Cathy's Corner...About my Dad, Neal

My Favorite Playmate

A Daughter’s Loving Tribute to Neal Cassady

 “He looks so old!” was my first thought as the hospital elevator doors parted revealing my dad.  I was aghast at the vision before me!  My father appeared to have aged twenty years since I’d seen him the year before.  His skin was weathered and tanned, his clean-shaven face was wrinkled and worn, and his neatly combed hair was wispy and sparse.   Despite the grin on Dad’s face, his faded blue eyes disclosed the harsh life he’d been leading.  If I hadn’t known his age (41), I would’ve guessed he was at least 70 years old.  Seeing him like that broke my heart.

My son, Bill, had been born two days before (Sept. 6, 1967), and Dad had come to see his first grandchild.  Since our last meeting was at home in Northern California, I considered it miraculous that my father had found his way to this San Antonio hospital.  

Exiting the elevator, Dad jittered over to us, babbling as he approached me, but managed to calm down enough to allow me to carefully place Bill in his arms.  As Dad gazed down in wonderment at my son, I could see the same delight in his eyes that I’d seen whenever he was around us kids.  It was obvious that he was totally taken with this fragile bundle.  It is a memory I cherish.  Too soon, the nurse admonished me to take the baby back and say goodbye to my dad.  The parting was quick and quiet, and I never saw my father again. Five months later Dad was found lying unconscious beside railroad tracks outside San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, dying just four days before his 42nd birthday. 

I am not a Beat scholar.  I am not even a fan of the Beat lifestyle, philosophy or writing. But I am intimately involved with the Beats…  I am the daughter of Neal Cassady.  My special connection to the icon that is “NEAL CASSADY” is unique and meaningful to me, and I’ve cringed over the years as I’ve witnessed the various incarnations he has acquired via the media: from Saint to Satan.  I cannot reconcile the foul-mouthed, sex-crazed, druggy about whom I read.  (I never heard him swear.)  At home, he was our loving Dad.

Fond memories of Dad include:
- Playing Red Rover and tag in the front yard with my siblings, friends and Dad
- Watching sports on TV with Dad: Favorites were Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and Stirling Moss
- Playing chess with Dad, or watching Dad play chess against himself
- The forbidden box of Wrigley’s chewing gum that was kept on the top shelf in Dad’s closet from which he’d offer us gum for a special treat
- The long, hot baths Dad would take as he read the racing forms in the S.F. Chronicle
- Listening to the jazz greats accompanied by Dad’s feeble attempts at playing the sax
- Being enthralled by Dad’s tricks.  He’d make quarters disappear and emerge from our ears, flip a coin through his knuckles with lightning speed, hold onto one ankle and jump over that leg with the other leg, etc.   He shared in our love of movement.
- Spending Sunday mornings meditating, discussing Edgar Cayce’s teachings, and learning the tenets of Eastern philosophies 
- Having Dad lead us in the Lord’s Prayer at bedtime, and saying Grace at mealtimes
- Sitting on Dad’s lap behind the wheel as he gleefully provided driving instructions to us while careening down the hill to town

Dad’s delight in us was evident, and we all felt his love. 

Dad’s playful nature was also reflected in his writing. He had a passion for words. His letters to us invariably contained definitions of words or recommendations to “look it up”.  He would offer suggestions for how to use words, or have fun with alliterations and write jokes based on language use.  I remember writing my “book” when I was about eight years old.  Dad took it seriously, and spent time giving me specific suggestions about my storyline, writing style, etc.  I was grateful and happy to get his approval. 

How many one year olds receive T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” for his/her birthday?  Dad’s treasured inscription to me:

“To my wonderful child, Cathleen Jo Anne, on her first birthday anniversary.  From her daddy Neal who thinks of her with fondest love.”

Of course, I share many of Dad’s traits.  We both have adventurous spirits, insatiable curiosity, and a never-ending love of learning.  (I know he would have been proud of me for earning my graduate degree.) He was on an eternal quest seeking answers, as am I.  Dad would have exploded with joy if the pocket-sized encyclopedia we call a cell phone was available to him.  Besides his other addictions, Dad was an information addict.  I can relate to that as well. 

Here is a poem I wrote expressing our shared yearning for all things NEW: 


Passion-A-Week
Repetition
I abhor it
Again and again,
I deplore it
Intriguing Novelty saves the day
But will it last?
Who can say?

Me and my dad in a nutshell.  

   Cathy's Corner...Bio

I was born in San Francisco Sept. 7, 1948.  I lived in beautiful Monte Sereno, CA  (in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains) from the age of six, until I left at 18 to get married.  My son, Bill Horbaly, was born on Sept. 6, 1967 in San Antonio, Texas, where his dad was stationed in the Army.  Bill and his lovely wife, Dee, currently live nearby and have blessed us with four wonderful grandchildren... Drew, Jon, Ellie and David, and grandkitty, Bella.  Ellie, David and Jon are involved in musical theater productions, performing with the Christian Youth Theater.  I volunteer on the Hair and Makeup Committee when I can in honor of my mother, Carolyn, who worked in the theater throughout her life.  

My second marriage is to George Sylvia.  We were married in 1980. George has two beautiful daughters, Tricia and Traci, both of whom live in Northern CA.  Tricia and Brad have two boys, Aidan and Jack, both talented athletes; and Traci and Bobby have given us two "grandpups", Bella and Bebo.  The only child left at home with us is Tula, our sweet labradoodle.  ("Tula" means "silly" in Portuguese, and she lives up to that moniker.  George is Portuguese, so I've always named our critters Portuguese names.)

Having aspirations to be a doctor or archeologist when young, I initially worked as a medical transcriber and medical office assistant before returning to college at the age of 38.  One of the highlights of my first twenty years' career was working in the Stanford Medical School Cardiology Division, as "Publications Coordinator".  I was responsible for typing the cardiologists' handwritten research manuscripts into a word processor (relatively new gadget in 1980), and editing them to meet the criteria for publication in various medical journals.  I loved working at Stanford.  I was also made the Editor-in_Chief, with a staff, no less, of the division employee newsletter, The Cardiogram.  (I started employee newsletters at every job I had, and even won an award from the Medical Assistant's Association for one I created.)  

I realized that sitting all day at work was not healthy, especially before ergonomics was recognized.  I wanted to help employees stay healthy and fit. Thus, I earned my B.S. in Exercise Physiology and an M.S. in Worksite Wellness Management.  It took ten years of diligent study while working full-time to earn the degrees, but it was worth it.  I began teaching exercise classes during my years at school.  Choreographing moves to music brought me much joy, and still does. It was as close as I could get to actual dancing, which has been another passion since taking ballet lessons for seven years as a child.  (Tho, I lack the talent my sister has.  She danced with American Ballet Theater in NYC.)

George and I moved to the Sierra Foothills from the S.F. Bay Area in 1982. (Thankfully, the kids all followed.)  After earning my B.S., I was fortunate to work for an organization (USAA) which valued prevention over illness.  I was part of a team which managed the wellness and fitness programs for the 1200 employees.  After seven years there, I had the opportunity to work a mile from our home in Rocklin as the first Activities and Fitness Director for a 55+ active adult community, Springfield, from which I retired.  

George and I officially retired in 2000, but it was difficult for me to sit still (where would I have gotten those "GO GO GO" genes?).  Consequently, I have had various jobs after retirement, including helping below-grade students at an elementary school Learning Center;  returning to medicine working in a medical clinic full time; and most recently, at a local Weight Watchers center.  

Besides always being on the move, additional traits I share with my father are:  never-ending curiosity, joy in playing with words, a constant yearning for learning, and passion for change and movement.  I joke about my "passion-a-week" (see poem below).

I am attempting to concentrate on my writing projects, so have managed to reduce my time away from home to: 
1)  helping a sweet gal from the Ukraine who needs to improve her English.  This is thru the county literacy program at the local library
2)  piano lessons.  My poor brain!  Fun, but challenging.
2)  Hiking.  Any activity outdoors is my main passion.  Gotta LOVE trees!  Tula and I both need the nature fix and exercise. 

and, of course, spending time with family and friends.

Cathy with Kerouac's "On The Road" scroll, San Francisco, Ca

Contact


nealcassadyestate@gmail.com