Normally, this would be a time for Darrel Crimeni to celebrate Christmas.
A tree would go up in his Walnut Grove 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 facing the tall stand of trees in the park between his house and Walnut Grove Secondary.
This year, the first Christmas since his grandson Carson died, the only sign of Christmas in his house is 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 the Langley Advance Times.
“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, Koko is moving slower than he used to.
“He got really skinny in the last year,” Crimeni observed.
Carson’s dad Aaron Crimeni doesn’t plan 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 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.
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.
“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.
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.