Monday, May 29, 2017

Which Leif Garretson Should I Remember on Memorial Day?

When I remember Leif on Memorial Day, which Leif should I remember? The boy who wanted to grow up to be an Air Force pilot but couldn't because his eyes wouldn't pass the flight physical? The college student who joined Air Force ROTC to become an Air Force officer, scoring at the top his class at summer camp, only to be sent home when his body failed him again with a pulled muscle in his groin?

The man who enlisted in the infantry, the toughest physical challenge, to try to find a way into the military, hoping to qualify for Green to Gold to become an officer? The man who went through Infantry Basic Training on a broken foot after a fellow soldier fell on it during first aid training?

The man who breathed and ate sand and dust in Uzbekistan during UN maneuvers and developed severe asthma so that his body betrayed him yet again? The man who served his country with distinction in Bosnia as a peacekeeper? The man who was the best machine gunner in his battalion?

The proud soldier who became a broken man, the one who, with PTSD, finally ended his life like far too many of our veterans? He didn't die in a combat battle, but he died in his own private war, one brought on at least partly by his military service.

So, on this Memorial Day, I remember Leif Garretson, my son, who served his country, and is no longer with us. I will always be proud of him and his service.

This photo was taken around 1999.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Whole KVCC Veterans Memorial Mural Wall


This is the whole mural or mosaic with Leif's stone near the top right.

Nine Years



Today it has been nine years since we found Leif's lifeless body. I can still remember the details and overwhelming grief of that day, just as I can remember the last time we saw him alive and so much of the 33 years of his life.

Even halfway around the world at sea, a song from "Les Miserables" brings tears to my eyes when I hear the lyrics, "Bring him home, let him live." How dearly and desperately I wish he could come home, and live.

Last Christmas my sister Sherie, Leif's aunt, brought me photos of a veterans memorial wall mural at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where she works. She purchased a memorial stone for him. I was so touched I cried. He lived. He served. He deserves to be remembered. Many thanks to her for this gift of remembrance. He will always be in our hearts.

This is a very small part of the wall. I'll post a photo of the entire wall separately.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, another year missing you

Today (January 28th) would have been Leif's 42nd birthday, if he  had lived. I spent the day doing something he would have enjoyed, going to the Tampa Gasparilla pirate festival, Tampa's pirate version of Mardi Gras.

It was just his kind of day, boats, a pirate ship, wenches in sexy pirate costumes, a parade, cannons firing, plenty of beer being consumed. His kind of party.

I don't know whether he ever went to Gasparilla during the few years he lived in this area. If so, I didn't find any photos of it on his camera or computer. It he didn't, it's a shame. Too bad he didn't belong to a krewe. He would have been a good member and could have lobbed beads at the crowds with phenomenal strength and aim.

His first persona in the Society for Creative Anachronism was a "Viking pirate," and because he was stylish and debonair, he was known as the "GQ pirate."

I wish that GQ pirate had been there with us today. I would have loved to see him swashbuckling around.

This photo was taken in Manhattan, Kansas in 1993 when he was 18 years old.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Could a cat have saved him?

 We will never stop wondering. Wondering why he made the decision to pull the trigger. Wondering why at that time. Wondering what could have prevented it. Wondering what could have saved him.

I was thinking and reading about the importance of human connections, of love, of being valued, of feeling needed, and reflecting upon how alone Leif was, how he expressed that no one (or so he thought) but his parents would care if he lived or died. How he felt his life had no purpose.

He worked in a cubicle answering phone questions about Medicare supplemental or replacement insurance. He didn't make any friends at work, or see anyone from work outside the workplace. He didn't socialize with anyone from his work.

Here in Florida, he had concentrated on dating, looking for love, and didn't get involved in any activities like SCA where he might have made friends and connections. Love, female companionship, and being the protective man, was what he searched so hard to find, and even harder to find someone who provided a nurturing, nondestructive relationship.

He had friends, but he saw them seldom, and some of those he did see were acquaintances primarily of his women.

Once he severed the live-in relationship with D., he was alone and without purpose, alone without anyone who needed him.

But what if he'd had a cat? Leif loved cats. All is life he was drawn to them. Cats provided cuddling, needed to be taken care of (at least minimally), fed, cared when he came home, played with him. Cats provided a living being to which he could be affectionate and playful. What a terrible pity that he was allergic to them and they gave him asthma attacks. Where he lived in Tampa, he wasn't allowed to have one, anyway.

But what if he had? Would it have made the difference? We will never know, but I think it might have. I knew a man who was, like Leif, totally heartbroken over the breakup of a relationship and decided to commit suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. He was actually in the process of carrying out this plan when he saw his cat in the garage and thought, the cat doesn't deserve this, doesn't deserve to die, or to be deserted. He shut off the car and lived. Later he found another love and was happily married until the natural end of his life.

I don't know whether this could have happened to Leif, but I can conceive of it. I can conceive of having that living being in his home being enough to keep him going until maybe things could get better, of him finding just enough companionship, love and affection, just enough of a being who needed him, to keep him alive.

Maybe not. I wish he'd had the chance.
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The first photo above was taken in Thailand in 1981 when Leif was not quite seven years old. The cat was at a small temple we visited. The second photo was taken when Leif was in the army at Fort Drum, New York in 1999 before he went to Bosnia. That cat was his and Nikko's, and he loved it so.