Broken Record

“You two are a broken record,” she said that day with a huff on her way out. She’s over it. Over us. “Mom, I don’t know why you are okay with… [fill in the blank].” Our adult daughter’s assumption is that I, her mother, can change “this” —this way of relating (or not) between her father and me;  this unbending set of wills, shabby beliefs, the very ones that I’ve yelled and whined and paid therapy for and prayed over and listened to and refused to listen to, and inquired about and forgotten… Still, “this” remains. How can she not know that, I’m not okay with this? Ah, because I’m in this.

“Well…the record isn’t broken exactly, I say kissing her cheek.

“Seriously,” she said reaching for her red wool jacket.

The thought occurred to me that our otherwise insightful, world-savvy, wise-beyond-her-years, boomerang housemate who just turned 25 may not have ever held a vinyl, let alone seen one ruined.

“Baby Girl, Dad and I are not an internet link that just needs a few strategic clicks of a keyboard to be back in business.”

“I know what a vinyl is, Mom,” she said with an air kiss just before closing the front door.

“Then you know that when a vinyl album is broken it comes with a sharp snap across a knee or some other potentially violent act,” I said to the empty room. “Ruined beyond repair, now in two or three jagged pieces—never to play again. That is not us!” I began to cry.

What are we then? I wondered. I needed an answer for her–and for me. I sat down to write, what I consider quick “Expressive Writing” out of the chest, without thinking too much. So that I might hear what my soul had to say. The writing was dark with ink gouged into the paper, splotchy with tears. Bringing words to the page in a private space allows me to see it, test the truth of my thoughts and feelings, reason, and tweeze them apart, and bring meaning to what otherwise seems pointless.

Upon her return, I informed Cierra that her Daddy and I are more the scratched album variety. The record is still good…whole enough. And dammit, I still love this record that has its issues. I mean, we wrote these songs! We even have a couple hits. It’s just that life somewhere down through the years drug across its delicate, grooved surface, a scrape barely visible on Side A. Now we skip every time the needle reaches that one spot. We’ve got great sound: rhythmic guitar, steady drum beat, driving bass, melodic guitars, a nice mix of keys (likely too much synth) and then, thuh-thump, same phrase. Thuh-thump, same phrase, thuh-thump, same phrase.

And this is what the old, worn cliché “broken record” was meant to communicate. Yes, we are that.

But the rest of the album is still pretty great. With a little lift and some patience, it’s a keeper.

You can read more in my marriage memoir, Thirty Years or Forever; The Story of Us.