When Kenny was a young boy, his parents let us keep him for several weeks during the summer. A package deal, Kenny came with his sister, Shannon, an old blanket and a wealth of information. Both kids were bright-eyed, quiet and always well behaved.
Kenny's favorite TV show was the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." One day I said, "Uh, Kenny, you like that show so much, name the turtles?" He did.
If you're struggling, their names are Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello. I also learned about Splinter, the horrible Shredder and April, the television reporter.
Years later, Kenny shows me his new bicycle, some brand name I've never heard of, made from composite space-age metal, that weighs four pounds and has 46 gears, including reverse.
Kenny takes me into his room, pulls out a guitar case, opens it and asks, "You know what this is?"
"Uh, well yeah, it's a guitar."
"No, no, not just any electric guitar. It's an abracadabra man, the best electric guitar ever made."
"Well, great, Kenny, but can you play it?"
Kenny plugs his baby in, turns up the volume and plays a riff -- long, loud and wild. His fingers gnarl around the neck, pinch steel strings and slide up and down with blinding speed.
"You know that song?" he asks.
"No, I don't," feeling stupid. "Was it 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida'?"
"No, man!" He looks at me, puzzled, like I'm an alien from another planet.
"That was abracadabra. Don't tell me you never heard it!"
We stare into each other's eyes. I feel old.
Kenny's a young man now, all grown up. Our agendas are different. I've heard our life scripts are written long before our souls enter a body. The purpose and intent is to teach each other, to learn life lessons. Kenny taught me several.
Enjoy life, have fun and laugh. Experience adventure. Keep up with technology. Love music. Visit. Look into each other's eyes more often. Stay connected.
He's young, I thought. We haven't seen him for a while. There's plenty of time. Maybe we'll visit, meet his girlfriend and show her videos of Shannon and Kenny when they were young. Like the time my wife, Kathy, dressed up as Minnie Mouse and surprised them at the Tampa Airport. Befuddled passengers thought they had landed in Disney World.
Kenny serves in the Navy and survives; has a horrible car crash and survives. Now this. Why?
Every time I ponder that question, anger blowtorches my brain and a cold steel vice crushes my heart. Shredder pays another evil visit and instead of April, news media teams beam the tragedy into everyone's home.
Our nephew, Kenny Walter, was murdered, shot in the head twice, for his wallet containing $8 and for an empty camcorder box he left in his car.
I stress "our nephew" because he's related to you, too. We're all related. Violence cuts short thousands, maybe millions, of our relatives and friends early in life. I share your grief today, cry for every one of you, just as you mourned with our family.
My first request is justice. That's my public cry. Just below the civilized surface, however, my thin veneer of superego cracks and hate spews out: Revenge, the old-fashioned eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth type.
But I've got to cool it somehow, because somewhere in that pile of hate are Kenny's life lessons.
Fred Tomasello Jr., who lives in Cheektowaga, seeks justice for his nephew.