We’re playing a new game at the Leap house. It goes like this: I walk up the stairs at night to put the children to bed, and all four of them burst from the laundry room in the dark, screaming. My heart rate climbs to about 200 and I almost collapse. Then, I have to restrain myself from chasing them around the house in order to punish them with tickling, or mouthfuls of sauerkraut.
Or there’s this one: I write in a loft at the top of some stairs. Whilst embroiled in finding the right word, the right phrase, the right transition, head in hand, one of my little Ninja’s stalks up the stairs and says, ‘Gotcha!’ I jump, (the obvious goal of the game), my hands hit the keyboard at odd angles and I somehow change the article to 30 point Franklin Gothic in the Czech alphabet. I struggle to escape the chair and get my hands on the little sneak, as he or she laughs and runs away to hide.
There’s no end to the fun. Of course, now that I know what heart attacks look like, and how sudden cardiac death can happen in men my age who happen to enjoy fast food, it give me a little, shall we say ‘pause.’ But hey, as I’ve said so many times, you have to go sometime.
I guess I deserve a scare. Life has a way of coming around to get you for your earlier sins. As a young boy, I did the same things to my parents. I didn’t realize how humbling it is to have your child catch you totally unprepared. I even think with a little sadness of the way I treated my poor cat, Tim. Every chance I could get, I would launch myself at him from behind couches and chairs, boxes and doors. No joke, he could launch himself three feet vertically from a standing start. Heaven knows how many furry lives I robbed him of in the course of his feline life. I moved on in my pediatric scaring, and developed a bad habit of sneaking up on an elderly neighbor of ours as she worked in her rhubarb patch, or pulled crab-grass. Poor Mrs. Ray survived all of my little raids with little more than ‘I’ll get you!’ Lucky for me, she was an old friend, and never shot me. I’m pretty sure she was capable of it.
Let’s fast forward to my honeymoon, in the condo on the Outer Banks. Exhausted from weeks of wedding preparations, Jan and I mostly slept and ate leftover wedding cake, prepared for far too many guests than we actually had. For some reason, I jumped out and scared my new bride a few times, too. She found it less than entertaining, and certainly less than romantic. Though it was probably less scary than waking up and realizing she had actually married me.
You see, I really deserve it all: the shouting, the repeated scares in the course of an afternoon, like the kids were little flying aces, racking up kills. It’s Karma, as the main character would say on ‘My Name is Earl’. But the kicker is, I just can’t get them back.
On Thanksgiving, I tried to get the whole bunch of my children, with cousins thrown in for good measure. As they tromped off into the woods, I put on my old Air Force fatigues and a gorilla mask. I ran to the edge of the trail, wheezing through the mask (a thing I’m certain real fatigue-clad gorillas never do). As the children walked past me, and as my adult family members watched from 50 yards away, I jumped out and roared.
Not only were the children not scared, they looked at me as if I were an utter disappointment. Even the littlest among them yawned and walked on by. I guess in the imaginary world of children, where monsters inhabit every dark corner, a gorilla in the woods is not even worthy of a squeal. I was crushed, and slunk back to the kitchen to pound on my chest, throw leaves and eat a banana.
Tonight I stood in the bathroom for 15 minutes, behind the shower curtain, waiting for Sam, Seth, Elijah and Elysa to brush their teeth as I had earlier instructed. I felt like Norman Bates stalking children.
They never showed. Foiled again! But rest assured, I’ll get them. Even if someone has to wake up to an air horn.