In the past week or so, I have mainly been writing about harassment and objectification towards women, which I think is really important to talk about, and I will continue to talk about in future blogs. But I also want to start talking about other things as well. Kind of like a public journal (or diary, if you will).
So to really start this off, I want to give everyone a little synopsis about who I am and how I became me. Like a summarized life story.
Well first off, my name is Staci Hanley, born to Sue and Rick Hanley in 1995. My parents did not want to know my gender until I was delivered, so if I had been born a boy, my name would have been Ryan (how original Mom and Dad). But alas, I was born a girl and they chose the absolute most confusing way to spell my name, so that is something I have to live with.
When I was 9 months old, I fell off of my Mom’s shoulders, hit my arm off the coffee table and I fractured my wrist. Since I was still crawling, I had to wear a cast. (Please don’t harass my mom for this, it really wasn’t her fault). I actually think I still have part of the cast somewhere.
My brother, Taylor was born in 1997, but not before my parents bought me a Beagle puppy named Rusty after I showed them how jealous I could get when they directed their attention to other children (thanks Jeremy, I got Rusty because I was jealous of you!). They did the same gender thing, so if he had been born a girl, he would have been named Joanie. I think things worked out in our favour when it came to the name front.
Growing up was really a blast. We were lucky enough to have an amazing childhood. We lived in a small town and we had a very big property on the edge of town. We had neighbours around our age, as well as cousins and the kids of our family friends. Most of these other children were boys, so naturally, I was probably the biggest tomboy in town. I got handmedowns from boys, had a short haircut, hung out with the boys, went dirtbiking, fourwheeling, snowmobiling, camping, fishing etc. My dad was an outdoorsman as well as a hunter, so I knew how to shoot a gun by the time I was about 6 years old.
We spent a lot of our time outdoors, and one of my favourite places to do that was at the Hunt Camp. Though it was a 4 hour drive and in the middle of a forest (like for real, no exaggeration), it was totally worth it. It doesn’t seem appealing to most young girls, what with the no power or indoor plumbing. But I absolutely loved it. We built forts, swam in the lake, explored the forest, played Spongebob Monopoly and so much more.
When I was (I think) around 4 or 5 years old, we got a second Beagle named Buddy. I remember going to get Buddy out on a farm somewhere. We played around with all the little puppies and for some reason, Buddy really stood out. The kids who lived at the farm had been calling him Buddy, and that is the name that stuck. Unfortunately, we only had Buddy for a short time. My Dad was a hunter, so he took Buddy to the Hunt Camp to train him to be a hunting dog, however, Buddy took off, and was never found.
My parents split up when I was 6, but I didn’t take it too hard. I don’t remember it at all. I don’t even remember my Mom moving out. But all was good because my parents stayed good friends, and never lived further than a few blocks from each other.
I was also a very athletic kid. I took karate, swimming, and played organized soccer. I
also played on almost every sports team from grade 4-8, and we came in first almost every time. I didn’t play on the 3 pitch team because I didn’t like the rules. I watched MLB and the fact that 3 pitch only allowed you 3 pitches, even if they were super shitty, was not ok with me! I thought it was very stupid, so I avoided that team. I didn’t play organized hockey because we didn’t have a lot of money, but my Dad would build an ice rink in our backyard every year, and since my cousins and neighbours all played organized hockey, I got pretty good. We also played a lot of manhunt in my neighbourhood. There was a lot of ground, so we would have to get 10-20 kids together and the boundaries were all our properties, the train station, the buildings surrounding my house, and the apple orchard. We would play for hours and got really into it (with black clothing and walkie talkies and everything).
By the time I hit grade 7, I started to transition from a tomboy into a “girly girl”, but I never really got there. I started wearing eye liner, wore tank tops, and started growing my hair out. I didn’t know how to put my hair in a pony tail, so I had to get a friend to teach me, which everyone thought was pretty weird, but I know how to do it now, so everything is AOK.
But something else happened in grade 7. My brother turned 10 years old. But around the time of his birthday, our Dad started having weird feelings where he would get really dizzy and would be unable to speak. These feelings would come and go at random and, although he thought they were weird, he didn’t really do anything. But then they started to come more frequently. On Taylor’s 10th birthday, a Saturday, we went to Lazer Quest with his friends, Mom and Dad, and my Mom’s brother, coincidentally also named Rick (it takes a lot of work to handle a group of 10 year old boys). Dad had told us that if he were to get another one of these feelings while we were there, he was going to call his brother Ron to bring him to the hospital to see what was going on. And when we came out after one of the games, he had gone. We weren’t worried, mostly because we were 10 and 12 years old. So we went back to Dad’s house to have the rest of the slumber birthday party. Mom told us that they wanted to keep Dad overnight at the hospital, but again, we didn’t really care because we were young and there was cake. But the next day, after all the kids were gone, Dad came home and he sat me down in the kitchen. He decided to tell me first, since I was older. He told me that he had a brain tumour. He also told me that it was not cancerous, but that a lot was going to change, and he gave me some books and pamphlets to read to help me understand.
I never really understood.
Over time, Dad had to go on disability and was unfit to work or drive. He also took a lot more naps. Yes, things changed, and yes, we were affected. But again, we didn’t really understand the magnitude of the problem, and we all just went on with our daily lives.
Once I hit high school, I was actually following some fashion trends (which included getting braces, because what’s cooler than that?). Not all of them, but some. I made some great friends, was voted most spirited along with my best friend, and was part of the badminton team (its more intense than you think). I also got a part time job at Tim Hortons, which was ok, I got money, but it was also one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had (not the worst, but one of them). At the end of grade 9, Dad went in for surgery in London, ON, and it was partly successful. They had gotten most of the tumour, but they couldn’t get it all because it was too high of a risk.
I remember visiting him in the hospital. Two visits stand out to me the most. The first time I visited, I walked in with a bottle of Pepsi (which was his favourite). He couldn’t really talk too much, but I remember his specifically asking in mime for a drink of my Pepsi. Classic Dad. The surgery hadn’t changed him. He was the same old guy. The other visit that I remember was when we went to take him home. I thought we were going to go up to his room, talk to nurses and/or doctors, fill out forms, etc. But we got to the hospital and went up to his floor, and there he was, standing in the waiting room, staring out the window. He was ready to get the heck out of there! So we took him home. He had to go back every so often for Radiation, but I never accompanied him on those trips.
I, personally, don’t have any pictures of Dad in the hospital. I know there are some out in the world, but I don’t feel right posting them online.
I realize this has started to become a blog about what happened to my Dad, which wasn’t my intention. But the more I think about it, these are the only thoughts that come into my mind. These events really shaped me, and honestly, I like telling the story. It’s always really hard, but it gets easier and easier the more I tell it.
April 28, 2011.
I remember the day exactly from start to finish. I was at Mom’s that week, and I had woken up late, as usual. I was planning on going to Dad’s that morning because I needed my memory stick that contained a presentation that was due that afternoon. But I was running too late, and decided I would just have to face the teacher and tell them that I forgot it and would have to go another day. I had my morning science class, as usual. But then I went to English class. For the few weeks before this, we had been preparing speeches about who or what has made an impact on our lives, and it just so happens that I was the first person scheduled to speak that day, and my speech was about my Dad. I read the speech (which is available on my Facebook page), and my teacher was in tears. I went to hand in the paper, and she asked me how he was doing. I remember my exact words “he’s doing much better, thank you!”
Next was lunch, which was probably normal. At that time, my BFF and I would usually buy a vitamin water from the vending machine, and that was our lunch.
And after that, was gym class. I especially loved gym class, because, as stated above, I was a very athletic child. That day we were playing 3 on 3 basketball and I was getting really into it, when one of the hall monitors walked into the gym and over to our coach, who proceeded to call me over. The hall monitor asked me to come with her, that I needed to get changed and go to the office. I asked her if I was in trouble, and she said no, but wouldn’t elaborate. I got changed and we headed to the office on the second floor. The office has windows that look into that hallway, so as I was walking, I saw my Uncle Ron and my Aunt Tina waiting in the office.
This was pretty unusual, as they are not married to each other (Tina is with Mike and Ron is with Stephanie), so I automatically assumed that it was about Dad. When I walked in, they told me that Dad was very sick and that I needed to come with them, so they signed me out and they took me to Granny’s house. I didn’t find this too odd. If you were sick, wouldn’t you go to your mom for care? So we pulled into the driveway and I stepped out of the car, and Uncle Ron said the words that I will never forget. Nothing could have prepared me for what he said.
“Your father took his life this morning.”
I was completely speechless. I looked to Aunt Tina and she nodded. I just said “Okay” and we went inside. There were social workers already there, but I insisted I didn’t need their help (and I never did). I didn’t cry until after they left, and I remember crying into my Aunts shoulder for about 30 minutes, and those were all the tears I shed until the funeral.
I was the first kid in the whole family who found out. After me, they went and got my brother, who was still in elementary school. And then they texted our cousins to come to Granny’s after school (again, not an unusual thing to happen in our family). And I remember sitting on the couch, hearing the words be said over and over again to each child, and watching their reactions.
I had never seen my cousins cry before, at least not since we were small children. I remember Aunt Tina telling Matt (her son). He was the first of the boys to arrive after school that day. When he saw that we were all there, he asked what was going on, and she told him that “Uncle Rick passed away this morning.” Matt and Dad were extremely close. They had a very strong connection, so when he heard this, I remember him swearing under his breath, and saying “No” while using all his might not to start completely balling, which didn’t work.
After Matt, Tina took the boys into a separate room to tell them individually, and each time was just as bad as the first.
I remember we had the funeral at the church we were a part of, and up to that point, I hadn’t cried at all since I was told what had happened. A girl who was around my age that I sort of knew from church came up and gave me a hug, and that’s when the tears finally came. I was a wreck that morning, but I knew that I had to stay strong, because Dad had raised me to be independent.
I don’t remember the actual count, but I do remember that there were almost 600 signatures in the visitation book, people were lined up out the door! And to me, that was very inspiring. He had touched so many peoples lives in so many different ways.
I later found out that he was found and 911 was called at around the exact time I was reading my speech that morning. Every time I think about it, it reminds me of something that could only happen in a movie.
A week after Dad passed away, we had to put Rusty down. He was 14 years old and had developed a tumour on his bladder. I had really started to hate the word tumour at this point.
We also had to move everything out of Dad’s house, donate and sell a lot of ours and his things, and had to sell the house pretty quickly.
Three days after we put Rusty down, it was my 16th birthday. I want to thank my incredible friends for making this birthday, and this specific time in my life, special. I often refer to this as “The Worst Two Weeks Of My Life”, but you guys really made it bearable, and I will never forget you for that.
So I took that week off of work and school, even though they both urged me to take more time. But I wanted to keep myself busy. What was there for me to do sitting at home? I went on with my classes and finished the semester. I had to attend summer school that year for math. This was not a result of these incidents as I had failed that class long before Dad had passed.
That Summer, Mom, Taylor and I flew out to Edmonton, rented a car, and drove through the Mountains to Vancouver. It was one of the most memorable trips of my life.
When we returned to school in September, I decided to join the Drama Club as part of the tech crew on the musical Once Upon A Mattress to keep myself busy and to keep my mind from wandering into dark places. I was dubbed the props master along with my best friend.
It was this show that made me fall in love with theatre. The next show was Tuna Fish Eulogy, on which I was the Assistant Stage Manager and Lighting Assistant. We won quite a few awards at Sears for that show. The next year, I was made Stage Manager, not just for the show, but for any events that happened at the school, and was also very involved with student leadership and student council. This was a huge step for me. I made so many good friends in this time period, and I am so extremely thankful that I am still very close to a lot of them until this day. I also won the Outstanding Contribution to Student Life award at graduation that year.
I did a lot during grade 12, travel wise. I went to France as part of a March Break excursion with school and I also went to California on a SERVE missions trip. Both of which were extremely unforgettable experiences.
After Grade 12, I took a half of a fifth year, so I could do my co-op with Drayton Entertainment to work on the musical Irving Berlin’s: White Christmas. The people I met there were very interested in helping me move forward with a career in theatre, and when I asked them what schools I should apply for they told me Sheridan College. That was THE place to go.
So I did.
I took the Technical Production for Theatre and Live Events program, met a lot of amazing people (including my current boyfriend of 3 years!), got to experience once in a lifetime moments, and had an amazing co op at Theatre Aquarius as an Apprentice Stage Manager on Beauty and the Beast.
I just recently graduated, about a month ago now, and I am now working in the industry as an Apprentice Stage Manager, and I am loving it!
Everyone always tells me how sorry they are when they find out about Dad, and yes, I am constantly thinking about how much I wish he was here, especially for life events. He wont be here for any of my graduations, birthdays, and even my wedding, but that’s ok because it also helped me find my passion, put me through school, and make so many incredible friends that I would not have met otherwise.
So here we are. You now know a brief history of my life, and to be honest, it feels really good. And to those of you who stuck it through to the end, thank you. I know this was really long, but I hope that you enjoyed reading about my life, and if you take one thing away from reading this post, I want it to be this:
Not everyone puts their entire life out there for everyone to see. You really never know what anyone has been through, so please never judge a person. Period. Everyone has their own story, and before anything, you should get to know those people and to understand their stories.
What I have learned throughout my 22 years is that we really need to live our lives to the fullest. We need to take risks and have fun, otherwise, what’s the point of living.
Thank you for reading everyone!