Alexander Our Maine Coon and My Dad's Expensive Shoes, Part Two
Dad's Transformation: He Never Expected Alexander's Influence!
Read Part One of Alexander the Maine Coon...
I found all of the trappings of his corporate identity that had been stripped from him; they were piled on the sofa in an expensive heap.
That night, for the first time, Dad ate dinner in his bare feet at the big formal dining room table.
My sarcastic youngest brother looked under the table, grinned and said: "Dad, those were YOUR shoes on the front step! I expect you to dress like a gentleman! You shouldn't come to dinner without your shoes on! Show some respect! Keep your shoes on through dinner!"
Dad just pressed his lips together and glared at him. He was the only one at dinner without shoes on!
My brother went on. "And a tee shirt! Where is your necktie sir?! And your socks!"
"Dad - Someone who wears a size ten might steal your shoes." Laughter.
"That's enough!" snapped Dad. "And yes, the old rules about wearing shoes and dressing like gentlemen at dinner are over."
Alexander now dictated my Dad's wardrobe: After that day, I would find his always beautifully polished shoes on the front step on work days, with his socks always neatly folded inside. On rainy days he would take them off and stuff them in his briefcase. On snowy days he would come in his full suit and overcoat and quickly strip his footwear off inside the door.
Twice Dad did accidentally step on Alexander again. But the cat wasn't hurt those times.
The crisp click of his shoes around the house had completely stopped. In the morning, Dad would dress completely in his full formal business attire, and then put on his shoes and socks just before leaving after breakfast. On Saturdays his tasseled loafers were there on the step. One night he and Mom came home late from a formal dinner and I found Dad barefoot in his white tie and tails; his patent leather pumps rested on the front step.
The crisp click of his dress shoes around the house had stopped, replaced by the soft pad of his bare feet.
Alexander transformed my Dad's identity and his image against his will, but he eventually and grudgingly became used to it. That was the first day of Alexander's triumph and the eventual transformation of my Dad.
He was never again the distinguished and dignified gentleman around the house that he was at work; he usually went barefoot around the house from then on and his general attire became much more casual. Dad went from a man who ALWAYS wore shoes and a shirt and tie at dinner to a man who NEVER wore shoes at any meal.
For three years Alexander had been pushing my Dad to allow him on to his lap, and now Dad had put up the white flag and surrendered. Alexander had won the battles of the shoes and the chair.
We then gave him gifts of sweatshirts and jeans and funny tee shirts - things he would NEVER have worn before. He hated to wear them at first, but soon he was changing into them when he got home. It was the only way to protect his business clothes. For now Alexander was Dad's friend and never left his side.
"I suppose he likes me" said Dad one day, grudgingly.
That was as close as Dad would get to admitting that Alexander was now his friend.
But he continued to pay a high price for Alexander's friendship.
Even my Dad's NAME was changed!
My formal and commanding Dad was always called William or "sir" by everyone; he insisted on it. But there was a day when the delivery man dropped groceries off one evening and saw my Dad with his new look - a sweatshirt, jeans and bare feet. He asked me if my Dad had lost his job!(!) He said my dad looked like a blue collar guy now!
Dad patiently explained that this was not true. But soon the whole neighborhood thought it was true and it took some work to convince them otherwise.
After that he called my Dad "Billy," instead of sir! This was soon used by others in our town, including our neighbors, and including the garbage man who sometimes called him "Billy boy!"
Somehow the image of Dad without his perfect suit and his necktie tied just right and his fancy shoes had brought him down a few pegs in their eyes.
"BILLY!" he cried. "If I was allowed to wear shoes again, maybe I could go back to being William! maybe I should beg Alexander to allow it!"
But if he lost authority with them, he became far accessible and lovable to us. Alexander's cheerful demands had brought our dad closer to all of us. Dad in a sweatshirt was a lot more fun than Dad in a suit. A shoe-less Dad was a shock at first, but we found that he was much more relaxed and cheerful.
My Dad resisted the new name and image, but he had to live with it. Yet if Dad was no longer William or 'sir', Alexander was always called by his full formal name!
Who was the owner? They had traded places.
No more neckties on in the house. No more cuff links. No more silk business socks. No business suits. Not even a wristwatch - and certainly no mirror-shined shoes.
I am certain that although Alexander appeared lazy and relaxed, he was really a brilliant cat. He intended to take over the house and he knew just the right way to go about it. My Mom and my brothers and me already loved him and would let him do whatever he wanted. My strong-willed, strong-minded, cat-hating, impeccably dressed Dad was the only thing in the way... So he had to be dragged down off his high horse!
I am certain that Alexander had won his total victory through his own careful planning:
He had decided that he would force Dad out of his fancy shoes and socks - in his own house, by order of a doctor! - strip him of his name, and push him out of his magnificent leather chair to fit with his own requirements for our family.
Once that was done, it was just a matter of time before Dad would take his appropriate place, according to Alexander!
There was a time when Alexander was very sick. Dad took care of him and helped him back to health. He would greet my Dad every night and would often sleep in his chair! One night, during the cat's illness, I came home and Dad was sitting on the floor of his den in his sweatshirt, while Alexander was sleeping. Dad sighed and rolled his eyes.
The immaculate suits of a high-ranking executive, the sharp, smart click of polished shoes and the formal name of William did not fit with Dad's brand new lower position in his own home.
But the new name of Billy, his new blue-collar attire and his bare feet were perfectly appropriate for his new subservient status - the role our Maine Coon had chosen for him! The new Dad was the creation of a cat!
I remember the old saying: Dogs have masters, Cats have staff.
Dad paid a very high price for refusing to acknowledge this, for the dressed-down, vanquished patriarch was now Alexander's barefoot servant!
When Alexander died after a long life, Dad grieved more than any of us.
Even today my Dad is still Billy. Even my mother started calling him that. And he never did go back to wearing shoes in the house or at dinner. When he retired he even grew a beard and gave away his suits, ties and dress shoes. Today you would never think he had once been a very formal man who wore neckties at dinner or insisted on keeping his shoes on!
He could never again return to his old self. Alexander would be proud.