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.