Hi, Ghost Dad

Bring Your Dad to Work Day, 2017

I’m writing a lot about my family these days, and it’s tough to reckon all I think I know with what the actual facts are, once I dive in deep and really remember. I’ve been digging through photos and old diaries, and I also spoke with my older brother at length about what he remembers from his vantage point–growing up away from our father, in Israel, with his mother and the family she built afterward. Digging into my childhood has been hilarious and sad and lonely and brings up so much embarrassment. I can’t believe I complained to my mother about serving hamburgers for breakfast once, when that was all we had.

I sat my grimy, stinky, overcaffeienated self down and worked through the weekend because Grace was with her dad and I said no to all the fun things that kept coming my way. I got up about 100 times to make tea, to eat snacks, to convince the laziest dog in the world she needed another walk. When I got to a particularly tough point in the story, I got my dad. Not my actual dad. He died 14 years ago today. I took his late-70s author photo off the wall, slid the detritus of my desk onto my kid’s desk, and asked Dad to stay. Asked him to help. For such a wildly imperfect parent (and really, aren’t we all?), he is the person who has loved me the most in my entire life. I’m done trying to replicate that in any way. I’m trying to take love on its own merits now, and that seems to be working.

Dad wasn’t around for so many powerful moments after he died: my moving to L.A., getting pregnant and un-pregnant, marrying, my becoming a mom to Grace, divorce, work, that I got a tattoo for him, and some big news I’m about to spill but can’t yet. He would have been the first phone call for all of those.

This seems as good a time as any to say thank you, Dad. Thanks for still being here, somewhere.

Vanessa McGradyHi, Ghost Dad

Comments 3

  1. Me

    Nice piece! Struck a chord with me. I lost my dad at 13 on Christmas Eve. I wish I could have shared a beer with him or asked him for advise about a thousand different things. He left us at age 53. Hard to believe I’m almost there myself. Sometimes I think I may go at 53. It almost seems predestined.

  2. Cathy Cassady

    Wow… Thank you. This made me realize that the only one in my life who loved me no matter what, no-holds-barred (besides my dog), was my dad, Neal Cassady (the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s character, Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, besides other characters in his other books). Dad was not around much, but when he was I felt special. Dad delighted in me, encouraged my writing and supported my curious, searching mind. (I suspect his devotion may have given me the confidence to earn my Masters Degree.) He died at age 41, but he is with me always. I am reading your memoir and blog posts which are inspiring me to consider writing my own memoir about growing up with Dad and his cronies, the so-called “Beats.” I too am a wonderer and cogitator who cannot fathom people’s apathy about so many issues. ..the plastic plague, the cretan in the White House, how we let the food industry poison us, and the fact that we, in the year 2020, are using the same transportation technology that Henry Ford used for his Model T. Not to mention America’s worsening health care system… I wish I could sit down with you and have a chat. I feel you are a kindred spirit. I have some queries I’d like to run by you. If you are so inclined, I would be truly grateful if you could email me at cathycassady7@gmail.com

    Currently, I am completing the publication process of a second book related to my mother titled, Poetic Portrait: Carolyn Cassady Revealed in Poetry and Prose. I am on a quest to have Mom’s talents recognized. She was a gifted visual artist and writer. Have you heard of her memoir titled Off the Road: My Twenty Years with Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg? Her accomplishments were overshadowed by the Beat guys. She died in 2013. I have been publishing her work; volumes of her previously unknown writing we discovered after she died. I also travel the country speaking at universities telling my mother’s story. I relate more to her and share her values and temperament, though have my father’s restless mind and insatiable curiosity.

    Thank you for listening, Vanessa. Now… back to your book.

    Cathy Cassady

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *