Walking away is not an option... dialogue must prevail.

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with."
- Kenneth A. Wells

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller

Friday, November 13, 2009

lessons learned at my father's side

It’s Friday the 13th. To some people, the superstitious kind, it’s a bad day.

What if I told you that I do not, ever, walk under a ladder? You could assume that it’s some quaint superstition. But if you asked me, I would tell you: I’m safety-minded. It was my job for nearly a decade. I don’t walk under ladders because I know something could fall on me (at the very least, the ladder could).

My dad was superstitious, so was my mom but to a lesser degree. Some of the superstitions he believed in just plain made me giggle. I’d tease him about it and he didn’t mind.

Dad had a thing about black cats (he also wouldn’t walk under a ladder and it WAS because of superstition). Now, it seems harmless enough, right? Yeah. Except one day, when Mom and Dad came home to what had been their first apartment. An event occurred that would become part of family lore.

Mom was pregnant (with me). So pregnant that she probably would have blocked a parking spot by the curb if she stood on the edge of it facing the street.

What do they find as they’re about to pull into the parking area of the apartment complex?

A black cat.
Sitting on a white car (this apparently makes it worse).
In dad’s way.
Staring at him.

Yeah… guess what happened next? My father stopped the car and just sat there. Dad couldn’t back up and park elsewhere. There was no place to turn (Montreal streets can be really narrow when there are cars parked on either side) and if he went forward, he would have to cross the cat’s eye line or something and risk the cat getting up and crossing his path (oh the horror). He turned to my mother and told her either he would leave the car right there where it was (and risk a ticket), or she would have to drive it in herself.
There was no negotiating.

Mom, couldn’t believe it. She tried to “talk some sense into him”… but nope. He stood firm. And then he got out of the car.

So, with all the grace that only the very pregnant woman can muster, Mom got herself out of the passenger side, waddled around the car over to the driver’s side and fiddled with the steering wheel to try and get enough clearance so that she might be able to wedge herself in there and drive the car in.

Mom almost got stuck. She was not happy. I can’t tell you how many times my mother recited this story, always rolling her eyes… and shooting looks at dad who just sat and crossed his arms. Mom almost injured herself in the groin when she tried to get out from behind the steering wheel sideways.
Everyone that heard this story chided my dad a little for putting the superstition first. Fortunately, it didn’t end badly.

One day, when I was older and wiser (well, as wise as a 6 year old can be)… I looked up at my dad and the following conversation took place:

“Um, Daddy?” said I, sitting on the floor and looking at the Saturday Comics section of the Montreal Gazette.
“Yes, Ann?”, he was reading the paper in his armchair.
“You know that story about the black cat and the car that Mom always tells?” (By the time I was six, I knew this story by heart.)
Dad sighed.
“Yes”, he answered, not looking up from behind the paper.
“It’s because black cats are bad luck, right?”
“Right”, Dad was a really patient man. He would always let me ask as many questions as I felt compelled to and he’d always answer me as best he could.
“Mom says that’s a silly stuperstition. Are stuperstitions real?”
“I believe so.” he answered, without correcting my pronunciation of the word as I was also known to say “pasghetti”. I think he figured I’d work it out in time.
“But Daddy, if they’re real, why did you let Mommy drive the car? Did she end up with bad luck?”
Apparently my mother had never brought this point up.
Dad lowered his paper, smiled at me and after a moment, the answer came to him and he said, “I let your mother make up her own mind. She’s old enough.”

Best answer he ever gave me.

It was a teaching moment. I had challenged him, not out of spite because as far as I was concerned, my Daddy hung the moon and there was nothing he couldn't do. I just needed to figure things out for myself and Daddy let me.

I still think the superstition is silly. But every time I see a black cat, I think of my dad... and I smile.

Teasing Daddy


MilesPerHour said...

I love reading personal stories. Very cool.

Nessa said...

That's a great story and your daddy was very wise.

Flash 55 - Blue Gill

Anndi said...

MPH, I'm glad you enjoyed. It was good for me to look back and remember.

Nessa, yes he was.

Ron said...

“I let your mother make up her own mind. She’s old enough.

LOVED his answer!!!

Hey, I've gotta tell ya something...the more I know about you, the more I see we really are twins because my mother is the EXACT same way about superstition.

Not only that, but she did something very similar to what your father did while we were driving in her car one aftenoon, and a black cat ran across the street in front of us.

OMG...she slammed on the breaks and turned the car around; going completely out of her way to drive home.

I kid you not.

Great post, Twin!

Happy Friday the 13th!


Anndi said...

Ron, yup, he squeaked his way right out of that one Heh!

You know... I believe you LOL!

Hugs to you TWIN!

Happy 13th!

Akelamalu said...

Your Dad sounds like he was a really great guy Anndi. :)

You have some good memories honey. x

Charles Gramlich said...

Old enough to make up her own mind. Yes, good answer for a lot of things. I personally like black cats a lot.

Anndi said...

Akelamalu, he really was.

Charles, it's a most excellent answer. I love black cats, sleek and mysterious.

Daisy said...

What a sweet story. I really enjoyed reading that. Made me smile. :D

Starrlight said...

When I was 7 my mother mocked Friday the 13th. That afternoon as we drove home (in our volkswagen camper van of course) the garage door collapsed on the the van ...3 inches behind our heads.

I am with your dad is spirit but I have always owned black cats ;)

Anndi said...

Daisy, your comment made me smile. =)

Starr, see?! Friday the 13th is a good day!!! Y'all survived! Glass half-full, m'dear ;p

Travis said...

Old enough to make up her own mind.

Best. Answer. Ever.

Linda said...

I think this is the best Friday the 13th story that I have ever read! The only thing that would have made it better was if the parking story had happened on Friday the 13th as can you imagine the horrors of superstitions times three what with the black cat sitting on the white car already!

Travis is right - best answer ever from your father and obviously you carry very happy memories of him which means he will continue to live on forever.

Anndi said...

Trav, I know, right?!

Linda, Dad did his best to avoid going out on Friday the 13th. He would never travel a long distance. After he retired, it kept him in the house! Poor Dad LOL

He was awesome. I rarely heard my dad be negative about anyone or anything, unless they acted irresponsibly or it defied common sense (superstitions excluded) Heh!

Mark said...

Interesting story. It is amazing how we allow our thoughts to manifest into things. Had your Dad got a ticket he would have surely blamed it on the black cat. Good story and the purpose, well you always remember your Dad when you see a black cat.

jennifer said...

I loved this story Anndi.

Both of my grandmothers were very superstitious. If my father's mother saw a black cat away from home, she would put a handkerchief over her head and not speak until she was through the front door of her home.

My mother's mother (we call her the little Indian woman due to her Native American heritage) knew so many wives tales it would make you head spin!

Funny, I'm not very superstitious...

except I KNOW death comes in threes. :)

Mimi Lenox said...


Bond said...

A fantastic answer your dad gave.

I am stuperstitious...

And I like it!

Jeff B said...

Your daddy was obviously a wise man!

I know your safety minded self will hate this, but I love to walk under a ladder when someone is watching. Just so I can see 'em cringe.

Do you know how many bananas have rotted since I was here last?

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Thank you. I have learned that memories and reflections are what keep alive in my soul the ones I have loved who are no longer living.

I appreciate your sharing your memories.

Vodka Mom said...


Mimi Lenox said...

Sending another squeeze. Just because.

Michelle said...

I love that story... although I'm betting your mom didn't find it at all entertaining on the day! :-)

Here's an African story for you. A friend of ours was once puzzled at how no-one was leaving her shop... or entering it.

Then she noticed the frog sitting in the doorway. It's bad luck to step over a frog in that part of Africa = everyone was trapped either in the shop or outside the shop. A few gentle nudges with a broom took care of this particular "curse". ;-)

Cat said...

That story is almost as awesome as the fact that you dad wore a speedo.