We all knew father really didn’t like cats, but we didn’t know why – until, after his death, mother told us.
“He kept this a secret all of his life. I think I’m the only person he told it to while he was alive,” she began, intriguingly.
“One day, when he was a small child, he came across a pussy cat right outside his home. It seemed to like him; it came to him and rubbed against his legs. He was enamoured of it, and cuddled it.
“But he had to leave, so he enticed the cat into the house, and placed it on the couch, where it purred. He said ‘stay there, and I’ll see you when I get back.’
“When he arrived home later, he found a crowd of neighbours at the house.
“‘A wild cat’s got in the house’ he was told. His father grabbed him and made him put on three jackets and two pairs of trousers. Together, wearing all these clothes, gloves, scarves and balaclavas, they entered the parlour…
“The room was wrecked, the curtains were shredded, the couch was ripped – as was the rug. The ornaments were smashed from the mantle, and the pictures broken on the floor below where they had hung on the wall. It was chaos!
“They worked together, approaching the wild-cat, which was liable to suddenly spring up and bounce off the walls. Eventually, they managed to get a thick army surplus blanket over the creature, and got it bundled into a Gladstone bag.
“The cat was removed by a family friend, and the family carefully picked through the room. What a mess.
“He was just a child, and he was sad to see his mother weeping. It affected him to see the mess the room was in, and that it was his doing. But most of all, the rigmarole of trying to capture a spitting, hissing, bouncing wild-cat gave him nightmares throughout his life. It really was traumatic, I think he may have got scratched, or his own father got hurt in some way.
“In the clean-up, he saw a neighbour helping, ‘How did the thing get in, that’s what I’d like to know’ she asked, ‘After all, the door was closed, and it looks like it had been trapped in for quite some time, poor thing.'”
“Father resolved never to speak of this. It was a deep, dark secret. He couldn’t so much as look at a cat, let alone contemplate taking one in for a pet.”
It’s peculiar how incidents in childhood can affect a person for the rest of their life.