My Dad, President Clinton, Cats, and Character


When you reach a certain age, you reflect on things you’d always been told were true but dismissed because they clashed with youthful hope and lies we tell ourselves while we’re young. Such things as ‘my parents are pretty cool after all,’ and ‘we all end up marring our parents.” Horrid lies. Couldn’t possibly be true.

Or so I thought.

Recently, I was relaying the following story to friends, and I awoke to some truths, or rather they infiltrated my conscious, as truth often does.

So here is the story.

My Dad, when he met President Clinton, spoke to the President about our cats.

Who does that?

At the time, Bill Clinton was the leader of the free world, super powerful, not to mention full of charm and grace—and you speak with him about cats? For ten minutes?

That’s Dad.

My Dad (more progressive than he’d like to admit) is nevertheless a thorough Republican, old school, always has been. My aunt and uncle are rather active Democrats and used to fundraise for the Clintons. At this particular event, my Dad attended to support them and met the president.

And talked to President Clinton about our cats.

To be fair, it wasn’t just about cats. It was about P.G. Wodehouse, my father’s favorite author (an admiration of whom is one of the many things I share with my Dad). A sublimely funny British writer, whom my Dad suggested the president should read. Because why? He thought the President would be interested, and the President, to his credit, probably was. He’s a smart man.

Then, to embellish on his love for this singular author, my singular Dad mentioned that we loved Wodehouse so much, in fact, that we had a cat named Bertram Wooster, Wodehouse’s main character.  Wooster and his kin, are a rich, tireless metaphor for tight, stiff, silly and utterly feckless upper-class individual who, despite best intentions and mostly -scrubbed soul, exist by leaving virtually no mark on the world. Wodehouse’s satire was so constant – 80 books penned during his life without much variation on character – it became in danger of not existing at all: a metaphor so cliche it becomes truth, (not unlike Clinton, himself).

We had that as a cat, though the metaphor was not appreciated when we were younger. We affectionately called him Bertie.

Why not share that with Bill Clinton?

I asked Dad about it later and he said, “I just thought he’d like to read him. Wodehouse is a terrific author!”

I love my Dad.  He’s not afraid to be himself.

If you scratch his surface a little bit, or even a lot—in fact, if you put the most powerful and famous person in the room with my Dad, Dad will be Dad.

He simply cannot be anyone else.

I love and admire that about him. That authenticity. I have it, but not like he does. (Hell, put me on with a Clinton, and I swear violently and throw phones.)

Authenticity is the quality I most admire about my husband, too. Who, funny enough, also ends up talking about our cats in obscure moments with famous people.

My husband was at a dinner recently, for work, seated next to Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer among other things. Mr. Vrana, not recognizing Lord Nigel, somehow got talking about how we named our cats after British characters (the beloved inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis from Colin Dexter novels, though we affectionately called them Morse and Lewis). I’m sure there is a reason my husband mentioned our cats, I think it is that Mr. Vrana really likes to talk about our cats.

Next thing he knows, the fellow next to my husband stands up—because he is Nigel Lawson, speaker at the event—and mentions my husband, and our cats, to the entire room before commencing his speech. I don’t know, maybe he was also impressed at Mr. Vrana’s authenticity.

Or maybe he just also likes cats. One cannot go wrong with the right cat.

I love my Dad. He has dignity. He loves good fiction. He loves cats. He’s a good man through and through.

And I think I might have married a young version of him. Whom I also adore.

Life isn’t about who you get to meet, it’s about what you do with the time you have with them. When your true self doesn’t blanch when tested, that’s character.



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