Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mindshot: Life as a House

The name of my Father is Robert Stack.  I know of one other Robert Stack, I man who was not my Father.  This other Robert Stack was the host of "Unsolved Mysteries".  He was a superb host for such material.  He died on May 14th, 2003.

A very brief scene in Life as a House features a moment of breakdown that I've lived.

In the film, a son retreats to his girlfriend's house after being dealt a blow; his father has terminal cancer.  He knocks on the door, asks to see the girl, and stumbles into house.  The girl, at the top of the stairs, asks him what's wrong.  He desperately seeks her embrace.  He hurries up the starts, but the weight of his trauma is too much.  He collapses mid-stairway ascension, breaking into sobs.

Like I said, I've lived that.

On May 14th, 2003, Robert Stack died.  I was watching television that evening and heard the report.  Obviously, such a headline catches my attention, for it is not every day that a Stack makes the news.  But there was no relation between our family and this Robert Stack, so I paid little attention to it.

Now, my family has always been a pet family.  Our animals are our people... our kin even.  At that point in time my Mother was breeding Persian cats and we had a young puppy that my Dad was currently, on this evening, out taking for a stroll.

Around 9pm, from downstairs, I hear my Mother scream.  It was one of those screams that you know instantly something awful has happened.  As soon as you hear that sound from a loved one, there's no going back.  Adrenaline rush.  Fight or flight.  Something is changing deeply.

After the scream, the story worsens, for that is when my Mother bellows, gutturally, "He's dead!"

Panic ensues.  My mind slips to the news report.  Robert Stack.  That's my Father's name.  Perhaps the newscasters got it wrong.  Could it be that Dad died?  My Father!

I bolt to the staircase.  My Mother catches my eye and we lunge at one another.  She only makes it one, maybe two steps.  She sobs, her body strewn out on the stairs.  I try to comfort her, but how... my mind and body is in shock.  She is writhing there on the stairs while my mind slowly becomes entrenched in one of those profoundly existential experiences.  I thought to myself, 'So this is what that moment is like -- the moment you lose a family member.'

This is where my story and Life as a House diverge.

Between moans, my Mother lets out, "I killed him... the cat!"


"The cat was in the dryer!"

Sweet relief!  Oh how it rushes in through a wave of fragrant solace.  The Lord is good!  I'd never been so ecstatic to lose a family pet.  I patted my Mother on the head, told her it'd be alright, and after she calmed down explained to her why I was so relieved and jolly.

Being that my Father was still out walking the dog, I happily became the default man of the house, which entailed taking care of the ol' Persian rug.  I will say this, the thing had a rough go of things.  His back was all busted up and his eyes had turned black from the heat.  Despite all that, I sang a song of jubilation as I buried the poor critter that night.

My Father, Robert Stack, is not dead.  Remembering such 'near death' experiences is nostalgic for me.

I would like to hug my Father right about now.  Eh, I'll just be content knowing he's alive, probably walking the dog again.
My Father, Mother, and middle Sis Julie.


  1. Dante! Hope you're doing well there. I'm glad I found your blog. Was thinking about you recently, brother. This is Boss Sterling from a few summers back.

  2. Sterling!

    Where in the world are you?