar player. That's the one I was talking about on the left.

Leif would have enjoyed the music, a beer overlooking the beach, the food, and the three young bikini-clad women who danced in front of the band and the audience, putting on quite a show. I wish we could have taken him with us.

The photo of Leif in Hawaii was taken in 1984 when Leif was nine year old.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Leif and Lannay in December 1992

 In December 1992, when Leif was just shy of his 18th birthday and in his senior year at Manhattan High School, his Aunt Lannay (my sister) came to Kansas for an early Christmas celebration with our family. At that time, a lot of us were living in and near Manhattan, Kansas, and she wanted to spend a Christmas with her family. Lannay and Leif always had a special relationship, ever since he was one-and-a-half and we moved to Charlottesville, Virginia for a year. He was more affectionate with her than he was with anyone else and they had a bond.

It's interesting to me to see this picture now, nearly 21 years later and see a family resemblance between them that I had never really noticed before.

Leif was so slender then, handsome with such cute dimples. He still had acne, but it was a lot better than it had been when he was in junior high. His hair was very long, not quite as long as Lannay's but close. In these pictures he had it pulled back in a long pony tail. You can see that even at 18 when his hair was luxurious and long, he had a high forehead and receding hairline.

I remember how important music was to him, always, and you can see one of his guitars hanging up behind him in the top photo. He had quite a collection of CDs. Sometimes the door to his room would be literally pulsating more like a drumhead than a wooden panel door from the deep bass he played on his stereo.

These photos make me smile. He looks happy, really happy. He beams. That kind of unreserved smile was rare from him. I didn't see it often, and I miss it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leif on December 29, 1996

Here's an unusual photo of Leif, with short hair and a beard and mustache and the large lens glasses that were the fashion at the time. It was taken December 29, 1996, when he was just shy of 22 years old, at a family gathering in our old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas. He looks a bit solemn and thoughtful.

I found the photo among my mother's things, many photos I'd never seen. She always made prints of the best ones for all those in them, but there were many she never thought were good enough to share. Leif was part of a family group in this photo but I chose to scan only his face.

Most of the time, he either had long or short hair and no facial hair, or facial hair and no hair on his head. He also usually had a goatee and not a full beard, so there are few photos of him like this.

He was married and in college at the time. Finances were tight, but not yet desperate. I think the realities of adult life were just starting to set in.

I think, sometimes, about all of the places that were associated with him that are no longer . . . our old stone house, which was demolished, for instance, restaurants we used to go to together that went out of business, the places he went to preschool.

I wonder, sometimes, whether he could have made it if he hadn't had a gun in his hand that April 9th.

I think about what a beautiful child he was, and how full of bright intelligence. Why did he never find a focus for it?

Life is so full of questions. He looks full of questions in this photo, though of course I don't know what was really going through his mind. It's hard to believe that eleven years later he would be dead.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Leif's Antilles High School Yearbook 1991

 We moved to Puerto Rico in the summer of 1990. It was a rough adjustment for Leif in some ways. Nearly all of the students at AHS were Puerto Rican and spoke Spanish, which Leif never learned. The classes were taught in English, and all of the students spoke English, but for many it was their second language.

Leif was the new gringo, and a tall one that stood out. He got picked on and attacked. He did make it through the initial hazing and made good friends there, but the start that summer and early fall were hard.

He went out for soccer and finally had to quit trying to stay on the team. He wasn't used to the incredible heat and humidity after living in Chicago for four years, and wasn't immediately able to keep up with all the local kids running in the heat. Then he sprained his ankle. Between that and the coach having no understanding of his difficulties with the heat, he gave up. It was a shame, because he was quite a good soccer player, and he never played again.

Instead, he invested himself in music and drama, not through classes, but through playing his electric guitar, building one himself, and working on the school musical that year, "Guys and Dolls."

Sadly, this photo is the ONLY photo of Leif in this yearbook. There are no photos of him in any activities, and no mention of them. It's hard to imagine that.

I am still wondering where his second (junior year) Antilles yearbook might be, and whether he even got a yearbook his senior year when he attended and graduated from Manhattan High School in Manhattan, Kansas.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leif's Junior High School Yearbook 1988-1989

 While looking in a "tea box" trunk the other day, I discovered a couple of Leif's yearbooks, one from Northwood Junior High School in Highland Park, Illinois, where he attended sixth through eighth grades, and one from Antilles High School in Puerto Rico. I found myself wondering if he had others. Surely he would have gotten yearbooks for all of his high school years, but so far I have not found them.

I think that junior high was in some ways the best time for Leif. Although he was a gangly adolescent plagued by severe acne, about which he was very self conscious, I learned in later years, and he was a quiet kid without a large circle of friends, the friends he did have were good ones and he enjoyed them. He wasn't yet sadly disillusioned about his ambition to be an Air Force pilot because he hadn't yet discovered that his eyes would not pass the flight physical.

He did some of his very best school work in junior high because he had excellent and challenging teachers who offered him assignment possibilities that interested and engaged him, not the usual "report" stuff. It was in junior high that he built the huge chlorophyll molecule I already wrote about, and where he did such good work on medieval armor, loved reading and doing non-traditional reports on Douglas Adams' books and Orson Scott Card's Ender series.

He also showed his incredible mind for science, and did two complex science fair projects using his remote controlled cars (which he naturally built himself). I wrote about those before, too. His eighth grade science fair project went all the way to the state science fair, where it won an honorable mention. I think it deserved even better.

So, it was with interest that I discovered in his eighth grade yearbook that there was a science fair page with him on it as one of those who went to the state science fair.

It's a terrible shame that someone didn't take Leif under mentorship in science. He had a terrific mind for it, and would have made an excellent scientist. What held him back was the knowledge that math was necessary, and he didn't like it . . . probably because it was one of the two only things he actually had to work at (math and foreign languages), and the fact that no one gave him any kind of career guidance about what a science major could do besides get a PhD and teach or be a "lab rat," as he put it.

Perhaps if he'd had some good career guidance and found a new passion to replace what he had lost, he would have found direction in life.

What struck me about this yearbook was how really little of Leif is to be found in it. Some yearbooks are a rich source of information, in the activities a student pursued, in what friends write in the book, for instance. But only three people wrote in Leif's book, and they weren't even his good friends. This leads me to believe that Leif didn't offer the book to anyone, really, and that those three who did sign it must have seen it with him and asked to sign.

There's nothing in the book about the Leif we knew other than the science fair . . . nothing about how he played the electric guitar, was photographer, participated in the track and field events in shot put and javelin, how he played soccer (and was quite good in the back field), how he loved cats, cars and Cindy Crawford, Star Wars, and music. None of that is anywhere to be found. He seems only like a kid who didn't participate, sadly enough.

And yet, I don't think he ever did school work as creatively as he did in this school. I wish he'd had teachers like this in high school and college. I wish there were more of him to see in this yearbook.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Twenty Years Ago

Twenty years ago I took this photo of Leif in his room in the old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas. He had just graduated from Manhattan High School. You can tell he was a big fan of Cindy Crawford. He hung his guitars from the ceiling. The one he's holding is the one he designed and made.

Leif had a black and white decor in his room. The walls were white and the mini blinds and ceiling fan light fixture were black. His choice.

In this photo, his hair is pulled back in a long pony tail and he's that very slender young man he was from about seventh grade until he was in his late twenties. I loved those cute dimples he had.

It's hard to believe, or even imagine, that twenty years have gone by since I took this picture, and even harder to accept that it's been over five years since his death. He is still such a big part of our lives, you'd think he still lived in Tampa. I doubt that he had any idea how much impact he had on us, or on others.

When he told me in a chat about how he had been suicidal at Fort Drum, New York in the army, after his marriage broke up, he said what stopped him was knowing what it would do to me. I guess that didn't figure into his decision on April 9, 2008 . . . or if it did, he probably thought there would be some acute grief and we would get over it. I'm sure he had no idea how it would affect our lives so profoundly, but then, he probably was not in any mental condition to contemplate that and probably thought we'd be better off without him. We are not.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Everyday Flood of Memories

It seems just about everywhere we turn there are reminders of Leif. He was such a strong presence. Yesterday Peter remarked that he wished Leif were here to help us choose a new car, as he did the Rendezvous which has served us so well.

Then on television, they had a special program on the truly unusual sports cars, like Lamborghini, Leif's favorite, showing how they are made. He would have loved it.

Even driving home from Brandon, the crazy drivers who were driving too fast and weaving in and out of traffic reminded us of him.

No matter where we go, we always think of him, and very often talk of him, too, of his talents and intelligence, of his taste and interests, and yes, of his bad luck and poor choices.

From his childhood through his adulthood, he left a larger-than-life impression on everyone who knew him.

When we were at Universal Islands of Adventure, I had to go back to take this photo of the Truffula trees in Seuss Landing. As soon as I saw them I remembered little two-year-old Leif, who had memorized "The Lorax," sitting on the floor in the living room of the townhouse we were renting in Charlotteville, Virginia, and carefully turning the pages while reciting the entire book perfectly. And I can hear his little boy voice saying,

It's a Truffula Seed.
It's the last one of all!
You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”  - From "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss
I wish I had a video of him "reading" that book. I wish I could REALLY hear him do it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How I wish we'd taken him there!

A couple of weeks ago we took our granddaughters to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando. We'd been to DisneyWorld a couple of times, and I didn't expect to be so delighted with Universal. We had a terrific time, but it was bittersweet because just about everywhere were things Leif would have LOVED.

It would have been so much fun to take him there! So many of his favorite movies were presented in absolutely thrilling rides or shows. The effects were amazing! How I would have loved to share Transformers, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Men in Black, Terminator, and more with him, but especially those.

This photo is of one of the Transformers who came out of the door behind him for photo opps. There was another one later.

Leif had an Optimus Prime transformer toy back when we lived in Japan. He loved it. I kept his Japanese toys with the intention of giving them to his children someday. When it appeared he wasn't going to have any, and Peter Anthony's son wanted those toys, Leif gave them to him. I wonder where they are now. I'd kind of like to have a good picture of Optimus Prime.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Our Sixth Fourth of July Without Leif

No matter how beautiful the fireworks are, they are never as special as they were with two excited little boys. Leif always loved the 4th of July. Every 4th without him carries a sadness that he is not here.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Leif was funny. He was whimsical. He was silly. He was a cut-up. At least, he was all of those things when he wasn't morose, withdrawn or depressed. How well I remember the times when he was enjoying himself and having fun acting silly.

These days, I seem to alternate between sadness and missing him, and smiling over memories like this one.

He graduated from Kansas State University in May 2003, ten years after he graduated from high school. It took him that long because he spent a part of those years in the U.S. Army.

He came home from the army in 2001 a depressed and broken man, but by the time he graduated from KSU, he was so much healthier in mind and body. He was looking good, feeling good, felt he had a future. I think he was at his handsomest in that year of 2003, and my favorite photos of him are from that year.

It was also the year in which he met J. and was so very much in love, and I'm sure that also helped account for his happiness and glowing good looks that fall, though in this cute picture, he had not yet met her.

It was taken in the back yard of our old stone house. He was acting silly with the tassel on his graduation cap, blowing on it and letting it settle on and tickle his nose. I love the look on his face, looking at the tassel as he gently blows on it, the ends of it splayed around his nose, and that hint of a smile with the cute dimples just showing. How I WISH he could have continued to be that happy, whimsical, silly man. 

Monday, June 3, 2013


This week, our granddaughter, Madeleine, Leif's niece, will graduate from high school. I was thinking today about all the graduations that have taken place in our family, beginning with my parents, and how much hope, pride, gratitude and expectation are part of all that surrounds the event.

When Leif graduated from Manhattan High School in 1993, he was already taking classes at Kansas State University. He was the "cool dude," the one with the RX-7 (used) sports car, the one with a cell phone (very unusual at that time, and he paid the bills himself), the one with the long leather coat and the long luxurious hair that the guys hated and the girls loved.

High school was not an easy time for Leif. He had many ups and downs, as so many teens do. He was shy, but had to adjust to three different high schools. He fell in love, deeply, but it was not reciprocated. He had parts in two musicals and found he could sing and make the girls scream, but he couldn't get and keep the one(s) he wanted. He had his first job and earned his first paychecks, but squandered the money. He managed to get through school with minimal effort but not know what to do with his life.

But that day in 1993 when he graduated from high school, he was happy and we were proud. I think he thought life was going to get better, and be easier, and he would shine. I wish that had happened for him.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Leif Wrestling With His Cousin Tim

Sometimes I think the photos on this blog leaves the impression that Leif had a sort of solitary existence, since I don't post many pictures with other people in them, but it's a false picture. Leif had friends he cared deeply about and an extended family he enjoyed. Like me, he was more of an introvert and never had a crowd of friends, but he enjoyed and was committed to the ones he had, and he had a good time at social and family gatherings. It would have been fun to show more of that on the blog.

This photo I had never seen until the end of March when my sister, Lannay, brought several photos she had taken years ago. It was taken in 1985 when Leif was ten years old. He's on the floor in the red shirt, wrestling with his cousin Tim. Tim's sister, Holly is peeking over Tim's shoulder at the top left. Leif would have loved to do some of the things that Tim, and his dad, Leif's Uncle Donovan, got to do, like race stock cars. Instead, he raced his used RX7 and later RX8 on the highways. (Not a good idea and it scared the daylights out of us.)

I still wonder how many more photos of Leif I've never seen, that someone else took. Maybe more will surface.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Leif at Twenty - Handsome and Hopeful

It was so very long ago, April 4, 1995 when this photo was taken. Leif was twenty years old and at the height of his handsomeness. He was still exuberant and happy. He still had hair. :) He was slender and athletic, and about finishing his sophomore year at Kansas State University.

Just when I don't think I'll see a new photo of Leif (or Alex as he was still called when this photo was taken), someone brings me new ones. My sister, Leif's beloved Aunt Lannay, brought several photos to me in March that I had never seen before. I was so glad to get them.

This photo was taken at my mother's house on Pottawatomie Street in Manhattan, Kansas. We were there for the "April birthday dinner." Mom would make a big dinner for as many of the family as could come, sometimes as many as sixteen, to celebrate all the birthdays in that month. In April, the birthday "boys" were Peter W. (Leif's dad) and his cousin Tim. The original of this photo has Tim and his sister Holly in it.

Those were good times. Leif really enjoyed those family togethers, all the conversation, bantering, and Mom's excellent cooking . . . and I think he and Tim liked the peach fritters with foamy sauce the best of all.

I love seeing a photo of Leif that looks like this, happy, healthy and optimistic, joyful, even. It's so much better than the withdrawn and depressed person he became. He had hope then. You can see it in his eyes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Five Years

Five years. I still miss him. I still ask why. It still hurts that he is gone.

This is a photo Leif took of himself with his computer camera in November 2007.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sailing With His Friends in the Caribbean

This is a mystery photo for me. I found it among Leif's photos after he died. Leif is sitting on the very top right of this catamaran named The East Wind, and it was clearly taken somewhere in the Caribbean during the years we were living in Puerto Rico, but I know nothing more about it. 

I've asked some of his friends from Antilles High School if they can tell me but they don't know either.

It's possible it was taken in the British Virgin Islands when he was there on ActionQuest, but it seems unlikely they would have gotten off their sailboat and onto a catamaran. Maybe this boat belonged to the family of one of his friends in Puerto Rico that I no longer have contact with. 

I hoped to find out the story behind the photo and who took it before I posted it on this blog, but since it appears I can't do that, I'm posting it now. Maybe someone who knows will see it.

Leif would have been in his element here. He loved boats and the Caribbean. I'm glad he got to do this, however it happened. He would have been about 16 years old. I think this was taken in 1991.

We thought a lot about Leif on our cruise in New Zealand and Australia last month. 

Update April 21st: After I posted this, I found out I should have asked Peter W. about this picture. I thought it was Leif off with his friends, and it still looks like that to me, but Peter says that this was a SCUBA dive trip to the smaller island of Palominito, off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, and they took this boat to get over there. Now I still wonder who took the picture. I went along on some dive trips but I know I didn't take this one, and I found it among Leif's things, not ours.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five Years Since We Saw Him

Five years ago on Easter Sunday, which was March 23rd, was the last time we saw Leif alive. He was here for dinner, and how I wish I had taken pictures that evening. I've written about it before. It was a good visit, relaxed and seemingly happy. He was in love. There was no hint that he would be dead two weeks later.

Of all the Easter Sundays in my children's lives, it seems I took photos only a few times. I can't find many pictures of Easter egg dying or hunting and I've already posted those I have. Our Easter traditions were special and fun, but no longer practiced without children to make them fun and special. No more painting Easter eggs. No more hanging them on the Easter tree. No more setting out the little wooden Easter bunny figures from Germany or making the Easter nest cake for breakfast. No more hiding Easter baskets. No more cute little boys hunting for them. They are good memories. Easter will bring them back every year.

It's hard to believe it's been five years since we saw Leif. He is still so much a part of our lives, our thoughts. We still miss him every day. We still talk about him every day. So much still reminds us of him.

I love the look of wonder in his eyes in this picture. Leif was such a curious little "discoverer." The photo was taken in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1977. He was two years old.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thinking of Leif

Next month it will be five years since Leif died, but he seems to be as much a part of our thoughts as ever. We still talk about him, still are reminded of him daily, still feel his loss, still smile over his humor.

We were at Bay Pines National Cemetery on March 3rd, with cousins Wolfgang and Cordula visiting from Germany. It still brings tears to see his niche and know that is all that is left of my handsome, brilliant son, all that is earthly remains, at any rate.

Oddly, a couple of days later, the beautiful Hawaiian lei which has hung over his portrait ever since the day of his memorial service, now dried and still lovely, fell off of it for the first time in all these years.

It's amazing the number of things that can remind me of Leif. I was driving to my friend Chris's house a couple of times in the past week or two and saw many feral black and white cats. That reminded me of how much Leif loved cats, and how he had tried to get close to and tame the feral kittens that lived under our townhouse in Hawaii.

This picture was one that Leif's ex wife Nikko sent to me, taken by her, one of those precious photos I hadn't seen before, and is one of a series she took of him with one of their cats. I've posted some of the others before. I still wonder who else has photos of Leif I have never seen. This one was taken while he was in the army at Fort Drum, New York on August 20, 1999. This was shortly after we had visited them there and shortly before he went to Bosnia.

So much in our lives has changed since he left us, but our love for him has not.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Leif's 38th Birthday

It would have been Leif's 38th birthday today, had he lived. We would have had him come for dinner because he liked to have me make his favorite foods. I think he would have had peach fritters with foamy sauce for sure. He wasn't a big cake lover. Like all the men in our family, he preferred pie, but pie after peach fritters could be a bit much.

Every birthday with him was precious and special. We didn't miss many in his life, only the ones when he was in the army. A long time ago in this blog I posted a photo of each of his birthdays for which we had pictures, but of course not all the pictures. How I wish we had better ones!

This photo was taken the day before his second birthday, at Rocking Horse Country Day School in Charlottesville, Virginia. The kids baked cupcakes and had them with their lunch. Leif, ever the little experimenter, was quite interested in the texture of the cupcake and had to stick his finger in it.

He was still a little blondie at that point. I wonder why it is that many children are blond when they are small and their hair darkens as they get older. By the time Leif was in junior high school, his hair was very dark brown.

In the background you can see the "art wall." Rocking Horse Country Day School had a wall that the kids could draw and color on, post their art projects on, and in general do all the things kids would LIKE to do to walls but aren't supposed to. I thought it was a brilliant idea. They were very good about doing their drawing and scribbling only on THAT wall and not the others. I know it would be hard to give kids a wall like that at home, but maybe hanging a whiteboard or something where they could draw and scribble on the "wall" to their hearts content would help keep them from doing it elsewhere.

Leif hadn't been going to this school for long when this was taken. It was unusual for a day school to take a child that young, but there were several two-year-olds there, probably because their parents needed to find a place they could thrive, too. It was a Montessori school, and it was wonderful for Leif. He was so bright that no matter how much attention and enrichment I gave him at home, it wasn't enough. He was frustrated. When we found the school, he took to it as though he had been searching for it. I will always be grateful to Linda J. for accepting him there.

Today I wish my son a happy birthday. He's not here to celebrate it, but I will remember his birthday, this year and every year.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cars He Would Have Loved

Yesterday we were in Sarasota. The weather was gorgeous, and it seemed to be the day for unusual sports cars to be out. Leif would have loved the neon green McLaren, the yellow Lamborghini (his favorite car color), the green Porsche, and the red Astin Martin we saw. I can never see a beautiful sports car without thinking of him and how much he loved them.

This photo of a Ferrari is one he took at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1987 when he was twelve years old. He loved that car, and so many others he photographed at that show.

There are so many reminders of Leif and the things he loved. We also went to the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, yesterday. He wouldn't have missed it. I wish we could talk with him about it. I miss those lively conversations.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Saturday evening we went to the 50th wedding anniversary of a couple who are neighbors and friends. It was a large gathering, about 300 people, including a few others from our neighborhood, a happy occasion with good food and music.

During the entertainment, Peter Anthony sent me a text message asking what kind of motorcycle Leif had. Peter A. really liked it and wishes he had it. It was Leif's third motorcycle. He sold the first one, a yellow and magenta Yamaha crotch rocket, and the second one, a yellow Suzuki super-fast crotch rocket was stolen. By that time, he was thinking maybe a more comfortable ride would be nice and purchased this used Honda MC 1800cc. It was a beautiful bike and he kept it in pristine condition.

But why did Peter A. ask me that tonight . . . just about the same time that Peter W. said to me that he didn't want to make me sad, but the picture of finding Leif dead in his apartment had come into his mind. Of course, it did make me sad, but I was already thinking of Leif before he said anything. What I was thinking was, "Leif will never have a 50th anniversary party. He will never have ANY anniversary party, never have any children or grandchildren."

On the way home, we were talking about Leif and about what we might do for our 50th anniversary. Peter wants to go on a cruise. I always talked about renewing our vows at the Heidelberg Castle. But the truth is, I'm not sure I want to be with anyone but Peter W. The thing I want most for that anniversary can never be . . . my family intact and whole, and all there with us. We will never have that kind of reunion.

We talked about Leif's sadness and loneliness, the way he would withdraw, the children we wish he had, how we wished he and Nikko had had a successful marriage. They clearly loved each other, but love is not enough to make a marriage work. The "love conquers all" belief just isn't true.

So, it was a pleasant and happy evening, but at the same time, a sad and poignant one, and I still wonder why all three of us thought about Leif at the same time, but in different ways.

As I told Peter W. during the drive home, it has been nearly five years since he died, and I miss him just as much.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Getting Through the Holidays

We celebrated our fifth Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years without Leif. You'd think it would get easier, but it doesn't. It still hurts. I still cry. It still feels as though there is a big, unfilled hole where he should be.

I'm happy, with our son Peter and our granddaughters with us. I enjoy those moments, but when I don't keep my guard up, the sadness and the tears come back. Why can't he be here to share it all with us? Why couldn't he be here with his own children?

I haven't written anything for a long time, mostly because I've had no time. For two months I spent nearly every extra minute I had taking care of my mother after she fractured another vertebra, and when I did have a few minutes, I had so many other things to do. I couldn't bring myself to write on the blog, didn't want to face my feelings any more than I could help it.

Then, yesterday morning, Peter W. turned on the music. He has all his music on Leif's old iPod, and plays it on a iPod player. He played Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever?" I completely broke down. I associate that song so deeply with Leif and his death, with his memorial service, with his sadness and demise, that I can't listen to it without the floodgates opening. It is an incredibly beautiful and sad song, one of the most beautiful I've heard, so poignant and full of emotion.

                                                      "Who Wants To Live Forever"
There's no time for us,
There's no place for us,
What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us.
Who wants to live forever,
Who wants to live forever.....?
There's no chance for us,
It's all decided for us,
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us.
Who wants to live forever,
Who dares to love forever,
When love must die. 
But touch my tears with your lips,
Touch my world with your fingertips,
And we can have forever,
And we can love forever,
Forever is our today,
Who wants to live forever,
Who wants to live forever,
Forever is our today,
Who waits forever anyway?
Who Wants to Live Forever (0fficial Queen Video)

Leif loved this song not only for its music but because it was from the movie "Highlander," which was one of his all time favorites. Here's a link to a history of the song, from Wikipedia:

Who Wants to Live Forever (about the song)

I want him back. I will always want him back.


This photo was taken December 25, 2006. Little did we know we would only have him one more Christmas. He seemed pretty happy that 2006 Christmas. How terribly things went downhill over the following year.