Saying good-bye to a great man

Just a few words in this post. I’m on my way to San Antonio to say goodbye to and remember Paul Erwin. The entire Erwin family is inspiring to me. Paul started The Winston School, a school for kids with average and above intelligence who struggled in mainstream schools because of their learning differences. His first wife was my English and language arts teacher. She always reminded me of what I thought a lady in the Renaissance would be like. His oldest daughter is a childhood friend who was a killer debater, sharp as a tack, kind, and in possession of one of the best laughs I know. His other daughters are two of the three Dixie Chicks. No one in this family shies from opinions, education, and class.

I’ve done the math. My friends’ parents and my own are aging. I already lost my dad. Saying goodbye to Mr. Erwin is just as much a part of saying goodbye to my childhood as it is to him and his memory.

I lost my dad last year. I almost forgot to be sad at his memorial because I got to see my old childhood friends again. That helped me. I hope it helps his family today, too.

Sigh.

 

A little ambushed by grief

When people my dad knew let me know that a cancer’s returned angrier, I am both sad from within as I think these people are terrific but am ambushed by grief as I know my dad would be sad as well. It’s odd. Of course, I miss him every day, but I’m surprised that part of missing him is wishing he were around to be sad about a dying friend.

I don’t know what this means. I’m just putting it out there. Ambushed.

Confession time: About that job hunt

I’ve started something I’ve called the Dick Challenge. Oh, the fun of having a dad whose name was Dick. There were three Dicks in his class. He got off lightly. The others were Dick Fish and Dick Kurley. Imagine the roll call when last names come first.

My dad loved walking. He could haul himself all over Dallas for 1-2 hours. Sometimes more. He was obese, so that’s saying a lot. He exercised plenty, but he rewarded himself plenty more. To honor my dad and help me get through my grieving process, I’ve started the Dick Challenge. I have to walk 75 days in a row for (ideally) 45+ minutes and eventually getting to 75 minutes. Why 75? His age at the time of death. Four days short of 76.

I am up to day 9. I’ve had some hiccups, such as the flu, but the important part of any challenge I’ve signed up for is the continuity: 75 days in a row is more important than the length of the walk. That’s good. One walk was 13 minutes, and I thought I was going to pass out after 3.

While on these walks, I can’t help but think of my dad: how much I loved him and how much I’ll miss him. I’m most introspective on these walks. I’m surprised by that, as I’m a loner and always in my own head. I guess I’m not being critical in other situations. On today’s walk, I came to a realization: Since my dad’s diagnosis, I’ve stalled on job applications. There. I said it.

My dad was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in October with a poor prognosis: 4-6 months without treatment, 6-9 with treatment. Chemo was not an option. He died in 4 months. From October to February, I’ve been going to Dallas almost every time he went into the hospital. I was “lucky” to be unemployed. I had the freedom to go up as soon as I heard. I also was lucky (no “”s) that I had friends who’d let me and my pets stay. Between visits to see my dying father and holiday chaos and then the suicide of my stepsister, I’ve been acting like I’m applying and looking. Oh, I applied. I looked. But I treated it like I would a date I didn’t want to go on because of a list of reasons he won’t be right or because I’d rather stay home and read. I attended, but I was not present. I kind of flipped through job boards the way I used to swipe left left left through Tinder: scroll fast while just barely looking. Before any cover letter went out, I worked myself into a panic about not being there for my dad.

I was afraid of getting a new job with people I didn’t know but had to impress and then asking for a cluster of days off because of my dad. I have no regrets. I was there when he died. I wanted to be.

He’s died. His memorial was a week ago. I’m ready. I’m actually looking forward to it. I even feel the fear of rejection leaving. I LIE! I’ll never lose that fear, but I’m willing to take that chance more often. Instead of starting a week strong and tapering off, I’ll start strong and do my best to stay strong. I say that. I have to. I believe it. It might not be Arnold Schwarzenegger strong at first, but I’ll be stronger than I was the day before.

I need to remember this when I feel tempted to cut exercise out if a day gets full. Leave the social media; take the walk.

 

thegeorge_dickchallenge_d9.JPG
The George joins me on Dick Challenge Day 9 and is a big fan of yard art.

 

 

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.

Brain Distracting 101: Contra Dancing

I need to get out and move. We all do, yes, I know. I used to commute by bike 30 minutes to and 35 minutes from work. I was smoking it. Could eat what I wanted and still lost weight because I had that hour plus for fitness. I wasn’t where I wanted or needed to lose weight, so in order not to, I ate more. Sweet! Honestly, the route home should get the most credit. Congress Avenue going south is uphill from the river. Add to the challenge of cycling uphill was going through the smells of pizza as I passed Home Slice.

The only complaint I have about learning to code would be the sedentary nature and my 90-degree angles. I have a standing desk at home. Don’t tell me to stand. I get up plenty. I have hounds that have bladders. I’m up. My standing desk is better for when I’m just writing or reading. It’s not my position for creating or head scratching. That is curled on a couch with hounds hogging my space or in bed propped up on pillows. I’m not employed, either. That brings me way down. Fitness, lack of self-esteem from unemployment, and now grieving the loss of my stepsister and dad, I’m just a mope in need of movement.

I’m getting better at getting out, but now that I have grief brain, doing solo exercise activities can take me to dark spaces. Or into the paths of cars. I walk. I run. I space out and think about what I’ll say at the memorial or how much I miss my dad and then realize that I am not watching where I’m going. Not safe. And I also end those activities sadder than when I started them.

Contra dancing just might save me. I’ll still walk, run, cycle, and do weird machines, but contra dancing will be three hours of moving without dipping into grief. How could I? People are barking directions at you all of the time. I have no time for my inner voices because the caller is telling me to balance, swing my partner, hey for four, do-si-do my neighbour, circle, allemande, ladies chain, … I have no time alone in my head. Even after a few rounds when I think I have the muscle memory down in the dance and drift into my head, I collide with someone. Contra dancing is dangerous for the distracted.

For three to four hours, I move my legs and arms, smile at strangers and laugh with some familiar faces and forget for a while that I’m deeply sad. I never forget that I miss my dad or stepsister. I think about what they’d say about this activity (they’d be amused), but I am, for a while, not worried about my tearing up.