Friday, August 2, 2013
Two Wednesdays ago, my sister called to tell me that my childhood friend, Chris Premo, had been involved in a bad accident on a paving site. He was at Albany Med, might not make it. Life changes on a dime. So began a week of late nights at the ICU, donuts for dinner, doctors putting friends and family on a rollercoaster of hope then failure then hope again. But there would be no miracle, no divine intervention. It ended on Monday July 29th. After a tearful apology by Chris’s surgeon--for some injuries cannot be fixed by human hands alone--those who knew Chris best were invited to gather by his bedside. He left life at 34 years, six weeks, and several hours old. Chris Premo was gone. Even as I type it now, a week later, I can’t believe it.
One of Chris's favorite songs: "I believe in a thing called love" by The Darkness. He'd dance like a damn fool to that one.
Life never happens how we think it will. Someone must go first, that’s simple physics, and for us, it was Chris. Growing up, my next-door neighbor and close friend was a giant, even though he was the shortest of the bunch. He made short so cool I wanted to be short. He made being Chris Premo cool. We all wanted to be Chris. Everything about CP was epic, the one whose light shined a little brighter than the rest. He was Ponyboy Curtis, Jim Morrison, James Dean. When he was sixteen, he drove a Geo Metro wagon with teardrop tint on the windows. It was the coolest car ever. Why? Because it was Chris’s car. And as long as I was with Chris, in that car while he worked the wheel, I too would be cool.
Chris owned every type of vehicle, land & water. He could drive anything.
As I returned home this week for the burial, I quickly learned about the other Chris Premo, the man that my childhood friend had become. While the bulk of my "Chris memories" involve drinking parties and crazy vacations in our early twenties, I had since drifted down the road, while Chris married his high-school sweetheart, started a beautiful family that boasted two gorgeous children, in a brand-new house he literally built with his bare hands. The house stands right behind his father’s house, and I was ashamed to face the fact that I had never been inside it before this week. Chris was happy living where we were raised, I wasn’t, and because of that our connection lessened. That’s life. But I was given a crash course on the 5’4” giant who grew to be a great father and hardworking perfectionist. The other Chris. The new Chris. The Chris I’ll never know in the flesh.
Chris was a great wrestler in high school.
I’m 33. There’s nothing unordinary about a man my age having to bury one of his childhood buds. That’s how it goes. But I’m not sure most such experiences are like mine. A few days after Chris’s death, his shocking downfall made the newspapers, was featured in YNN’s Top Stories. A fund was started for his wife and two children. It has grossed thirty-five thousand in two days, and counting. I knew people were passionate about Chris, crushed by this cruel turn of events. But I had no clue how huge it was until his wake at the Bryce Home on Pawling Ave this past Thursday. I had the honor to sit fifteen feet from my old pal’s open casket, as five thousand people paid final respects. But they weren't looking at Chris. Chris was gone. Chris was amazing blue eyes, a boundless smile, dimples to die for. Chris was beautiful. But all night the line bulged around two street corners, and carried a three-hour wait in the pouring rain. Nobody cared. Nobody was leaving. This was Chris Premo. His wife stood in three-inch heels for eight hours, greeted every last mourner without break or complaint. That’s love.
Chris always wore t-shirts and blue jeans with the bottoms cut off.
Friday morning: My black suit and a funeral. Even as I followed the procession up the winding roads of St. Agnes, I couldn’t believe we were a matter of minutes from lowering Chris Premo into the ground. In 2000, when my uncle Dave died, I was with Chris, and he made me pray for Dave’s soul. I loved Chris for that. When my father died, Chris was by my side, attending his funeral which meant going late to his first day on a new job. We all told Chris to miss the funeral, it was all right, but he'd hear none of it. Some things are bigger than first days and new jobs. When my wife was diagnosed in April, Chris phoned immediately. When I didn’t answer, he called back. Nobody else I grew up with called. Just Chris. And now he’s gone, and all I can do is write some dumb words. I’m no Chris Premo. He kicked my ass in life. I have no doubt in death too.
Chris was a great pool player.
Chris was the rock star. But I get to live. I won’t be the first. That’s Chris. And as I rested my rose atop his chrome-colored coffin, I knew it was time for me to return to my life. There’s no place for me on my childhood street now, for my visa was a temporary one. I chose to leave, to start a new life, and now it’s time to resume that plan. I gave a final round of hugs to the players that populated my first eighteen years, then walked off with my wife, the woman who will centerpiece my remaining ones. Nothing matters now but her. Chris Premo taught me that. Before going, I turned back once more, and there sat Chris’s coffin, covered in flowers, and I knew the party was over. And driving home to Clifton Park with my wife, back to our dogs and modest house, a song came on the radio that went, “Take that look of worry, mine’s an ordinary life.” The song spoke to me. I'm not the rock star. Chris was the rock star.
Chris thought Meet the Fockers was a masterpiece.
Chris's best friend Mike texted me a video that showed a series of fires burning around the lake in my old neighborhood, the lake Chris called home all his life. The fires burned in tribute. Mike said he was with 200 people at his fire site, saying goodbye to Chris. I told him to look around at that huge group of lake-dwellers, for somewhere there was the next Chris, and the next Mike, and the next me. They were there. Where else would they be on this night? I told Mike he wasn't saying goodbye to Chris. He was passing the torch. The Chris Premo Era is over. And tomorrow's the new.
I once saw Chris Premo wrestle a 230lb ball of muscle to the ground.
I once saw Chris Premo jump into a gorge from a rock 40ft above the water.
I once saw Chris Premo hold a wheelie on his motorcycle for half a mile while riding with Northway traffic.
Everybody has a hundred Chris Premo stories. No story can fully capture him. No story can do him justice. Trying to describe Chris is like trying to describe music. You either experienced him or you didn't.
Chris Premo was invincible
Chris Premo was magic
Chris always told me I was smart. He believed in me when no one else did.
Chris’s final text message to me (July 19, 2013, ten days before his death): Everything is good. Alyssas good (Chris's wife). The kids are good. Youll c them soon. Lynda (my wife) will be good 2. Dont worry. Theres still hope in this crazy world.
Read More: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/troyrecord/obituary.aspx?n=christopher-m-premo&pid=166134596&fhid=4843
Read More: http://www.gofundme.com/3rukgg
Read More: http://troyrecord.com/articles/2013/07/31/news/doc51f8acb3543b5697480856.txt