Chapter 23

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Joseph was too predictable. The man already owns three different Rolls, but he insisted on getting this year's model as well. Whatever to make him happy, I guess. We pulled up to a favorite restaurant of his, got in and ordered our food. I don't talk to Joseph much, but when I do, boy, was it a headache.


"I'm proud of you, son," Joseph smiled at me.


"Are you?" I looked back at him.


"What do you mean? Of course, I am! You've done so many big things and it's only February. While I have to admit, it hurt me all those years ago when you let me go as your manager, it's also good to know you're doing well on your own. Look at you. You and Shayla are about to hit the ten-year mark in your marriage. She's doing big things just like you. You're able to buy your father a brand-new vehicle!" I sighed. "I'm proud of you!"


"Are you proud of me because of what I've accomplished or because I'm able to buy you material things?"


He looked taken aback, "excuse me?"


"Joseph, no disrespect, but you sent me that heartfelt letter telling me how you felt about me talking about you... You didn't acknowledge how I told the world how I felt during those times. You just focused on you... And throughout everything you said in that letter, you never once apologized to me."


"Apologize?" he looked at me as if I had lost my mind. "To you? For what?" I rolled my eyes. Here we go. "You want me to apologize to you for taking you out of the hood? You want me to apologize for giving you a good life? You want me to apologize for making you who you are today?" he tapped his fingers on the table. "Yeah, right. I'm going to save that imaginary apology that you want so bad. Do you want me to apologize to Shayla too? Because she has the husband she has today because of me?"


I scoffed, "what?" I shook my head, "you're not listening."


He relaxed into his seat, "what am I supposed to be listening to Michael?"


"Nothing. Never mind."


"No, tell me, so we can address this so-called problem you have with me today."


"Joseph, I-" I paused to carefully choose my words. "I'm grateful. I'm appreciative of everything I have because of the sacrifices you and my mother made. I wouldn't want my life to be any different. But..." I studied his face as his eyes darted back and forth between each of my own eyes to possibly find what I was going to say. "I...never had a childhood because of that."


"Bullshit, Michael," he practically spat.


I continued despite his ignorant outburst, "I wouldn't expect you to understand that just as I'm sure the rest of the world didn't understand it. When I look at my childhood in comparison to my wife's-"


"Didn't I teach you never to compare yourself to anyone?" he reminded me.


"I'm just giving you an example. At nine, Shayla was playing with the neighborhood kids her age and was in bed at a certain time to get to school. At nine, you had me performing shows in strip clubs where I saw things a nine-year-old should never see. Do you see where I'm going with this?" I begged the question. "I've been working my whole life. Shoot, at ten years old I was clocking in. Her childhood, your childhood, mom's childhood, everyone's childhood was so different from mine. I don't know what it's like to be normal... to not be famous... I-" I paused. "I barely even know you."


Joseph sucked his teeth, "you know me, boy. Stop overexaggerating. You know when Katherine and I heard you say that on television, I called you out on it. You know me. You've known me your whole life. I was never a deadbeat."


I sighed, "that's not what I meant."


"Then tell me what you meant."


"I know Mother far more than I'll ever know you. And when my wife and I decided to have children, they'll know me more than I've ever known you."


"That's not explaining what you mean."


"I don't have a relationship with you, Joseph. You never allowed me to. Even after I fired you, it was all business with you, when all I wanted was my father. I've only known you as Joseph, my manager. Never Joseph, my father. Do you know how it made me feel to call my father by his first name when everyone else got to call their father, 'dad?'"


"What do I look like letting some little boy call me, 'daddy?'" he looked at me in disgust, as if the thought repulsed him.


"Is that the same excuse you have for my sister's?"


He opened his mouth to speak. Closed it. Smiled to himself and opened his mouth to speak again, "you claim you don't know me. You tell me you didn't have a normal childhood. You want me to apologize... Michael, what do you telling me all this solve when you're the greatest entertainer in the world because of me?" Joseph is and always has been a confusing person. It's like no matter how hard I try, and trust me, I've tried, I'll never be able to have a relationship with him. I'll never be able to have a heartfelt conversation with him without his ego or his pride in the way. "Michael, you know what? I think you owe me an apology. For the simple fact that you thought it okay to criticize me for the way I chose to raise you. Had I not raised you the way I did, had I not made the sacrifices I did, had you not sacrificed your childhood, we wouldn't be music's first family."


In an effort to stop his prideful, degrading, egotistical rant, I simply said, "you're right. I'm sorry."


VII


I've spent money not only on buying my father a brand-new car but also to gift Oprah a diamond necklace that was only about two-hundred-fifty thousand. She was kind enough not only to interview with me but also to tell the world that I was the least weird man she ever knew. That really meant something to me to hear that from someone of her caliber. After many interviews I've given in the past, most interviewers were kind to me after we conducted the interview, but a couple of days later, they'd hop right back onto the tabloid train. Not Oprah though. She was a woman of class and honesty prior to my choosing to interview with her, during and even a couple of days after our interview. It was only right for me to give her something. Maybe I could consider her a friend in the near future. Now after the interview, spending time with my nieces and nephews, the Chandlers and Joseph, it's time for me to see my wife for Valentine's Day. Since she couldn't come back to California, I'm going to her.


"Did you let Remelia know we're here?" I asked Bill. We landed in Louisville, Kentucky just in time for Shayla's book signing to be just about done. She's going to be so excited to see me.


"I just paged her. She hasn't called me yet," he looked down at his mobile phone. I hope Bill makes sure to tell her it's a surprise and not to spoil it for Shayla. Interestingly enough, her book signing was held in a small mom and pop bookstore. The store was so crowded, we couldn't go in if we wanted to. "She's calling," he told me as he answered his phone. "Remelia, it's-" he stopped and rolled his eyes in frustration. "Yeah, yeah, Remi, I know. Hey, is Shayla's book signing over with?" She hates when we call her by her government name. Bill didn't start doing it until I did though, otherwise, he wouldn't get in trouble with her as much. "Okay, well, I have a surprise for her, so make sure she comes out the back door when she leaves... No, no, just please make sure she comes out the back door. It's important. Thank you, Ms. Remi," he hung up. "She should be coming out shortly." I reached into the car to obtain the gift I had searched high and low to find Shayla. It meant a lot for me to purchase it for her although Bill thought it was pointless. He may know my wife, but he doesn't know my wife as I do of course. "We're really doing this?" he asked me for the final time.


"Can't go back now, Bill. We've made it this far. Come on, put on a happy face. Shayla hasn't seen you in a couple of weeks." Just as I said that Remelia pushed the door open with Shayla in tow, covering her eyes. "Hey, Remelia," I waved.


"It's Rem-"


"Michael?" Shayla uncovered her eyes and squealed as she ran over to me. "And you bought me a pickle?!" she kissed my lips and cheek.


"Told you she'd like the pickle," I told Bill.


"Did you really come all this way to show up to my book signing?" she smiled. "Wait! Were you in there the entire time?"


"Baby, it's Valentine's Day. Did you forget?" She gasped and pressed her lips together. I sighed, "you forgot..."


"I've been so busy with the book signings and everything, babe. You know I didn't forget on purpose."


"I'm glad I actually decided to come and see you today. Otherwise, even if you hadn't told me, you probably wouldn't have made it back home... Anyway, what hotel are you staying at?"


"Remi and I already packed my things in the car. We're actually heading to Cincinnati."


"Now?"


"Yeah, I wanted to spend some time with my family for a little bit... Unless you had other plans."


"I do... I actually planned for an evening here. I promise we'll be in Cincinnati in time to be with your family and go to your book signing," I took her hands in mine.


"Promise?" she asked.


"Promise. Bill, can you take us back to the hotel?" I walked over to the rental.


"Um, and what am I supposed to do with all your belongings, Shayla?" Remelia asked. "You want me to drive to Cincinnati by myself?"


"Do you want to stay here for another night?" Shayla asked her.


"With you love birds? Forget it," she waved off the thought. "I guess I'll just meet you in Cincinnati, huh? You'll be there in time for your book signing downtown?"


"Yes," Shayla assured her.


"We're keeping a tight schedule here, Michael. Don't make Shayla late," Remelia warned.


"Bye, Remelia," I waved.


She huffed, "it's- You know what? Whatever," she got in her car and drove off. There's no way I'll get Shayla to her book signing late. Her dad would kill me honestly.


"So, what have you got planned?" Shayla cuddled up to me in the backseat.


"Mmm," I kissed her forehead. "Some dinner, some dessert, some Shayla..."


"See, some Shayla is all you really came for," she rolled her eyes playfully.


"What? Never..." I waved off the thought.


"Oh, yeah? Then what else did you come for?" she leaned in toward my ear. "I've missed you too."


"Speed it up, Bill!"

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