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.