My Father’s Wingtips and Our Maine Coon
Dad's Expensive Shoes vs. Alexander! One Of Them WOuld Have to Go. Who Will Win?
When I was ten we bought a huge Maine Coon and called him Alexander. He spent most of the day sprawled out in various part of the house. He looked like a gray rug. We bought him because he was gentle and needed a home. But there was more to Alexander than we knew!
We all loved him except my Dad, who didn't like cats very much and thought Alexander was just lazy. He slept everywhere and he was constantly avoiding him or just missing him when he walked through the house.
"That cat just lies on the floor, wherever he wants! I'm not going to have him run the house!" he said more than once.
Also, Maine Coons are friendly and affectionate and he chose my Dad as the focus of his attention. That made it much worse because it was even harder to avoid stepping on him.
In addition, Alexander would grab at his necktie when my Dad came home. He would keep it on through dinner and she would snatch at it and also at his wristwatch and cuff links.
"That cat does not run things around here!" snapped my Dad.
However Alexander had the last laugh.
My father was, and is, an investment banker and was always dressed to the nines when he went to work: impeccable pinstriped business suit, silk tie, starched white shirt, briefcase and on his feet a pair of mirror-polished black English shoes and black dress business socks.
The sound of the crisp click of his expensive shoes echoed throughout my childhood.
Then one evening Dad came home late from work. He stepped into the front hall and a terrible sound went through the house - a combination of a yell and a shriek that brought us all running.
Dad was standing in the hall looking stunned. And Alexander was in the living room, peering around the door.
"I didn't mean it" said Dad, apologetically.
He then explained that he had not seen Alexander asleep on the floor and had stepped right on his stomach. He had taken off in a rush.
We took him to the vet immediately and found that he had not suffered any serious damage.
But the vet said that one more accident like that could be serious and told Dad:
"How would you like to be stepped on by a wingtip? By someone ten times your height? You need to take your shoes off!"
When we got home, we all looked at Dad expectantly.
"NO!" he said firmly. "I will not walk around in my bare feet to please a CAT! My shoes stay ON!"
The next evening I came home in the evening and saw something shining in front of the front door as I approached the house.
I couldn't believe it. It was a pair of my Dad's black executive shoes, shined to perfection. And dropped on top were a pair of my Dad's silk socks, neatly folded.
I walked in and went into the living room. There was my Dad.
He was sitting in his leather chair as usual and looking his mail.
But he was barefoot.
The only thing left of his immaculate business attire were the pinstriped suit trousers. His suit jacket and his neck tie were gone. Even his wristwatch was off his wrist.
He wore his white tee shirt - and sprawled on his lap was Alexander. There was almost nothing left of the well-heeled executive he always was.
I blurted out: "Dad! What happened?"
He looked at me with a resigned stare.
"I realized you were right about the shoes, so I took them off" said Dad, "And my dress socks are much too slippery for the floor, so I had to take those off too."
Then Alexander had boldly and happily started grabbing at his watch and his cuff links and his necktie, so they came off as well, one at a time.
Finally, he said he had stopped fighting the cat and allowed him to climb up on the chair. And then the suit jacket and shirt were protected from cat hair, teeth and claws - so they were removed. A newspaper covered his pinstriped trousers.
All of the trappings of his dapper corporate identity had been removed and were piled on the sofa.
My Dad was never again the distinguished gentleman around the house that he was at work; he usually went barefoot around the house from then on and his attire became much more casual, and I would often find his polished shoes and socks on the front step. The crisp click of his shoes around the house had stopped.
Alexander looked calmly and triumphantly at the barefoot, humbled, dressed down patriarch he had vanquished. No more neckties in the house. No more cufflinks. No more silk business socks. Not even a wristwatch.
Who was the owner? They had traded places.
I remember the old saying: Dogs have masters, Cats have staff.
Dad had paid the price for refusing to acknowledge this - he was now Alexander's barefoot servant!