Conversation With Pops

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Daddy, what’s up? How are things up in heaven? Better than here I know. Me, I’m just maintaining this grind to be a better man and do what my purpose is on this earth.

Can’t believe it will be nine years since you passed away in a few months. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday you were here making everyone laugh with the crazy things you used to say and do, and the absence of that since you’ve been gone has been a tough pill to swallow.

December of 1990 changed my life forever once me and Tori (older sister) moved in with you after mom left South Carolina to go to Georgia. Not that it was a bad thing to be living with you, it was just different for me to see you on an everyday basis, even though I saw you all the time.

It was a surreal experience coming to such a nice neighborhood and finally be living in a house as opposed to an apartment or trailer. I remember when you bought me my first basketball goal and set it up in the backyard, and lord knows we had our one-on-one battles out there. I can see us now smelling the burgers from Burger King down the street, and we’d often go for a little bite after we were done.

McKenzie Furniture, my first baseball team. I can still see that embarrassing picture I took with that goofy smile on my face as I put my uniform on for the first time. In the backyard is where you trained me on the basics of baseball. You rolled me ground balls to work on my fielding. Not just straight at me but also to either the right or left to work on my change of direction. Also, you would throw pop fly’s in the air in all different directions. One thing was for certain, I was going to be ready once I took the field thanks to you.

Two years later, my interest in football began. You told me that if I wanted to play football I needed to watch it and see what it’s all about. Almost immediately after, I saw the commercial for Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. My eyes were glued to the television that night. Watching Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and others dominate was unlike anything I had ever seen and my love for the Cowboys was officially stamped that night, because of you.

I started playing football that fall (1993) and you were always there for every game. If you had to work days you would get off early to be there. If you had to work nights you would go in late, nothing was going to stop you from being there.

Sometimes I smile and laugh about how I would wait for you at the door when you would get home from work after a long day and want to wrestle. You weren’t in the mood, but you still made that time for me no matter what. It didn’t matter what I was involved in you were always there. Sports, a school event, you name it you were an active dad and I was always one of the few black kids I knew that always had their dad around.

You taught me so many things. How to drive, how to groom myself properly as a man, do yard work and so much more. You instilled in me that if I was going to do something that I should give it everything I had. You once said, “I don’t care if you are sweeping the parking lot at Burger King, be the best parking lot sweeper in the world.”

I kept that mentality in everything I did and probably speaks to why I’m such a competitive person. Anytime I even thought I wanted to give up on anything I would think about your no-excuses type of attitude and I’d keep pushing. Not just for myself but you as well. Even as a kid, it meant a lot to me that you were proud of me, although I didn’t always show it.

The first time I truly understood what I meant to you was when I was 15. I suffered a collapsed lung at football practice and was in the hospital for four days. When I got home, I remember putting my bags down in my room and turning around and you were right there. It startled me, and you asked me was I ok. After I said yes, you started to press on my chest, arms, and shoulders to see if I was in one piece, but it was the look in your eyes. The concern you had and the tears you were holding back. You didn’t have to say it but I knew you were scared.

When I talked to my mom about it she told me how upset you were when it happened. She even told me you said something to the effect of “My baby is laid up in the hospital”. You weren’t the lovey-dovey dad who said “I love you” or anything like that so hearing your concern from mom, while also seeing it myself gave me a different perspective on our relationship.

As touching as that moment was it, unfortunately, came during a rocky time in our relationship. Shortly after I began to slack off in school, which was very unlike me, and we bumped heads constantly. It got to the point that it was clear that we had to go our separate ways and I moved to Atlanta to be with my mom just days before I turned 16. It was a break we both needed.

Everything happens for a reason though. I came back to South Carolina eight months later and finished my last two years of high school, but our troublesome times didn’t go away. You told me just before my high school graduation that you had gotten me a job doing maintenance at your job, and I got very upset. I felt like you should have at least told me something about it. We had a huge fight and I said I didn’t want you at my graduation. You said that’s fine and that once I graduated that I had to leave your house.

I was prepared to do so, but something came over me. So, I wrote you a letter explaining how I felt and put it under your door with a graduation ticket so you could come. You didn’t say anything about it, and I hoped that you’d be there, and you were. There was no way I was going to let you miss that moment.

Two years later was when we had our biggest falling out. I woke up one morning not feeling too well but you wanted me to cut the grass. I told you I would but that I just needed to get myself together first. Unfortunately, you were in one of your moods where you wanted it done immediately, and I was not in the mood to hear a bunch of yelling and whatnot. It got so bad that we were face to face and close to throwing blows, the tension was thick.

What happened next would upset me for quite some time. You called the police and told them to escort me out. I couldn’t believe it. Like you took it there. I remember telling the cop “I suggest y’all keep him away from me before he gets hurt.” Yeah, it got to that point, and I left to live with my mom again, but this time just five minutes down the road.

Later that year my grandpa on my mom’s side passed away. On the day of his funeral, I went off on this older man for throwing a cigarette butt in my grandmother’s yard, so my emotions were at an all-time high. Shortly after, you pulled up in the driveway and walked towards me, and my mom did so at the same time. You then proceeded to ask her “Who is this young fella?” My mom quickly answered by saying “That’s your son.” I can only imagine the look on my face, but I know it screamed that I wasn’t feeling it.

From that point forward though, I seemed to gain an understanding of who you were and what you were about as a man. I was in my ’20s and becoming a man myself so it made more sense to me. I got why you did certain things when I was younger and the lessons you were trying to teach registered more than ever. Your parenting style, albeit unconventional, made me who I was and I began to realize that.

Our relationship reached a point that we just got each other, but it went to another level in 2010. You called me and asked what I was doing one morning. I told you nothing much and you said you wanted to have lunch with me. Everything was going smoothly and then you said you had something to say, and it changed my life forever.

You told me that I was never a problem child growing up and that I just did normal stuff that boys do. You said I didn’t have a bunch of kids irresponsibility, no police record, and that I had turned out to be a good young man. I couldn’t believe it. For the first time, I truly felt like I had made you proud of me. I never knew that I needed it but that validation from you is what I was always searching for and at that moment it came full circle.

Just when things couldn’t have been better between us disaster happened. On August 12, 2012, my phone rang three times consecutively but I didn’t answer because it was a Sunday morning and I wanted to sleep in, but the constant calling made me check to see who it was. When I saw it was Tori I quickly called her back. She told me that you weren’t breathing and that you were in an ambulance and that she, my mom, and grandmother were following it to the hospital.

I didn’t know what to think. However, my mindset was that you’d be ok. That turned into panic when mom kept calling every 10-15 minutes saying that they were still working on you. With her being a nurse, I was expecting some clarity, and the fact that I wasn’t getting any had me worried.

They say you know when you get “that call” and I would find out how true that statement was. As I sat in my car just outside of Boston waiting to hear an update on your condition my phone rang, and it was like every other sound was blocked out and the ringing was extra loud. Once I answered my mom was already crying and said “Matthew, they couldn’t save him.”

After holding the phone to ear and rubbing my head in a confused state for a while I broke down and the tears started. I was in total shock. At 59 years old, you were gone, and my heart shattered into a million pieces instantly. I always figured you’d live an extremely long life like your father and so many of our family members on the Lenix side have done, but God had other plans, he needed you with him.

Going to see your body was the most devastating thing for me. It was the finality of the situation. To see you laying there lifeless and cold broke me to my core. It took me back to the last time I saw you alive four months earlier. I came by the house to say my goodbyes to you and Tori before I went moved to Boston. Once you made sure I had everything we shook hands end embraced before walking in opposite directions, but something told me to turn around. When I did, you had tears going down your face as you looked back at me. I said, “Are you ok?” You said “No, I’m not ok, just go” as you walked into the house, almost as if you knew that would be the last time you saw me.

During the days leading up to your funeral people were coming by the house to pay their respects as people do during those times. One night my emotions got so bad that I was hysterical in the backyard and my best friend Percy had to calm me down, but he showed me something. He pointed to the sky and made me realize that there was only one star in the sky at the time. It had a different glow to it. I know that was you. Telling me that you were ok and not to worry. It was an overwhelming experience.

Once it was time to send you off I knew I had to speak on your behalf. I didn’t want to write a speech though, I wanted it to come from the heart. Most people knew you for having money and being a ladies’ man, but I wanted them to know the person behind the glitz and glamour. I wanted them to understand the hard worker and dedicated father you were. The man that took a 13-year old daughter and a son who was six and raised them the right way when most thought you’d fail as a single parent. Someone who was always talked to us and instilled determination and an attitude that excuses weren’t going to cut it, get out there and do the work.

As I sit here today that’s the part that’s so hard. Not being able to drive five minutes to see you. The inability to have those talks we used to have. I can’t walk in the kitchen and see you lean back against the counter while the food is cooking and you give one of your legendary lectures. I’d give anything to hear one right now.

There are times when I can think about you and the emotions overwhelm me to the point that I can’t stop crying. I ask myself why? Why did you have to die so young? Why did you have to go when we were at the best place we have ever been in? Those questions and so many more I ask myself. I know that’s probably not the best way to do things but it’s the truth.

I get very angry at you sometimes daddy. Not because it’s your fault or anything, but the selfish part of me as your son whose spirit cries for you can’t help it. I don’t understand it and never will. I know I’m not supposed to, but it’s hard to not try to figure it out.

As you very well know your son has been a published writer for almost two years, writing about the Cowboys. I know that if you were alive you’d be telling everybody about it and calling me over and over saying the same things over and over lol.

It took me a long time to get comfortable to even write this. I just want to say thank you, daddy. I appreciate everything you did raising me and making me the man I am today. For all the times I disobeyed you I apologize. I knew right from wrong, I was just trying to find my place in the world and I hope you understood that despite everything.

I wish I could have just five more minutes with you. To look in your eyes and you look in mine and for you to fully grasp what you mean to me as I explain it. Unfortunately, I can’t do that so this piece will have to do. I just wanted to say some words to sum up the impact you’ve made on my life and how much you’re appreciated.

In closing, I am more than proud to be your son. I only got 28 years with you but the memories will last forever and the lessons you taught I’ll pass down to my future children. I am you and you are me. Levy Lenix, my father, my hero, I love you more than words can say and keep my spot in heaven ready for when I get there.

Love always, your son, Matthew!

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2 thoughts on “Conversation With Pops

  1. In tears!!! Heartbreaking, Uplifting, and the most BEAUTIFUL piece I’ve seen from Mr. Lenix. Thus far…
    Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life…

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