The death of Gerald Levert has prompted me to post about something that I have never blogged about before.
It was around the same time of year, four years ago, I was 8 months pregnant when my cousin, BRAT called me. She sounded low; her voice was deep and heavy. My aunt Ann, BRAT’s mom, had breast cancer so I figured BRAT was calling to reveal some expected yet sad news.
BRAT: “Jenny? How have you been?”
ME: “Ok…what’s up?”
BRAT: “um…well…um…Larry died today.”
BRAT: “He was at work, he was having chest pains so he sat down and he…died.”
ME: “Larry died?”
BRAT: “Who’s there with you?”
ME: “Larry died?”
BRAT: “I’m coming over there…”
ME: “I feel sick”
I hung up the phone. Rushed to the bathroom and vomited.
Larry is the only father I ever knew. My biological dad lives less them a mile from me and yet we never speak. Larry and my mom met when I was in the fourth grade. My mother had just divorced, Wernard, (which is a relationship that deserves a blog to itself), and we were trying to do our best to get on with our lives. We’d moved into this tiny apartment in a not so hot spot in South Los Angeles (the real South Los Angeles, way east of Crenshaw). Larry and his family lived in the house behind our apartment building.
My mother fell for him. I think anyone would have. He was the sweetest man. He loved my mother. And he loved my sister and I. He and my mother dated for eight years before they married. They were married four years before the divorced. (My mother’s 4th divorce….a whole other blog).
Something hurtful happened between the two of them. I could see it. One of them must’ve said or did something they couldn’t take back. They walked around the house silent for about a year and then my mother left him for reasons I’ll never know, she won’t talk about him.
I stayed in touch with him...of course. My mother re-married (The guy she’s hitched to now) and Larry had a woman-friend. He and I would have lunch, he’d come fix broken things at my apartment, he’d give me advise and he couldn’t wait for my daughter to be born. The last time I spoke to him, he said “You better bring that baby over her to see me when she pops out.”
I can remember seeing him in his white painter pants with gook all over them (he was a contractor), with the Big Dog t-shirt that I’d brought him and some Nikes, again that I’d brought him, his salt and pepper beard with that famous baseball hat since he was “too busy to get his hair cut”. He’d have the most hilarious phrases for things. When my friends and I would go out to the club he’d say we were “out picking strawberries”. He really was my dad.
On my way to the funereal, I stopped at this flower shop near my house. There was a girl there that helped me pick out some white roses to put in his casket. I guess she could see how distraught I was. She wrapped the flowers in a white satin bow , put her arm around me, and she said “You know step parents count.”…They really do.
Larry died due to a malformation of one of his heart valves. It was a congenital defect. One day the loose tissue in the valve just gave way. It was truly unexpected. He was just 45 years old. I was just 20. My daughter was born one week after his funereal. My aunt Ann died on Christmas Eve two weeks later.
My heart goes out to the family of Gerald Levert. It is a horrible thing to loose someone s swiftly. May the peace of god be with you.