A handful of childhood memories

My dad’s service was yesterday. Seven of us got up to remember Richard Taylor Cassidy in a sort of chronological order: his fraternity brother, me, his best friend from law school, work colleague, his brother’s words through his niece (his brother could not fly out), and his sponsor in recovery. With so many, we kept our remembrances down to five minutes.

Good morning. I’m Dick’s daughter. You may know me as Katy or the Loin Fruit. In letters to me, he called me Cobbies.

In the days following my dad’s passing, I’ve been looking through pictures: some digital, some printed. I lingered mostly on those old Kodachrome snapshots from my childhood. A kaleidoscope of memories of a child I used to recognize as myself but who now seems distant to me since Arachne cut the silk that connected us through my dad. I cherish these old photos, these scenes still trumpeting that he was once here and certifying my luck in having been his daughter.

I would like to share a few of my childhood memories of my dad with you.

I felt safe with my dad

Thunderstorms scared me when I was little. I remember leaping into his lap when he sat the chair by the front window and watching the rain while held me and sang Day is Done by Peter Paul and Mary. He taught me not to fear thunderstorms. He also taught me not to leap into his lap leading with my knee.

My dad introduced me to running and soccer.

When I was in the 1st and 2nd grades, he waited on the front porch of our house as I walked in the direction whence the bus would come. Once he saw the bus, he yelled “RUN!” and I sprinted, racing against the bus back to where my dad was waiting with my book bag. In 3rd and 4th grade, my dad drove me to school. Once I was ready, I’d start running in the direction we’d take. When my dad was ready, he’d pack the car and drive along until he caught up to me. Sometimes, if I was still keen, he’d let me continue running while he followed in the car until I was ready.

In 1974 I wanted to play soccer, he volunteered to coach the Eagles and then the Piranhas. We had no idea what we were doing, but we had fun. He coached us until we outgrew what he could do. I believe that no matter how old we got and how many coaches we’ve had, we all remember Coach Cassidy. And laps.

Some memories I file under “Thank goodness for the 70s”.

Every summer we’d head to Colorado and stay at our cousins’ cabins. They had some old 1950s Jeeps, and I would sit on the hood of the Jeep, holding the bull bars while my dad would drive us around the mountain roads of Silverton.

Back home, he drove my friends and me, jacked up on doughnuts and coke, in the back of the car with the hatchback up waving, smiling, and shrieking at other drivers. Our car? A Pinto. If it made me laugh, he almost never said no.

When he saw a teaching moment, he took it:

I remember when he pointed out two men holding hands walking down our street. He told me that sometimes two boys or two girls were in love and that’s okay.

Another time we were walking back from Tom Thumb after buying groceries, and he was explaining “the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. I remember his telling to me that, if I saw him steal ice cream, I would have to tell the truth in court. I don’t know what horrified me the most: ratting on my dad or surrendering the ice cream to the police.

He taught me the stalker theorem in geometry:

The shortest distance between two points was driving by Abram Castro’s house and honking. He taught me manners, for he always waved at whichever Castro dared to look outside. And he taught me how to commit: Entire Castro clan outside having a party? Don’t drive on. Pull into that alley and honk. And wave. Always wave.

We exchanged our cultures:

He introduced me to Beethoven, Peter and the Wolf, Willie and Waylon, The Thin Man series, Shakespeare, Masterpiece Theatre, and I, Claudius. From me, he learned about Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Steve Buscemi, Brendan Frasier, and Friends.

My dad taught me to find joy in other people

He not only coached our soccer teams, he was a repeat chaperone on lower school camp-outs, drove carpool, and hung out with my friends when they came over. He loved being with us. It wasn’t just about me. He was genuinely got a kick out of my friends, classmates, and teammates until the very end. He found children delightful and knew they had something to tell him. He listened. He laughed. And he never lost interest even after that child had grown into an adult because my dad had the gift of finding the child inside all of us. When my dad said your name and clutched his heart, he filled you with joy, and for a second you were a kid again.

Puff, the Magic Dragon was another song my dad sang to me. Jackie Paper had his own secret land, a dragon buddy, pirates, kings, ships, and sealing wax. It sounded awesome. Now that I’m an adult, the song brings tears to my eyes because I could relate to Puff’s feeling of abandonment as Jackie grew up, neglected his imagination, and stopped returning to Honnah Lee.

My dad was my Puff, and I thought he would be here forever to help me remember the child I once was, but time, the unyielding schoolmaster, took him from me and tries my way to Honnah Lee. But I am my father’s child. I will find another way back with my memories, treasures from my childhood, and I’ll play with Puff, my magic daddy, and the little child I left behind.

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