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Chris Possessky


In Memorium: Philip P. Possessky, September 29, 1929 - June 30, 2005

As an author without publication, I originally established this site to keep friends and family updated on my writing progess, my search for an agent and my status in various contests.  I also posted samples of my writing: some short stories and a novel excerpt.  Unfortunately, fate decided that my life should take another course.  I continued to write occasionally, but someone more important was at the forefront of my daily living - my Dad.  In October 2004, my Dad was undergoing an annual checkup and his doctor spotted a sizeable shadow on the chest x-ray.  In January 2005, my Dad had surgery to remove a tumor the size of a baseball from his right lung.  Along with the tumor came his lung.

Initially, my Dad’s recovery was encouraging, his prognosis was positive. Within weeks he was home and ventured out on his own, driving his car on short errands. That was short-lived. After his condition deteriorated, my Dad was back in the hospital. He would never spend another night at home. Once discharged, he was released to a rehabilitation facility. When the first round failed, with woeful care and little attention to his needs, he went to another. In May we set goals and targets, we listed exercises to get his remaining lung and his legs strong enough to carry him without assistance. The first ten days were the best. My Dad exceeded his goals, his drive and passion were irresistible. But his body had enough and he fell into a slow spiral downward. The body that carried him through cardiac arrest, the body that withstood severe internal bleeding, the body that ran like the Energizer Bunny for over 75 years, was finally giving out. 

On June 30, 2005, shortly after nine o’clock at night, my Dad passed away. My brother Phil and my oldest sister Cindy were with him. He passed quietly, without pain, after fighting a valiant battle against cancer. 

What does this have to do with my writing? My Dad was my staunchest ally, my greatest supporter. He let me fly when I talked of law school in California, he gave me doctor references when I told him I was tired of practicing law and wanted to apply to medical school, he sat and listened as I described the stories that were in my head and had to put on paper. He was not my inspiration, but when inspiration struck me, he fed it and made it grow. I am not lost without my Dad, but my maps on this journey of life are outdated and some parts are torn or missing and I have no one to supply the updates or missing pieces. I mourn the loss – sometimes telling my wife about my bad day, sometimes in silent tears, sometimes alone. My writing continues in fits and starts, but I do not have the drive I once had. 

Below are two pieces I wrote shortly after my Dad’s death. The first one is self-explanatory, the second is the conclusion of the eulogy I gave at my Dad’s funeral. 

Final Moments with My Dad, and Forever
By Chris Possessky

I visited my Dad on the morning of June 30, 2005, the day he died.  The hospital room was stereotypically sterile, the air was cool and he was covered in white blankets up to his chest.  Sunlight, filtered by the white haze of the sky, lit the room.  The IV tubes delivering medicine ran down to his arm, the ends concealed beneath the blankets, the tube with oxygen for his remaining lung was wrapped behind his ears and rested underneath his nose.  Two days' of beard growth, colored white and gray, spotted his chin and cheeks.  The band of hair the wrapped behind his head from temple to temple was gray and thin.  His eyes were droopy, and when he spoke his words slow and deliberate.  But there was color in his skin and life in his body.  He pressed on, doing only what he knew, trying to hold on.  He slept for most of the two hours I was with him.  Awakening and responding to questions by doctors and nurses.  I sat and watched his chest rise and fall with each breathe, 'still strong, still going,' I thought.  I tried to write, penning a couple more paragraphs for one of my short stories.  But I suffered interludes of melancholy, bouts of weeping, streams of tears.  I knew his time was short, but not how short.  Before I left, I woke him.  I took his right hand in mine and squeezed.  He squeezed back.  His handshake grip was no longer the firm, crushing grip I had known, but it still let me know he was not giving up.  He opened his eyelids, flapping them twice to get them wide, revealing his dull eyes.

I smiled and said in a whispered, scratchy voice, "Dad," I hesitated, then again, "Dad."

He turned up the corners of his mouth.  He was still lucid.  He knew it was me.

"Dad, I'll see you tomorrow."

In our last exchange of words on this planet, he replied, in a voice tired from the treatments, tired from the therapies and tired from life itself.

"Oh.  Alright, babe."

The next time I saw his body, at 10:05 that night, it was cold and devoid of life, the skin had lost its color and was pale grayish, white.  I wasn't saddened by the sight.  I knew he was no longer there, the body, the vessel of his soul, had shed its cargo.  Maybe in my mind, when I left him that morning, I recognized the end as near, that my optimism to see him the next day was a realization that I would not see him alive again, that our exchange of words were metaphor, and that tomorrow is heaven.

Eulogy for an Umpire
By Chris Possessky

As the de facto eulogist at my father's funeral, I struggled with the words I would say to convey to the world the essence of my Dad.  I wanted to be concise, yet expand enough on my Dad's life to give everyone a full flavor of the man.  The more I thought about him, the more I remembered and most of the eulogy was written.  I just needed a fitting ending to conclude the story of the man who loved baseball almost as much as he loved his children and grandchildren.

The Sunday before we laid him to rest, I was with my six-year old son, Tristan.  Without warning, he asked me if Grandpa’s train had arrived in heaven yet.  I immediately turned away as my eyes welled and my throat closed up.  After painfully swallowing and dabbing my cheeks to clear the tears that fell, I turned and answered briefly with a broken and whispered voice, “I’m sure he’s there by now, kiddo.”

Sometimes the death of a loved one raises the question about heaven and the existence of God, we wonder whether this is it, that we simply live in this corporeal world and die, or whether there is a place in eternity for our souls.

Any doubt in my mind was erased at that moment.  In my son’s question there was certainty.  Of course his Grandpa was on his way to heaven, it was just a matter of when he was going to get there.  Knowing my Dad, and his propensity for failing to arrive at the appointed time, he probably left a message for St. Peter that he’d be at the gates in about an hour, but after stopping to get the newspaper and gabbing with some folks along the way, it was more like three hours.

In fact, he arrived at the Pearly Gates and what he saw surprised him.  The gates reached high into the heavenly sky, taller than any man-made structure.  And they weren’t pearly at all, they were the black of iron.  On each side stretched a red brick wall almost as tall as the gates and as far as the eye could see.  Inside the gates was a row of turnstiles.  My Dad approached and St. Peter asked him for his ticket.  My Dad had none.

“Well,” St. Peter said, “you can’t get in without a ticket.”

My Dad was a bit perplexed, but he persisted.  He explained to St. Peter that when he got on the train to heaven, nobody asked him for a ticket, and the train’s only stop was right in front of the Pearly Gates, so it’s not as though he got off at the wrong station.

“Well, then, what’s you’re name?” queried St. Peter.  “I'll see if you’re on the list.”

My Dad complied and after a few minutes St. Peter spoke again.

“Oh, I see the problem, you’re at the wrong gate.  Umpires are down there.”

St. Peter saw the angst in my Dad’s face and instantly allayed his fears.

“No, no, no,” he said. “I don’t mean down there,” as he pointed downward, “I mean down there, to your right.”  And St. Peter pointed to an almost indiscernible smaller entrance.  Also, by the way, known as the Pearly Gates.  “Players, coaches and umpires have their own special entrance.”

My Dad entered and there he saw baseball fields stretched out to the horizon.  The grass was thick and green, the sandy brown infields were perfectly shaped diamonds,surface raked smooth, and the sky was a clear, pale blue.  Playing on the fields in front of my Dad were all the great baseball players that passed before him.  Roberto Clemente was shagging fly balls with Joe Dimaggio.  Bob Feller and Cy Young were talking on the mound where Cy Young was pitching batting practice to Lou Gehrig.  Jackie Robinson was in the on-deck circle talking to Thurman Munson.  As Cy Young went into his wind up, my Dad stepped a little closer, cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed to Mr. Gehrig, “Hit the ball young man.”

The great Casey Stengel stepped out of the dugout and approached my Dad.  Before long, the two men were talking baseball as if they were old chums.  Mr. Stengel informed my Dad that they were waiting for the new umpire to get the game started.  Understanding his new role, my Dad asked for his gear, but Mr. Stengel had to make sure he was qualified so he asked my Dad a few questions.  Mr. Stengel was then given a sampling of some of my Dad's euphemisms.

“How long have you been in the game?” he asked.

“Since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” my Dad replied.

“Do you know the rules in this league?”

“Abso-tive-ly,” answered my Dad.

The most important question came last.  “Can you call a fair game?”

With aplomb, and not quite in the proper decorum of heaven, my Dad bluntly responded,
“I’ll guaran-God damn – tee ya.”

With that, Mr. Stengel nodded his approval.  The home team took the field and the visitors ran to their dugout.  My Dad donned his gear and took up his position behind the catcher.  The first batter came to the plate, tipped his cap to the new umpire and dug in his right foot waiting for the first pitch.

My Dad pulled the mask down over his face, pointed to Cy Young on the mound and, with the joy of a kid on Christmas morning, yelled,

“Play ball.”

Thanks for the ego boost CC. 

Have a question or opinion? Email me at: chris@possessky.com

© 2005, 2006 Chris Possessky

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