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one of the things that stands out to me when i look back on visits my sister and i would make to see my dad when we were young is the stuff he had decorating his apartments.  my dad is an unextravagant man with little need for impressing people.  he’s always kept sparse furniture and plain living habits.  he likes tv here and there, has a love for movies and has always had a strange mix of books on his teeming shelves.  side-by-side you’ll see a gary larson *far side* collection, an ancient book for the self-empowered salesman, a sinatra biography and the teachings of maharishi yogi.  there’s only one brad cahill.

but i’m thinking more specifically of a couple photos he kept on his wall.  one of frank and also a black-and-white photo of himself when he was very young.  i’ve forgotten a lot of the details and don’t see it clearly now, but it still is a deeply emotional memory.  he’s smiling in the photo and sitting on concrete stairs in front of a big wooden door–with his guitar, i think.  he’s a fucking cahill if you ever saw one–raw, beaming, joyous, arrogant.  it gets a laugh from me just to think of this photo, but i haven’t seen it for a while.

i called my dad a year or so ago to ask him for a copy of another photo i remembered, one that until recently i thought he’d also had hanging in his house when we used to visit him.  on his 30th birthday, my dad had a friend shoot some photos of him to commemorate the milestone.  he was dressed in all white and he looked serious and grown up and sad.  i knew that the photo had been taken during a very rough patch for him.  he’d been going through the separation with my mom and his mistress was also leaving him.  my mom had taken my sister and me away and dad was losing tons of weight and wasn’t sleeping.  he had energy storming through him day and night for months.  he was confused and totally blown apart.

he knew what photo i meant.  i’d been thinking about it a lot because i’m approaching 30 myself and wanted to see how it looked now.  i wanted a clear picture of my dad at my age, to compare myself to him and see what i looked like.  the age of 30 has always stood out to me as a milestone because of this photo.  it made a deep impression on my young mind.  i memorized it knowing why it was meaningful and why it had been taken.  by 30 my dad had two kids, a wrecked marriage and had lost the love of another woman he’d thought was the one.  at 30, i’m happily married and feel like i have everything ahead of me.

anyway, he didn’t have the photo.  my dad had to leave his apartment in lake tahoe in ’06 and go back to southern california to regroup and rebuild his finances.  much of his stuff is still there in tahoe, since he really wants to get back, but, after a string of awful luck, he still hasn’t made it yet.  the photo’s with everything else in storage.

but around the holidays last year, i got an email from him with the photo attached.  my grandmother was recently put in a rehab and care facility for a degenerative nerve condition, and my aunt delene got hold of a bunch of her photo albums and made a project of scanning all the images.  among them was this shot of my 30-year-old dad that i’d been looking for.  delene forwarded it to my dad, and he passed it to me.  he looks so young–and so much like me.

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