Sep 28, 2006

My Father and the Cat Show

My dad was a calm and very quiet man who loathed the idea of drawing attention to himself. He preferred the arts and more scholarly pursuits over playing ball and getting down with it. He was older than all the other dads I knew, having been almost 55 when I was born. I was the last (and an accidental) child and his only daughter. We had a very special bond: I adored him and the feeling was mutual. He died when I was only 16 and it's that aching hole left in my heart when he went away that makes me yearn for the chance to spend time with him as an adult, not a child. To really talk with him. To know him and see him beyond the child's eyes I had when last I saw him. So it is with great surprise I discover a tiny side of my father behind that austere outer shell that I never knew existed.

Long before I was born, nearly a decade in fact, my mother bred persian cats for show. She tells me that my father had nothing to do with the day to day proceedings. She fed them, groomed them religiously, tended to their veterinary needs, cleaned their cages and arranged for the cats to get with other expensive, fancy cats worth a ton of dough to make little expensive, fancy cats that would themselves be worth a bundle in the claustrophobic world of cat fanciers. It was a full-time job. My father would occasionally pet a cat as he walked by one while at home in the evening. Occasionally. And my father seldom attended the shows.

On one occasion though, he did accompany my mother to a championship cat show where she had a cat- just one cat that time- entered for judging. It had done well in it's group and had gone on to be judged in the Best of Show Grand Champion group. Her cat had been one of the first to be judged in that last group, so there was quite a wait while the judges went over all the other cats who had made it to within one step of the championship circle. My mother was in knots and couldn't settle down. My father, being my father, was calm as ever, and told her gently that even if the cat didn't win the big prize, this was a great victory and to be pleased with all that she had accomplished.

When the Best In Show judge proclaimed my mother's cat the winner, and my mother was about to take a step towards the center stage, my father stepped in front of her, pushed her out of the way sideways into a crowd of people and leaped up into the show ring where he not only excitedly shook hands with all the judges and thanked them for their praise for what a perfect specimen of cat he had bred, but also raised the trophy and the blue ribbon high over his head while turning in a circle to accept the crowd's adulation. My mother was stunned.

And so was I when she told me this story. I never saw my dad behave this way, but I sure wish I had. And this hidden side of him goes a long way in explaining a great many of my own behaviors. Clearly, it's genetic, a thought that makes me very happy indeed.

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