After losing his dad at a young age and moving away from home, Knightdale teenager Chris Palmieri said he learned quickly how to adjust
Q: You live in Knightdale but you are not an eastern Wake native, correct?
A: “I was born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia. I had just turned 13 when we moved down here.”
Q: What brought you down here?
A: “My mom had lost her job, and we then lost our home. We moved down here to be with my grandparents – my mom’s parents. She also had a sister who lived in Knightdale.”
Q: For such a young man, you have had to deal with quite a bit of loss.
A: “When I was about to turn 3, my dad passed away from a brain tumor.”
Q: How have you coped with his absence in your life?
A: “Since I was so young when he passed away, the one thing I feel most is not that I knew him or that I have a lot of memories of him, it is that I missed the chance to get to know him. I missed out on having that male figure in my life. I am an only child so I didn’t have an older brother, and there just weren’t a lot of older males for me to ask questions of. I miss not having the opportunity to ask, ‘Hey dad, what does this mean?’ Stuff like that.”
Q: What advice would you give kids who have experienced a loss like that?
A: “When I was little, like 6 or 7, I would send letters to heaven. I would write a letter to my dad and then tie it to a balloon and send it to him.”
Q: What would your letters say?
A: “I would just update him on what is going on in my life. Tell him that I miss him. I haven’t done that in a while but recently, my family did release one of those lanterns. I have friends my age who have experienced something similar to what I have. It is not like we knew that about each other before I got to know them – it just sort of worked out like that. It was like we gravitated to each other. If I could give advice to someone who loses a parent, I would say you need to reach out to people who are in the same situation. There will be days that something bothers you – you will be asking ‘Where are you?’ and ‘Why did this happen?’ I would say to surround yourself with people who support you. Don’t isolate yourself.”
Q: A couple of years ago, you took a rather interesting trip. What was that like?
A: “I went with a church group to the Ukraine. We were there to help build a summer camp.”
Q: With the fighting between Ukraine and Russia that is heard about frequently in the news, I bet your thoughts return often to your visit.
A: “We could see it beginning to happen when we were over there. We could see the people protesting. The mayor of Kiev, which is the capital, was arrested while we were there. It made us a little nervous. We could not talk about openly about why we were there. We were told if anyone asked us what we were doing, we were told to say we were tourists.”
Q: What other memories about the area stand out to you?
A: “I remember the market. It was very open. If you want sugar here, you just go in a store and buy a bag of sugar. There, you go to the market and there is this big open box of sugar and you just scoop out what you want. Also, where we were staying, nothing really happens before 10. People sleep late. And they stay up late. And when people drive, they speed like crazy. Here, if there are two lanes, you stay in your lane unless you are passing someone. There, you can get in the other lane and just speed down the road if you want, as long as there is nothing coming. I do remember that the food was delicious.”
Q: What was your job with your mission group?
A: “I helped to dig trenches for water and sewer lines. It was hard work. The Ukrainian mud is different. It is heavier. It doesn’t dry. It rained a lot while we were there and it was like the soil never dried out and it was like it held moisture forever. I also didn’t sleep the best while we were there. There was no air conditioning. And it was really hot and the dude in my room snored (laughing).”
Q: You are about to graduate. You are the student body president for your school’s Student Council and a member of the National Honor Society. Do you feel like you have matured a lot since your freshman year? What advice would you give to someone entering high school?
A: “I have matured a lot. I am so different than the freshman version of me. Many high school students are lazy and I think that comes from a lack of parental involvement or from youth rebellion. When it comes to giving advice, I believe the best love is tough love. You need to tell it like you see it. A lot of freshmen think that the world revolves around them – they just need to get over that. Some of them just need to stop goofing off, get their act together, and realize high school is important.
Correspondent Dena Coward