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SPLIT PERSONALITIES
Leigh Montville
January 09, 1995
When the Nortons, Ken Sr. and Ken Jr., go head-to-head, even the strongest family bonds can be broken
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January 09, 1995

Split Personalities

When the Nortons, Ken Sr. and Ken Jr., go head-to-head, even the strongest family bonds can be broken

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"You're looking good," one man said to the other as they hugged.

"I love you," the other replied.

Who said what? It all was hurried. There was not much time for anything else. The father felt as if everyone were watching, as if both he and his son "had magnets in our pockets that attracted eyeballs. All the eyeballs were on us. Everyone knew what was happening." A little conversation. Another hug. The son went on the bus. The bus went to the airport.

The father says he called a few days later, and his son's wife answered the phone. He says things are fine with her, that she understands what he calls the "lack of communication" that triggered the problem. He says she talked about the things his granddaughter was starting to do and that he was missing. She asked when he was going to see his granddaughter. He says he replied that no one had invited him. He also says he talked for a few minutes with his son, friendly enough words, and that was that. There have been other calls since, a long conversation between the father and the son on Thanksgiving. Jackie had removed a large portrait of Ken Jr. from the wall of the living room in the Laguna Niguel home because the father became too depressed when he saw it, but now the portrait is back. Jackie talks with Angela often on the phone. Who knows what will happen next?

"It all takes time," the father says at one end of California. "I know we're apart, but I know that if anything happened to him, I'd be there in a hundredth of a second. I would hope he'd do the same for me."

"It's like we're standing with our backs to each other, but we're each peeking over our shoulder," the son says at the other end of the state. "We're each watching out for the other one, making sure he's all right."

Time. The father imagines a wedding in the future. His daughter's wedding. What will that be like? How strong will the guy have to be who marries Kenisha? The guy will look at the bride's side of the aisle and see a former heavyweight champion of the world staring at him. Then he will sec an All-Pro linebacker staring. KeneJon will be fully grown by then, the largest of the lot, and who knows what he will be? Brandon, too, is a large guy. What will the poor groom think? How nervous will he be? Won't that be good for a laugh?

Time. Stubborn men just need time.

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