Before January 4, 2009, this was a date that meant nothing to me — other than signifying that it was the 4th of 365 days during a routine calender year.
January 3, 2009 was a Saturday – I was living in Denver and not working in the radio industry – instead I was working at a commercial cattle feed lot in northern Colorado…I had just finished up a 12 hour day and was making my way home that evening.
I was determined to get to bed as soon as possible — because I had to be back at the feed lot bright and early the next morning to work on a Sunday.
As I walked in the door to my home that Saturday evening I practically fell onto the couch in my living room — so fatigued that I actually ended up falling asleep that evening in the living room on the sofa.
At approximately 4 AM the following morning – just about an hour before I was about to get up – I heard my cell phone ringing as I slept.
By the time I had fully awakened I missed the phone call — and as I checked the number to see who was calling me at that time, I noticed it was a call from upstate New York…I recognized the number as that of my ex-wife – the mother of my son, Joseph.
My son was 23 years old at the time, and he was living in Everett, Washington, staying with some friends there…just about a month prior to that he was staying with me at my home in Denver.
Joey was an aspiring musician, a white kid who happened to be blessed with the ability to rhyme words, a rapper to be, the next Eminem potentially…long odds for a young man in the particular genre of the black dominated rap world.
In the October 2012 edition of Men’s Journal magazine that featured a profile of yours truly, the story mentioned my son, and it made it seem as though I never raised him – this is erroneous.
Had the author of the story, Michael Hastings, been able to write the story he intended to, a much more thorough explanation of this time in my life would have been explained — because I shared all the intimate details with the author.
I was married at the age of 20 years old, at the time I was a 20 year old young man with the mentality and the maturity of someone who was 16 – at best.
I married my high school sweetheart — who was herself only 18 at that time.
Suffice to say that if I had possessed the maturity and stability of my younger bride at the time, then perhaps things between us would have turned out differently — as it was the marriage lasted only a short time — and the very best thing to come out of that union was a little boy who entered this world on October 31, 1984.
Back then, after Joey was born, I didn’t feel as though I was very good at anything I did– but the one single thing that I liked to think I was good at that time – was being a father to my son.
The relationship between Joey and myself was as close and as nurturing as anything I’ve ever experienced.
I had weekend visitation with my boy — and no matter where I lived during the next few years, wherever I was, my son had his own room at my homes, with his own toys, his own wardrobe…if anyone had entered any one of the rooms that Joey had at the homes I lived in during his little boy years — one would have instantly assumed that it was the room of a child who lived there full time.
I never had experienced a close relationship with my own father when I was a boy, and the father/son relationship that developed over the years between me and my son was the absolute antithesis of what my relationship was with my own father.
On a typical day that we would spend with each other I’ll wager that I kissed my son at least 110 times during the course of a day.
I never stopped kissing him, hugging him, playing with him…doing all the things with him that my father and I never-ever did together.
I mention much of the information in the above paragraphs because I want to make clear again — that the lack of details in the Men’s Journal piece very much distort the reality of the true relationship that was present during that time with my son.
Due to circumstances that developed years later, at about the time Joey was 10 years old, there was an absence of time — a gap — where we were not able to see one another for a period that would ultimately amount to 13 full years.
You’ll forgive me for not explaining fully the details that caused this separation, they deal with a few other people who were involved in the process that led to this separation I speak of, and the process of explaining it all, in this forum, they really don’t merit the time, nor would it be right by me to divulge the specifics pertaining to their lives and the actions of a few other individuals involved back then.
I will tell you that it was exceptionally painful (obviously), both for myself and for my son, who at the time had just turned 10 years old.
The family court system can be a very funny thing for those who have experienced the process in myriad ways.
I will tell you this however — that if the family court that was involved in my case at the time, had it not been protected by judicial immunity, that a lawsuit would have been in the offing… and as it turns out, history recorded that the family court judge involved at the time would go on to disgrace himself, be brought up on criminal charges, and ultimately attempted to take his own life.
Fast forward — and through a series of factors and events — a joyful reconciliation took place between myself and my boy that occurred in the summer of 2007.
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, was to re-embrace my son, and he re-embrace me…in that he came back to me not as the 10 year old boy who I pictured last with me — but as a now fully grown 22 year old with all of the inconsistencies to him that most kids his age possess.
It was a culture shock to say the least, and I’ll admit, it was something I did not handle as well as perhaps I should have…in my minds eye he was still just a young boy, I still wanted to hold him, kiss him, protect him etc.
To give you a better idea, the first night he was at my home, after 13 years apart from one another, as he got into bed that evening and tucked himself under the covers, I laid down next to him on the bed and held him at 22 years old just like I had all those years he was 3-5-7-10 years old.
My son was back…but not as a boy – but as a man!
Try and imagine that for a second if you can.
Joey was pretty misdirected when he came back to me, unsure of what he wanted to do and how he wanted to go about doing it…at that exact time I was working in Denver for The Radio Colorado Network, and as he spoke about what he wanted to do, namely push to make a name for himself in the rap music industry, I resisted his desires and attempted to talk him into another line of work.
Perhaps with the benefit of history, knowing how things eventually turned out…maybe I should have been more encouraging.
As a dad who wanted the best for my boy, at the time, I just felt that my son was better than to pursue the objectives he had in mind…that and the notion I had that a white kid making it big in that area of the music world was an extreme longshot.
Joey could skate like the wind, he was a tremendous hockey player, we played the sport together many-many times when he was younger and we were together back then…I even called the local Central Hockey League team, The Colorado Eagles, based in Loveland, Colorado, seeking a try-out for my boy, because he was that good!
A hockey player…a broadcaster even, a country singer…anything but a rapper???
To advance this story a bit, Joey continued to push forward with his vision, and I continued to push back the other way.
In retrospect, it was not until he was gone, that after listening to the songs he had cut in a studio, with tears steaming down my face, only then, was I able to see the unique talent and gift he had.
My son stayed with me in C0lorado for a few months – before returning to the pacific northwest where he had lived previously with some friends he had there.
I drove him to the airport in Denver the day after Thanksgiving 2008.
As we said our goodbyes and embraced at the airport that afternoon — it would tun out to be the final time we would ever see one another.
When I saw that the number calling me in the early AM hours of Sunday January 4, 2009, was the number of my ex-wife, and Joseph’s mother…the first thing that went through my mind was that he must have gotten into some trouble.
Perhaps I was tying to convince myself that that was only the case.
Groggy I picked up my phone and called my ex-wife back…and as the phone was ringing I was feeling somewhat anxious as my mind was starting to think about what could be so vitally urgent that she needed to phone me at that early time in the morning?
The one other nice result of the reconciliation between Joseph and myself, was that the relationship between his mom and myself had also become one where we now spoke with one another, talked about ‘our son’ together for the first time in years — and with some regularity, we would each pick up the phone to place a call to each other just to say hello and to chat.
We still talk with one another to this day.
The phone rang 3 or 4 times as I called her back…as soon as she picked up the phone my heart sank.
Not only was her ‘hello’ as meek as it could possibly be…but in the background I heard wailing from Joey’s sister that immediately made me think of the worst possible scenario even before I heard the words of Joseph’s mom.
As I sit here and type out these words, I can still here them as vividly right now as I did on this exact day four years ago.
“We lost Joey.”
Lost him, because another young entered a room and began firing a gun…three other individuals were hit by bullets fired by a kid illegally possessing a handgun…those three individuals all lived.
The fourth individual struck by a bullet – ended up taking the life of my boy.
It’s been 4 years now since he’s been gone…the pain has never subsided, and it never will.
The very worst thing any parent can have happen to them, is to bury there own children – I wish this on nobody.
There has not been a single day that has passed since January 4, 2009, where I have not thought of my son at least one time every day since he’s been gone.
To this day, to this very second, the entire situation feels surreal, unfathomable…sadly it was, and it is, real.
Each October 31st, Joey’s birthday, I send a helium filled balloon up to my son in heaven.
I say a prayer, release the balloon, and watch it fly into the sky until it is a mere dot…and then finally until I can see it no more.
I have no question that the next reunion with my boy will be an even better one than the one we shared with one another on an summer day back in 2007.
The next reunion will be permanent…and when it happens, I’ll hold my son closer than ever before, telling him how much I love him.
I’ll never leave him again.