Darrel Crimeni with Koko, his grandson Carson’s pet cat. This will be the family’s first Christmas since Carson died. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Darrel Crimeni with Koko, his grandson Carson’s pet cat. This will be the family’s first Christmas since Carson died. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Christmas without Carson: How Langley family copes after 14-year-old’s death in park

‘I’m pretty much pretending there is no Christmas’ dad says

Normally, this would be a time for Darrel Crimeni to celebrate the holidays.

A Christmas tree would go up in his Langley home, there would be festive lights, and holiday decorations.

When he downsized, he managed to get a roomy place with enough space for large family gatherings, including a good-sized yard.

This year, the first Christmas since his grandson Carson died, the only sign of the season in his house was a small red poinsettia plant on his kitchen table.

“I didn’t put a tree up,” Darrel said. “This is it.”

He was planning to go away for “two or three days” over the holidays, possibly to a country cabin a relative had offered.

As Darrel talked with a visitor, Koko, Carson’s cat, sprawled at his feet, purring.

Koko used to cuddle up to sleep with Carson, when the teen was staying with his grandfather. It was an arrangement with his dad Aaron, a single parent who worked long hours and couldn’t drive Carson to school.

Carson would walk to classes at his school via the pathway that runs through the woods next to his grandfather’s house.

“Every night before he went to sleep, [Carson would] grab the cat,” Darrel told Black Press.

“He liked all animals. He said he’d like to be a vet.”

Now, his grandfather allows Koko to sleep by his bed.

At 14, Carson’s cat is moving slower than he used to.

“He got really skinny in the last year,” Crimeni observed.

Carson’s dad Aaron Crimeni wasn’t going to celebrate the holidays, either, and he has turned down the offer of a stay in the same cabin.

“I’m pretty much pretending there is no Christmas,” Aaron declared.

“I honestly don’t know if I will ever celebrate Christmas again.”

On Aug. 7, the night Carson died of an apparent drug overdose, disturbing video clips were broadcast on social media, showing the Langley teen barely able to stand or speak at the Walnut Grove skate park, while people can be heard laughing.

READ MORE: Carson: A Langley teen’s death on social media

READ MORE: Carson Crimeni laid to rest

Months after he downloaded the clips to his phone, Darrel finally watched them, a few weeks ago.

He recalls weeping at the sight, and will never forget the voice he heard as the video of Carson, obviously sick and in distress, played.

“You can hear someone laughing, saying ‘he’s 15 caps in,” Darrel said.

“It’s hard to watch.”

Aaron hasn’t been able to bring himself to watch the videos, but expects he will have to, once people are charged and the case goes to trial.

He’s hoping the police investigation will lead to charges early in the new year.

Aaron believes there are witnesses who haven’t spoken to police yet, and he urged them to come forward.

“My fear is that everybody gets on with their life and nothing changes,” Aaron said.

READ MORE: A wave of grief and outrage over death of teen in Langley park

Carson’s story has resonated around the world, with contributions to the family coming from as far away as Japan.

There have been news stories in out-of-the way places, like a small village in Romania, where Darrel’s brother Adrian, there on business, called him to ask about a report the skate park might be named after Carson.

Darrell supports the naming initiative, launched by a local parent, because he believes it might prevent another death like Carson’s.

“I would like to see them rename the park as an awareness campaign,” Darrell said.

“I think it would help. If you can get kids talking to parents, kid [will] hesitate.”

Darrell took a photo of the graffiti someone painted on the skateboard of Carson’s name and framed it. It hangs on the wall of his kitchen.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Grandfather speaks out about teen who died after overdosing in Langley park

He has begun to give away some of Carson’s possession, the ones that don’t have an emotional connection attached.

One young mom got his set of Carson’s golf clubs for her child, and a young player got Carson’s hockey gear, purchased when he outgrew his skates and pads and barely used.

Darrel said there are plans in the works for a memorial bench near the soccer field where he used to play, to hand his hockey jersey at the sportsplex rinks where Carson played, and as company has told Crimeni they are considering sponsoring players in Carson’s name.

“I want to do something for pink shirt day (in February) , for anti-bullying, maybe print up pink shirts,” Darrel said.

They will all read “play and be kind,” the message that will also be on the bench and the hockey jersey display.

READ MORE: No negligence in RCMP actions in Carson Crimeni death: Watchdog

READ MORE: Carson Crimeni autopsy found no obvious cause of death, father says



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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