The split, the rift, the disagreement, had happened long before this. Almost a year. The son had wanted to get married. The father wanted caution. Again, is that the proper word? Caution? The father says he was not worried so much about the son's choice of a wife but about the idea of marriage. The son was making a lot of money. The son was a celebrity. The father wanted some assurances that the son wasn't making too hasty a decision in getting married. The son was in love. He wasn't worried about any of that.
Thrown into the mix was the fact that Angela Fike, the prospective wife, was white and divorced and had a young daughter. Something happened in the arguments between the father and the son. Battle lines were drawn. The father has read reports that the son thought the father was angry because Angela was white. Both the father and son deny that. They say her skin color didn't matter at all'. The father was just trying to make sure that everything came out right.
"There was a lack of communication," he says. "That's what it was. I could never communicate what I wanted, and he could never communicate back to me. We could never get each other to understand what we were saying."
Whatever happened, the break was made. The son was married. The father was not invited to the wedding. The silence began. The two men who had talked daily, who had been the only people in the room for all those years, now did not talk at all. The father was devastated. He didn't go to the Cowboy games during the season, didn't go to the Super Bowl in Pasadena. He watched the game on television. He says he was "a basket case for about a year."
Then he decided: If his son was going to be hard, then he also would be hard. "I had to think about my other children," he says. "I could not let them see that the way to control me was to shut me out. I had to raise them right. I still loved my son—I always will—but once I made my decision, everything was easier. I was all right again. It became easier and easier."
He talks a lot about his other children now. The oldest, Brandon, the stepson, is in L.A., 24 years old, "trying to figure himself out," the father says. The youngest, KeneJon, is only 13 years old but already stands 5'11". Indications are that he will be the biggest, most athletic Norton of all. The father would like a baseball career for him. Wouldn't that be something, a pro baseball player added to the line? Already, though, there are arguments about football. The son wants to play. The father wants him to hold back.
The daughter, Kenisha, is 18 years old, going to junior college and living at home. "She graduated from high school in June," he says. "Went to the prom. I was real worried about that, the things that happen at the prom. The boy who came to pick her up, a nice boy, I decided to have a talk with him. Just the two of us. I decided to talk on his level, not as an adult talking to a kid, but man-to-man. We talked a little bit, and I looked him straight in the face and said, 'Now, look, I want you to understand one thing. If you touch my daughter, I'm going to kick your butt. You might not like this idea, and you might tell your father about it, and if he has a problem, you tell him to see me, and I'll kick his butt too. Same goes for your grandfather. You touch her, and I'll kick all of your butts. Understand?"
Some of the effects of the accident still remain—the father still docs not move well on his feet, his equilibrium still off, and he sometimes slurs his words a bit if he does not concentrate—but he is still a huge man. His arms are huge. His hands are huge, with fat rings on four of his huge fingers. His face has been reworked in the broader strokes of middle age, with deep character lines that show the effects of a life lived hard.
"So I stayed up, waiting, the night of the prom," the father says. "The dance was supposed to be over at half past 12. Twelve-twenty, the doorbell rings. 'We're home, Mr. Norton.' "
Crazy as it sounds, he had another automobile accident live months ago. An older woman in a car piled into him at an intersection, sending the pickup he was driving into a spin. Luckily a chain-link fence kept him from plowing into a tree. His head was cut and his spine was twisted when he hit the fence, but he survived this crash, too.