When I was a kid, I had a friend, K. whose dad was an urepentant Southerner in the middle of Illinois married to a woman with the same name as his mother, which was a pretty uncommon name. K’s mom, the aforementioned woman, was one of the first people who talked to me like an adult, not a kid. I’ve always been grateful for that.
She also crochetted large afghans and told ghost stories. So, I guess you could say that she was a formative part of my young life.
They desperately wanted another kid. And finally K.’s mom got pregnant. And then she miscarried.
K’s dad cheated on K’s mom. And I can’t remember if this was how he dealt with the miscarriage or if the baby was supposed to help bring them together after the discovery of his affairs. I always thought his affairs were about him being homesick. I don’t know why, now that I think about it. I have nothing objective to base that on, just that that’s how it seemed to me, that he never was quite settled in the North.
I don’t suppose it much matters, just that there was a lot of pain between them, a lot of tragedy that most people couldn’t overcome, but K’s mom was determined to.
K’s dad, though, is who first introduced me to Pink Floyd.
So, in the middle of all this, when K’s mom had learned of her husband’s dogging ways, but had not yet decided if she was going to leave him, we were driving around in the car, and K’s mom was trying to see if people she didn’t know would wave at the car, trying to judge, I guess, how much of a life her husband had without her.
There had already been an incident when she was driving the car and a woman ran up to it only to back away in embarrassed surprise when she realized it wasn’t him.
And Pink Floyd came on the radio and K and I began to sing along–“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”–and K’s mom got very upset and turned off the radio and said “Yes, yes, you do need an education. What a horrible song. You should never, ever sing it.”
It was raining and she had not yet turned her wipers on and I was afraid, both because of how upset she was, and because I couldn’t see out of the window.
Finally, she pulled into a store to get some cigarettes. She put Fleetwood Mac in the tape player, searched for the exact right track, then said to us, “Here is the truth” and got out of the car and walked into the store.
Later, when she decided to stay with him, she gave my mom this huge suncatcher with that “Love is patient, love is kind” nonsense, by way of explanation.
That pissed me off so much I can’t even tell you. It was hard for me to explain it even to my dad when he was trying to understand why I was so upset. It just seemed to me so deeply fucked up, like some revelry in suffering, like just taking it and taking it and taking it made you righteous with God.
The first sermon I was ever aware of my dad writing for me was about that same chapter, about how it wasn’t just a list of ways you were expected to behave if you loved someone, but traits you should look for if you want to know if you are being loved.
I was always glad for that sermon, really.
Anyway, I didn’t listen to Pink Floyd again until I was older. I didn’t really have any way to. But by the time I was in middle school, my cousin S.–the same guy who used to take us down in my grandma’s basement and tell us ghost stories so scary that corner of the basement frightened me into my adult years–had made it his mission to teach us about good music.
And, he said, you have to listen to The Wall.
I still think that’s one of the most perfect albums ever made. I’ve owned it on tape twice, both times played until it stretched out beyond all recognition, and on CD, and it’s sitting on my computer. I can’t let go of my VCR, because then I won’t be able to watch my movie.
Not that I do anymore.
It’s hard for me to listen to it. It reminds me so much of the times in my life when I did listen to it nonsto–and I don’t guess that you turn to an album like that when everything is going your way–that it’s hard for me to listen to now.
I still love it, though.
And thinking back on K’s dad listening to it… I don’t know. It makes me feel like there was a lot more to him than I knew. I mean, I know even dicks can like good music, but… I don’t know.
I knew I was supposed to see him as the bad guy who about broke his wife in two, but the fact that he loved that album always made me suspect that there was more going on than I could understand.