Plastic Music

(from ďSuburban Misfits)


††††††††††† Iím sorry you werenít here for my fatherís last days.

††††††††††† He needed more than me to ease him into the Promised Land. Although all was not lost during those fading months.

††††††††††† We finally made peace.

††††††††††† I know you always wondered how a father and son could come to hate each other as we two did Ė and how we could carry on that feud for so long.

††††††††††† Thinking back on it, I am amazed just how foolish a situation it was and how much hell we put the rest of the family through to maintain it.

††††††††††† But when I was younger, I considered the issue terribly important.

††††††††††† Believe it or not, the whole matter started with the cheap plastic record player my father gave me for Christmas.

††††††††††† Yes, I know that over the years I manufactured many more substantial reasons for hating my father: his greed, his overall cheapness, the way he treated mom.

††††††††††† Yet I could have forgiven him any of those things, just not that one small insignificant piece of plastic.

††††††††††† As you know, I have always loved music.

††††††††††† I once even fancied that I might become a great singer some day.

††††††††††† I collected a wide variety of records so that I could learn from them all.

††††††††††† In our house, we had only one record player Ė the consol in the living room. Whenever I tried to use it, father would tell me to turn it off, telling me he worked long and hard and deserved peace and quiet when he got home.

††††††††††† In order the play my records, I had to take them to my friendsí houses.

††††††††††† And while their parents didnít mind me playing Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, all my friends wanted to listen to were The Beatles and The Stones.

††††††††††† This got even worse when I took up drama in high school and wanted to listen to Broadway show tunes.

††††††††††† I felt like a drug addict, sneaking into the music room at school or hurrying home before my father did so I could get a few hours in before the Cone of Silence fell.

††††††††††† My friends simply thought I was weird because I liked old fashioned music as much as I liked what played on the radio. Some stopped wanting to see me because they were afraid I might break out into some song our grandparents used to listen to.

††††††††††† For all of this, I blamed my father.

††††††††††† If he let me use the stereo, I wouldnít have to pester my friends.

††††††††††† So finally, I confronted him, telling him I needed a stereo for my room so I could play what I wanted without disturbing him or my friends.

††††††††††† He didnít like the idea.

††††††††††† But then my father didnít understand music. He always thought of it as something silly and people who performed it as frivolous characters too lazy to get real jobs.

††††††††††† After my nagging him long enough, he agreed to get another stereo Ė and give it to me as my Christmas present.

††††††††††† During the two month wait, I felt like a little kid again, almost believing in Santa Claus.

††††††††††† Sometimes, I just spread the album covers around me on my bed at night, planning out which one I would play in what order.

††††††††††† Two months seemed like two years, and when the day finally came, I didnít even bother opening the box in the living room where my father had placed it beside the tree, but carried it into my room where I had cleared a special place for it on my dresser.

††††††††††† Not until I unwrapped the box did the horror of it hit me.

††††††††††† My father hadnít purchased a real stereo at all, but a cheap plastic Philco toy model out of which I could barely hear my music at all.

††††††††††† We didnít fight.

††††††††††† But I couldnít even look at my fatherís face across the supper table without feeling rage.

††††††††††† Much later, I realized he hadnít meant to be mean. He didnít know the difference. But I hated him anyway.

††††††††††† Then last year, when doctors told him he had cancer, he asked me to play some of my records on the consol in the living room.

††††††††††† I was stunned. I asked him why.

††††††††††† He looked at me Ė not tenderly, but sadly Ė with the knowledge of death in his eyes.

††††††††††† ďI want to know what Iíve missed,Ē he said.



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