During my childhood, my father would sometimes turn his stereo system up to the loudest volume. It was always Pink Floyd. Oftentimes he’d use the broom as a fake guitar. Sometimes he’d be in his boxers and socks only. All of the time he was exceptionally drunk.
At the time, however, I didn’t know. Or maybe I did know, but he was the fun kind of drunk in those moments so it didn’t matter. I’m not sure- alls I know is that those nights were special to me. There are multiple photos of me in pink sunglasses and a nightgown, holding the remote control for the television as if it were a microphone. Next to me was my father, standing haphazardly on the couch, broom in hand, mouth agape. Sometimes my brother would join too, pounding his fists on the floor, laughing. The only person not in any of these photos is my mother. I can vividly remember asking her to come downstairs and take our photo on these nights, me having to scream into her ear in the kitchen to be heard over Roger Waters. I can remember the way she looked at me, a look I now recognize as dread and guilt and some kind of embarrassment but which then I only knew as a distance I couldn’t understand.
She must have hated those nights; how ugly it must have been for her to watch us mistake a drunken stupor for a chance to stay up late and hang out with Dad. A chance to show him I too loved what he loved. But she took the photos anyway while ‘Money’ and ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ rattled through every room in the house. There was one of these nights in which he was particularly slammed (what must have been a combination of whiskey and weed, I now realize) and he fell, hitting a speaker on his way down. The music muffled a bit and I took the sunglasses off. I don’t think I put them back on.
There was one song, though, that my father reserved for other days. Anytime ‘Wish You Were Here’ came on during a drunken listen, he’d skip it. This song was for the hangover, I now realize. For the depressing and lonely time of sobriety and boredom, or the days he couldn’t remember the words he’d slung at as the night before. Perhaps this song was his apology; he’d put the record on loud enough for the entire house to hear and never mention what had happened only hours previously. We were all, after all, just lost souls swimming in a fish bowl.
I only ever got a few apologies from my father. For the big ones- when he told me I was “looking fat.” When he told me that he’d be surprised if I got a boyfriend. When he told me I had to stop learning and reading because I was getting too “bitchy.” When he told me I was the reason he drank so much. They were never enough. But in a way, ‘Wish You Were Here’ does exist as a form of apology and forgiveness for my father and me. When I hear it I smile and then I cry. I think this will always be our relationship. I have just recently come to the mountain of accepting that.
My mother and I recently moved out of my childhood home. My parents are separated, finally. I remember asking my mother at ten years old why they didn’t get divorced, which tells me a lot. What ten year old, after all, wishes for their parents not to be together?
Christmas is tomorrow, the first Christmas in 22 years that I won’t be waking up in that home. There are times that hits me harder than others, like when I realize I haven’t spoken to my father in a month. Or today when I was trying to decide when to stop by the house for Christmas and realized I had no real desire to. In a way it is an obligational love. But when I hear ‘Wish You Were Here,’ I am reminded it is more than that.
I jokingly told him a few months ago that this would be the song we danced to at my wedding. He and I don’t do serious, so I followed up with something along the lines of “if that’ll ever happen.” We laughed. We moved on to a new subject or to different rooms. This is our relationship now. I will never again wear the sunglasses for him. But we will dance to that song at my wedding.
I wish you were here, Dad.