Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 19: Hank Stack

Day 19 is devoted to my friend and mentor, Henry "Hank" Stack.

I met Hank in 1987 at my first "Deaf Community Event" when I was in the first term of the Interpreter Training Program. We went to a play and there was a Deaf actor in the show who was *understandably* tired on a Friday night after the show. She left immediately and we all panicked! What would we do? One of the men in the group said, "Well, I know some Deaf people who get together on Friday nights, if you want to go there..." It was CC Slaughter's bar. I was not 21 at the time and concerned I would be arrested and carted off to jail (I didn't know that's not how it works - smile).

We went to the bar and I met a number of people who I maintain ties with to this very day. Friends who have been instrumental in my life as a person, as an interpreter, as a signer, as an ally. And Hank was one of those people.

Hank was always a gentleman with a sense of humor, too. He was kind and thoughtful and supportive. From the moment I met him, he supported me. Hank was the person who convinced me to start working with Northwest Theatre of the Deaf, to do my first bit of theatrical interpreting in the show, "The Hot'l Baltimore" with Columbia Theatre Company. He was the one who requested that I be one of the interpreters for the Broadway shows when they tour through town. Everything I ever did, he was right there supporting me. He invited me to his parties, to his 80th birthday party - my first experience eating East Indian cuisine (at The Bombay Cricket Club- yum!).

One time, Hank called me on the TTY and he asked me if I wanted to come to a party at his house "this Friday". I said sure and got all the information. In my world, "this Friday" meant the very next Friday (this week) but we were dealing with ttys (I'm phobic). On Friday, I drove up to his house...there were plenty of cars, although none that I recognized. I walked up to the door and rang the bell. The lights flashed and the bell rang. Pretty soon, Hank opened the door. I was immediately struck by the fact that I didn't see any people milling around inside. Hank was in his sweats - I had never seen him dressed so casually! He greeted me politely but a little perplexed. "The party is next week...but would you like to come in?" It was 9:00pm on a Friday night...he was 81 years old. Mortified, I stumbled to say, "Uh, no. I'm going to go to my car and die of embarrassment. I'm not sure I'll be able to make it next week." He smiled gently and reassured me that he was happy to visit, but I was so horrified, I had to leave. I did come to the party the next week and he didn't allude to my faux pas at all.

At his memorial service, that was the only story I could tell.

Hank, you will never know the impact that you had on me. I miss you every day and wish I could have really told you what it meant to me to be among your friends. It was an honor. Thank you for all you did for me, for believing in me and trusting me in ways I can't ever really fathom. I will never forget you.

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