Of all the animals that lived with us as we six kids were growing up, the one I remember the best was Blackie. Blackie wasn’t my cat nor did he belong to any of my siblings. From years of experience with cats, I believe you don’t own them, they own you.
Blackie owned my dad and that was only right. They were a lot alike. Cats could teach graduate courses in Being Aloof. My father was equally distant to us.
Dad and Blackie were both tough. Dad, an auto mechanic, came home with scabs on his forehead because he’d come up too quickly from under a car hood. (Bang! “Ouch!”) He’d get those blackened fingernail beds and he’d have grease all over him. Blackie had bald patches, and a couple notches in his ear from years of cat fights.
One night, Dad and Blackie revealed their respective vulnerabilities. Aged, deaf, and not as quick as he once was, Blackie didn’t hear the car when Dad pulled into the driveway. We almost always heard it and usually ran to the door to greet him.
This time he dashed back outside with a flashlight in his hand. “I think I just ran over Blackie.”
We were stunned. We waited.
Dad came back in and dropped onto this chair. He rested his elbow on the kitchen table, put his head in his hand and cried.
Dad? Crying? We were stunned. We waited.
We rarely dared to touch my dad or gesture in an intimate way, but we stood there around him and were quiet. He didn’t tell us to go away.
Somehow in his death, Blackie gave my father permission to let us see his soft side. Dad wasn’t instantly cured of Being Aloof, but we knew he had potential. He was on his way.