What did you do this week? Go to work? See friends? It was pay day for some people so maybe pay some bills or treat the family to a take away? I did all of that. You know what else I did this week….
I had to tell my 22-year-old son that his childhood friend had been murdered.
I think I am still in a bit of shock over it all to be fair. Not just the death Of Glendon…That is the boys name by the way…. but we will come back to that…The fact that I had to look in my sons face and tell him that he had been killed.
I thought that we had gotten passed that. Now the boys are older. Now we live so far away from London. I kind of …. forgot for a hot second who we are and where we come from. Forgot is the wrong word. Complacent.
On Thursday I was downstairs and 2 of my children upstairs, it was about 7:30 pm and I was just on my phone doing what ever before I went up and read to my 9-year-old daughter. Then a message appeared on my phone from someone way back. Someone I have not spoken to in a long time and it simply said…
“B… You don’t know do you?”
The message took me by surprise. Like, I looked at my phone and made that face you do when people say something confusing. So, I typed back…
“Know what Blud?”
As I started typing two messages came back. One was a link to a news report and then the words…
“I’m sorry….We thought you knew”
I opened up the link to the news report and because my mind was buzzing with “What is going on” I just kind of skimmed read the post…. Murdered in a youth club….23-year-old man…. stabbed to death. I scrolled up and down and was still unsure why this one was being sent to me.
I didn’t read a name or anything, just thought that they had sent it because how close it was to my old house. And then I scrolled back up to the top. And then the picture hit me. Just like that. I had not seen that picture before and I had not seen that smile in a long time. I was standing when I was doing all of the above…and now I slowly sat on the sofa. I didn’t read the report. I just sat and looked at him. Glendon Spence. Murdered.
I was sort of lost in the moment. Thinking about myself. Read the report. How he had been murdered by two boys and I do mean boys. 17 years of age. A million memories flashed in my mind. I felt sick…like I was going to be sick. Then it hit me. This boy staring at me from the screen, this boy who I had known from 7 years of age. His friend was sitting upstairs in my house. The person who had kicked ball with him a thousand times. The person who performed in the school play as gangster rats. The boy who Glendon would cuss for not saving a goal. His childhood friend was sitting in a bedroom right above me.
I felt sick. Like…my belly hurt, and I had water in my mouth. What was I going to say? So, I just sort of stood up and walked up the stars. My phone buzzed in my hand and I looked down briefly and it was massage from a different number saying, “Have you seen the News !!”. I run up the stairs…I didn’t want my son to just see this pop up on his phone. I kind of ran to his room and the stopped outside his door and composed myself.
I walked in his room and my son was laying on his bed (On his phone as always) and I was like “You alright” He looked up from his phone and just looked at me, hand behind his head. He didn’t speak. It was strange for me to just be standing they’re in his room asking if he was ok. I had this kind of story planned out as I had walked up the stairs of how to say it to him…all gone so I said…
“Glendon has been murdered. I’m sorry”.
My son, he is not dramatic in any way. He hides his emotions and it is a running joke with everyone that he rarely shows his emotions.
For a second, he looked so young. His eyes went wide, and his face went pail and he said “What”. And then “What” again with a brake in his voice. I said nothing and just gave him my phone. There was just silence as he read and then a little voice called out “Who’s Glendon”. I had forgot my 9-year-old daughter was in the next room. It was like a crash back into reality. As I left Charlie reading, I went in and explained that her brothers’ friend had died. She asked how. I said he was killed. She said, “How old is he” I said 23 and she said, “Why didn’t they just leave him alone”. I said nothing. She said, “Is Charlie sad?”. She looked at me with her big blue eyes. This child has never been exposed to anything like this. Not like her brothers. But she looked wise beyond her years when she said, “Why is Charlie not speaking?”.
I went back into the room and my son had done what he always does…he had composed himself and was calm. He was staring at the screen. I took my phone and sat on the end of his bed. In silence. Then a rush of emotions came over me. I am not sure what I said but I kind of said “It could have been you”. I don’t do hugs. I don’t like being touched. My son went to comfort me, and I just shock my head. And he knew that like him I just needed to be left.
I went up into the loft and grabbed a photo album that I made for my son on the last day of primary school. In that book are pictures of my son and his mates. Of my son and Glendon. I got it down and opened the page to this picture.
That’s my son and Glendon. This was taken on the last day of primary school.
When my son was about 8, he started getting bullied because kids said he was fat (He did enjoy his nans cooking). Glendon, who was wicked at football. Wait……was…that’s made me sad.
Ok…. Glendon was so good at football…not as good as he said but he was good lol. He saw that my son was getting cussed, so he told him to go in goal when they played football. The old “Put the fat kid in goal” jokes were said by the kids and Glendon would join in. Glendon would also be the one cheering when my son saved a goal. Once My son slipped and winded himself and started to cry. All the kids sort of laughed and started cussing. Glendon also laughed and then said, “allow it” and helped my son.
I worked in the primary school and was asked to mentor Glendon. He drove me mad. This kid was on a constant hype. It was like having 3 kids instead of 2. I used to teach street dancing and he was always the first to arrive. He would come and show me his new dance moves in the playground. He would come and knock for my sons. My oldest son would sometimes stay in, but my younger son would go off with him.
My mum adored Glendon. He would charm her to get food. One day I came home and Glendon was sitting eating at the table. My son was in his room. As I come in, I could hear Glendon moaning that the fish needed to be seasoned more. My mum was just laughing. I said “Glendon, they are frozen fish in batter…shut up about seasoning” but that was Glendon…blunt and rude….
I took them all to see the Simpsons movie when it came out. He offered to pay for my popcorn when we got there …he was about 10 and it made me smile. If you know the Simpsons movie you will know there is a bit when Bart skateboards naked through some bushes and for a second, he does it and the bush moves, and you see Bart’s Willy. Well…I didn’t know that was going to happen and neither did the kids…so I am in a packed cinema and suddenly that happens. Glendon spits all his popcorn out (We were front row thank God) and starts cracking up. I mean howling with laughter. My middle son started laughing as well. The two of them with their dirty laughs. My oldest son was just oblivious to what they were laughing at. Their laughing was infectious and people around us started laughing.
My son went from being a really really bad goalie (he won an award for not saving a single goal in the seasons once…sorry Char) to being a bad boy goalie. Glendon went from scoring goals past my son (They were on opposite teams) and laughing in his face to being unable to get a goal past him. The frustration from him used to crack me up. Once my son saved a penalty that Glendon was taking. It was their last year of the league, they had been playing together for ages at this point. Char saved the goal and instead of going mad he went up and sort of patted him and said, “Well done Char”.
I have the video of it in the loft. I have just realised that I am crying now as I write this.
I’m going to stop now, telling you my memories of Glendon. Maybe I will tell you about it another time. I just want to give you a flavour of what he meant to me.
I gave the book I had out of the loft to my son and he looked through the photos and then I left him alone with his thoughts. When I went to bed an everyone was quiet, I laid in bed and I cried for quite some time. I cried because I loved that kid. I cried because I had not stayed in contact with him, because I wanted to leave London behind me. I cried because I know that this will have an impact on my son. I mainly cried because that could have been either of my sons if we had not moved.
The next day was a horrid day at work and I didn’t really have time to think about it. A safeguarding issue meant that from 9 am until 5:45 pm (My work partner Sharon can vouch for this) we were locked into a case the whole day. No time to sit and think. Thank God.
When work was over, I came home. Me and my son ordered takeaway and we sat for a long time speaking about what had happed. My son said that it was not a shock. We know where we are from and we know what can happen. He said it was more like…the reality…that someone his age had been killed like that. Like…. we didn’t think we would be affected through gang violence directly anymore. He also acknowledges that it was hard for me to have to tell him what had happed. And we made peace with the situation. My son said that he had spent the day almost silent at uni, as almost a nod of respect for his child hood friend.
Me…Apart from my sons and on here…with distance…I don’t want to talk about it. I can type it up like this but right now….and this is unusual for me…I don’t want to speak about it. Its hurts me and I just need to deal with it.
There is also guilt…guilt that I thought I had put to bed a while ago but obviously not.
The guilt that I raised my son in the ghetto, and he must deal with this kind of stuff in such an intense way and for most of his life. The impact of gangs has been part of my son’s life for ever in one way or another. But I though we had moved away from it. I thought them days were over. But they will never be over because that is where we come from and that’s who they were. Its who I am. And my sons have never had a choice in it. Born and raised in SW London. And exposing him to that hurts me. Both my sons.
I’m not saying Glendon was or was not involved with Gangs. I know nothing of why he was killed. What I do know is that he never caused me or mine any harm and was a big part of my family’s life.
I acknowledge also that the family of the two boys that murdered Glendon have now also lost their sons and many people have been affected. My own son…he does not like it that I said that. That I feel for the families of the perpetrators. I will work on that, because the only way forward is to acknowledge it. But not right now , not for my son.
Glendon was murdered in a youth club in front of children, they are saying in the press that the children are so badly affected by what they saw they will need counselling. So many people affected. A man named David Marriott who runs a football club at the youth club is trying to support the children…we all need to get behind him and support this. Mr Marriott wrote a letter to Lambeth Council leader Jack Hopkins and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan demanding immediate access to counselling and therapy. Read about it Here
Glendon will not be just another number. His death will not just be another one in the list.
I want you to know his name. I want you to remember his name. I want you to say his name out loud right now. Where ever you are…who cares.
Say it again
While there is breath in my body, I will not let him be forgotten. He will never go to uni, have kids, get married. Everything my son who is the same age as Glendon…. everything he does will be a reminder of all the things that Glendon will never do. No one deserves what happened to him. When will this stop?
This week I had to tell my son his friend had been murdered. And when I get my head straight I will be making sure that people start to understand the impact this is having once and for all. But for now…I will sip my Bacardi and Coke and give a silent nod to the boy who made me smile.
Rest in peace Glendon x