My dad lived for scaring me at night. Dads think this is funny and moms do only if it’s not their child. I think I was about 8 when his favorite move was to hide in my closet if I got out of bed to use the bathroom. He’d wait about a minute in there and then make one long hoarse growl “BWAAAAAAAHHH!” that sounded like a bear burping or Gollum on meth. I’d scream a high-pitched “DaaaaaaaAAAAADDDDEEEEE” because I knew it was him but I was still terrified. Then he’d up his game and cough out in the same voice, “I’m not your dad anymore BWWWAAAAAHHH! I’m a big scary monster.”
I couldn’t take it to this level so I’d flip out and run yelling out of the room to do my favorite thing in the whole world: tell on him. I think I liked ratting out Dad as much as he liked scaring me. It was the only weapon I had and snitches apparently did not get stitches in my house.
Mom would yell at the general vicinity of my room “JOOOOOEEEEEEEE. You stop it. Stop it right now.” And he’d come out with this five-year-old grin on his face, say sorry, but while snickering, so he would just get in more trouble. His reason? “I just can’t help it.” And I can’t really blame him. I’d do it to me, too. In fact, we are both very happy to do the growl and voice for you. It’s a fun party trick.
Now for the record, I wouldn’t do this to my children, but for completely selfish reasons. I was able to go to sleep just fine after these incidences, but I know my own kids would never be able to sleep, thus ruining my night. That, and both of them have mastered the use of sound as a weapon. I kid you not. They scream at such a high pitch that you have to stop wrestling or tickling them to cover your ears. Who knows what the neighbors think? That’s why I strategically close all of the windows before our dance fight wrestle parties. Yes, those are real. We watch music videos and dance fight wrestle until someone accidentally gets hurt. That person is usually me. Trying to dance.
We finally got my son’s banshee skills on the record at the children’s museum in Olympia. They have a “Scream Chamber” where you go in and see what pitch you can hit. My older son beat everyone, even my wife, by a lot. He just covered his ears and Let it Go like Frozen and hit 91 decibels. I looked this up and found that “sounds that are 85 dBA or above can permanently damage your ears.” Good thing I also found out that “it may take as long as 8 hours to cause permanent damage.” He’s tried, but he can’t scream for that long. So he only wields it to stun old men (my dad) and regular-aged parents while he makes his escape.
I lacked this superpower as a child, so I had to devise a different way to get back at my dad for scaring me. One night I tucked my giant stuffed raccoon (don’t ask) under my covers and wormed my way under the bed. In walked my dad to say goodnight—how kind of him to not hide in the closet that day—and I grabbed his feet and did a very poor impression of his growl. Mine sounded more like Kermit the frog clearing his throat . . . but it worked. My dad didn’t growl back. He yelped like a stepped-on puppy and then started laughing. I had victory and it felt good. The only witness was my stuffed animal, who years later would be murdered by my dog. But that’s a different story.
EPILOGUE: When I read him this story, my dad said, “Now all the moms between 25 and 45 are going to say to me, ‘I’m glad he wasn’t my dad!’ But I guess I’m okay with that. Go ahead and use it.” I asked him if all the facts were true, and he said, “More or less.” Also, he’s one of my best friends! Always has been.
When I read my wife the story, she said, “I think you’ve told me this story so many times that I can’t tell if it’s good anymore. Maybe save it for later?”