"As I look back on my life, it has been a life full of experiences-some good some not so good, all of which have made me who I am."
Taken from What a Life?, a book about his life that he was working on.
My dad, Claude Stack, died on June 4th.
He had cancer. He made a valiant effort, but in the end, he moved on.
But while he was here, he didn’t let the cancer rule his life. He and my stepmom made the most out of every day, including a trip where he got to see his youngest granddaughter for the first time. Through it all, they never gave up hope. And he didn’t lose to cancer. Cancer didn’t win. Because in the end, we all age and we all die. Of something. My dad lived life until he couldn’t live it anymore, and that’s all you can ask for.
He was a good man. He was funny, creative, and caring. He was in the Navy and got to see the world. He was a wonderful dad, husband, grandfather, and friend. And yes, he was also flawed like all of us.
He and my mom divorced when I was 3. He remarried. My mom remarried. I picked up a great second dad without losing the first, and my dad got a wonderful wife and two awesome kids, who became my brother’s and my new brother and sister.
It was different. But it became the new normal. A good normal. Going over to their house and spending a few hours or the whole day. Going on trips. And at the end of our visits, we always went back home. I remember as a kid watching him drive off, never quite understanding but accepting what it meant.
But this isn’t about that. This is about Claude Stack, a dad I loved, who I knew but not as much I wish I did. A man whose story here has ended. My life with him was full of a lot of memories, ones that comfort and haunt me all the same.
Like how in a crowd, he liked to play the clown. Perhaps he was more comfortable in that role, or he just liked seeing people laugh. Or maybe it was a mixture of both. In any case, he knew how to bring laughter to a room, even if it was a “pull my finger” joke. Which, to be honest, was his go-to more than once.
I'll remember the truck rides when he took me and my brother home. He would tell us stories of when he was a kid and the adventures he and his friends had. Even though some of those stories have faded over time, that image of being a little boy sitting beside him is still strong. Guess I’ll never stop being that little boy.
I’ll always remember the fantastic beach trips we took, filled with so many moments. Moments that I will always look back fondly on, even that time where Dad pulled me aside to give me a talk about the birds and the bees after a certain incident. I remember that when he started, my first response was “Are we seriously having this conversation??”
I’ll remember the schoolboy giddiness that he had for whatever book he’d just read, or a new toy that he had gotten. How excitedly he talked about them. I saw that giddiness in October 2014, when he got to meet his favorite writer, Alex Bledsoe, one of my friends. It was like Dad became 12 again. He had a rough year and it was great to see that, for a moment, his cancer was forgotten.
I'll remember when he thought I hated him because of the divorce. It was the first serious talk I ever remember having. I remember that it was both uncomfortable and wonderful. For the first time in my life, I felt like my dad had pulled back the curtain and let me get to know him. And I never did hate him. Life happens, and to hold a grudge against someone for something they can’t change isn’t fair. It was a turning point in our relationship.
I’ll remember seeing him cry when I handed him his copy of my new script that just come out – the script that’s dedicated to him. That was also one of the last times I saw him. I always knew he loved me, but I really felt it in that moment. And then I was the little boy in the truck again, and I’d made my dad proud.
I'll remember one of the last times I talked to him. We talked about taking a family beach trip this summer, just like old times. Though he and I probably knew on some level that the trip probably wasn’t going to happen, it didn’t take away our enjoyment of talking about what we were going to do. The longer we talked, the more we hoped that maybe – just maybe – it would happen. My stepmom even told me that after we got off the phone, he had started looking for beach houses.
Hope’s a weird thing. Especially when logic tells you otherwise. But sometimes logic is overrated. This was one of those times. He was so happy talking about that beach trip. I was too.
I’ll also remember the last time we talked on the phone. It was several weeks after our last talk, and after the doctor had told him that they were stopping chemo. The medication he was on had made him pretty out of it. He did most of the talking and told me a story that was really hard to follow. It covered many decades, but the through line was about being in a play and wishing I was there. He then talked about a message that I never left. He asked what the message said. I told him it was just to tell him I loved him.
We never talked again.
I’ll remember a lot of other things, too. Too many to mention here because life is full of moments. Some that seem unimportant until someone isn’t around anymore. But when I’m missing him or wishing that we’d had more moments, I’ll remember most of all the joy he had for life and how he shared that joy. He kept so many things to himself, but that joy . . . it was something he shared freely. Though some other memories might fade, that one never will.
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.