Hank stays connected to his children by video chatting over cellphone. L.J. got his own phone this year, partly because Kie Kie got tired of him hounding her for hers. L.J. calls him up to 50 times a day, Kie Kie said, and Hank confirmed that it’s no exaggeration. The second-grader just started riding the school bus for the first time; that’s usually when he calls.
“Daddy, what is you doing? When you coming over?” Hank said, recalling how his children question him over the phone. “It’s bittersweet. I got to take care of my business.”
Hank is as much his children’s friend as their father, but he does discipline them when necessary. Along with the children’s adoration for him comes respect.
Near the end of the family’s lunch that day, an elderly man approached the table on his way out of the restaurant. Local fans sometimes recognize Hank because of his record-setting career at the University of Miami, but this man didn’t seem to make that connection.
“When I saw all the children come in, I thought, ‘Oh, no, they’ll be raising Cain,’” the man said. “But no. Keep up the good work.”
‘It was a struggle’
“Later that night, he comes calling me and he asked me what I was doing,” she recalled. “I asked him what he was doing, and he said, ‘Waiting for you to be my girlfriend.’ I was like, ‘OK?’ Just connected since that Saturday night. We moved so fast and got to know each other through that time.”
Hank’s life stabilized during that period in high school. It was difficult before then, although to hear him tell it: “I always felt like my life was good.”
One of Lisa’s six children is Leonard’s full biological sibling — Leonarda. She is 25 with an 8-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.
“It was a struggle for us,” she said. “I’m not going to say it was a good life. It was crazy. We wasn’t fortunate, and we wasn’t able to get anything we want.”
She and Hank frequently stayed with their paternal grandmother. To this day, they remind her of her lost son.
“It’s only me and Leonard that she still babies,” Leonarda said.