My dad snored. This was not a secret. He had a habit of falling asleep in front of the television in the living room just before the weather came on. You could safely assume that the weather forecast was being delivered because it could not be heard over the snorts and squonks coming from the chair where my father's head had lolled back slightly, allowing for the guttural clanking to spill from his open mouth. He once made the mistake of recreating this performance while staying as a guest at a friend's Central Park West apartment. Lying near the end of the bed, my mother watched as he began his early-sleep ritual, with their old high school chum looking on. As my dad lapsed into the quaking state and into window rattling, his dear friend lashed out with a foot to the middle of his back: "Don! Wake up! You're snoring like a pig!"
Which is just one in a series of apocryphal tales about the sounds my father would make when he wasn't awake. One of the last times I saw my father alive was the night before he started his cross country trip via small plane. He fell asleep waiting for the weather. Once I was sure by the timbre of the rumblings that I could get away with it, I changed the channel to the news in Korean and went to bed myself. The last practical joke I played on my old man.
But as much as everyone who knew him around bedtime would tease him, he seemed steadfast in his habit. His affliction. He blamed it on the deviated septum he got as part of the heroic act of blocking an extra point as the highlight of his junior high football career. With his face. A facemask might have saved him and the rest of us from years of being frightened of monsters in the night.
Now, decades after he went to sleep for good, I am wearing my own facemask. The kind that forces air up my nose to keep me from snoring, just like dear old dad. I have suffered from insomnia for most of my life, but now that I don't have my own racket and that of my father to contend with, I sleep much more peacefully. Which is kind of a shame, since a few extra hours of sleep might have benefited us all back in the day when the very foundation of our house shook just before the weather came on.
When we were cleaning out my fathers things from our mountain cabin after he passed, we found a mini cassette recorder. There were a fistful of sixty minute tapes, which my brothers and I anticipated might be songs or stories or some final words of wisdom. Nope. Instead we listened to hour after hour of that sound we all knew so well. It took just a day or two after that discovery to figure out that he had been documenting his log-sawing in hopes of presenting it to a doctor who might alleviate his septum from its deviation thereby freeing us all from the late night din.
These days, I make a point of crawling into bed before I start to drift, but every so often, I feel my head tip back and my throat open just enough to release the call of the wild. And I miss my dad.