Alexander Our Maine Coon and My Dad's Expensive Shoes, Part One
Dad's Expensive Shoes vs. Alexander! One Of Them Would Have to Go. Who Will Win?
This is the story of how our family cat completely transformed my Dad while I was growing up. If anyone has any doubts about the influence of a beloved animal, I will point to the story of our Maine Coon - and my father.
When I was ten we bought a huge Maine Coon and called him Alexander. He spent most of the day sprawled out in various parts of the house. He looked like a big, soft 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 - at least my mom and my four brothers did. My dignified, reserved, well dressed Dad didn't like cats very much and thought Alexander was just lazy. The cat slept everywhere and Dad 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. Alexander even wanted to sit in Dad's big leather chair, and that was forbidden. But Alexander would not give up.
In addition, Alexander would grab at his necktie when my Dad came home. Dad would keep it on through dinner and the cat would snatch at it, and also at his wristwatch and cuff links and shoelaces and anything else that could be grabbed.
"That cat does not run things around here!" snapped my Dad. "I have no time for putting up with a cat who is always demanding attention!"
However Alexander had the last laugh - and much more.
My father was 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 authoritative sound of the crisp click of his very expensive shoes echoed throughout my early childhood. He would often tell me and my brothers that we should dress like "gentlemen" at the dinner table.
"I expect you to dress like gentlemen" he said hundreds of times. "It's a matter of respect! Keep your shoes on through dinner!"
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 let out a blood-curdling yowl and 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 looked hard at Dad. He pointed at Dad's dapperly attired feet.
"How would YOU like to be stepped on by a wingtip? By someone ten times your height? You need to take those shoes off when you walk into the house!"
Dad just narrowed his eyes and lowered his eyebrows. We all knew that meant: he didn't like what he was hearing.
When we got home, we all looked at Dad expectantly.
"NO!" he said firmly "Absolutely not. I told you: that cat does not run this house! I will not walk around in my bare feet to please a CAT! My shoes stay ON my feet, where they belong!"
"Your cat's life may be in danger" said the doctor.
The next evening I was walking towards our house for dinner and saw something shining in front of the front door as I approached the front step.
I couldn't believe it. It was a pair of my Dad's black executive shoes, shined - as always - to perfection. And dropped on top were a pair of my Dad's black silk dress socks, neatly folded and stuffed into the shoes.
I walked in and went into Dad's den. There was my Dad.
He was sitting in his big red leather chair as usual and looking through his mail, with his feet on the matching leather footrest, as I saw him every evening of my early childhood.
The first thing I saw as I entered were the soles of his feet propped up on the footrest.
My formal, perfectly dressed Dad was barefoot! And that wasn't all.
The only thing left of the immaculate business attire were the pinstriped suit trousers and the razor sharp part in his hair. His suit jacket and his neck tie had vanished. Even his wristwatch had been removed from his wrist.
He wore his white tee shirt - and sprawled across his lap was Alexander. There was almost nothing left of the dapper and well-heeled executive he always was.
I blurted out: "Dad! What happened? What's going on? Where are all your clothes? What is Alexander doing there?"
He looked at me with a resigned stare and sighed.
"I thought about it all day, and finally realized you were right about those dress shoes, so I stepped out of them off at the door" said Dad, "I thought that would be enough. That was hard enough. I don't like being forced to do anything. But then I found out that my dress business socks are much too slippery for the floor - I started to slide - so I had to take THOSE off too."
Perhaps Alexander took the sight of my shoeless Dad as an invitation. The cat was much bolder, and had then and happily started grabbing at his watch and his cuff links and his necktie and his tie stay, 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. His big leather chair, which had always been off-limits to the cat, had now been claimed by Alexander!
Dad realized the rest of his clothes would need protection. So then the very expensive pinstiped suit jacket and the impeccably starched white shirt had to be taken off as well - and were then protected from cat hair, teeth and claws. A newspaper covered his pinstriped trousers.
"Now look at what that cat has done to me" Dad sighed. "I look ridiculous!"
And Alexander stretched, climbed up the back of the chair and as if to complete the destruction of Dad's corporate image and grooming, calmly ran a paw across his perfect hair, ruining the part.
I know for certain that cats have personalities and know very well what they are doing. Alexander returned to his lap, and looked up at Dad with knowing eyes, savoring his victory, and went to sleep. Dad went back to reading his mail, careful not to wake the cat that now used him as mattress!
Continued in Part Two of Alexander the Maine Coon...