Friday, December 23, 2011

How I wish...

Monday was the anniversary of my dad's death. Nine years ago. Stomach cancer.

I hadn't really thought about the significance of the date until I was sitting in traffic on my way to work. It was raining and gloomy, and I was listening to my iPod on random shuffle. That period of time when I'm in my car by myself, going to or from work, is really the only regular time I get to listen to whatever I want at whatever volume I want and sing along--loudly, if I so choose. As I sat on the bridge over Lady Bird Lake watching the grebes fly overhead, Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" came on.

"So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell..."

The flood in my head took my breath away and brought hot tears to my eyes.

Visiting my dad for the weekend. I am lying on the floor of his apartment wearing enormous headphones, plugged into the stereo. He has taught me to take care of the records. To never touch them with my fingers, to clean them, to be gentle and respectful of the needle. He trusts me with his collection and his expensive stereo equipment. Dark Side of The Moon is playing.  I have the LP cover open. I am reading the lyrics. I know every word to every song. I listen to this album a lot. I like Pink Floyd just as much as my Daddy does. I close my eyes and imagine the lunatic on the grass. I listen to all of the British voices speaking in the background of some of the tracks.  And the heartbeats. Us us us us us and them them them them them... Everything I love about music has already been planted in my heart. It is the best gift my father will ever give me. I am eight.

And I am in the driveway of my father's house. It is cold and raining hard. I've arrived at a gathering that is preceding my father's memorial service. There are other cars there. None of them belong to my family. They are friends and family of my stepmother's. I have never felt so alone. I am shivering as I stare at the door I have to walk toward and enter. We will all ride to the funeral home together, but I will still be alone. David Bowie's "Slip Away" is playing on my car stereo. The windows have begun to fog up. I am hollowed out by grief. My heart feels covered in lead. I am bent forward, head against the steering wheel, sobbing. I cannot do this. I cannot leave this car and go into that house and to that funeral home and say goodbye. I am thirty-three.

"Did they get you to trade
your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
a walk on part in a war
for a lead role in a cage?"

By the time I got to the parking garage, I was undone. Snot was running from my nose. All of my eye makeup had dripped off of my chin. The song finished, and after I parked my car, I hit replay and listened again.

"How I wish,
How I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls living in a fish bowl
Year after year.
Running over the same old ground,
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here."

By the end of the second playing, I was raw, but composed. I made my way upstairs. Early to work, I was  one of the few people in the office. I turned on my computer, checked email and moved into the usual rhythm of my day.

After a few minutes, I made my morning pilgrimage downstairs to the grocery store I work above to get some breakfast and something to drink. I rode the escalator from the parking garage into the store, and as I got to the top I heard, "How I wish, how I wish you were here..." It was playing on the store's public address system. I have been in this store at least 5,000 times, and I have never EVER known them to play Pink Floyd. This wasn't an accident. This was him letting me know he's with me. He can feel my heartache. He knows I miss him. He's watching out for me. He was right there next to me. I could feel him.


Deb said...

Sometimes you slay me.

Kathy said...

Oh dude. This made me cry. I am so sorry you lost your dad. I have been trying to prepare myself for it as I watch my dad get older and more frail every year, but you can't really prepare for something like that, can you?

Emily said...

I have had moments like that. When you know. It's so bittersweet. Love you.