Memoir Bytes – Sing Me No Songs Piano Man

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Vision perception

Memoir

 

Each night, around 8pm we’d hear the beautiful music from a piano being played next door. The music was beautiful and soothing. I was eleven years old.

We’d spend a few weeks every summer for the couple of years we owned a condo in Miami Beach there, as well as Christmas and Easter break. The piano man had to have been well in his seventies. He and his wife had introduced themselves to my mother and I one day as we passed them in our mutual hallway. They lived next door. He smiled at me with what felt like kindness, but as a young girl who was always eager for any attention paid to me, I didn’t know what was behind his smile.

My siblings and me spent many fun days at the swimming pool on those dog day afternoons of hot Florida sun. We’d swim for hours, splashing away and jumping off the diving board without a care in the world. Many days I’d see the piano man lounging at the pool. It was hard to miss him because I could almost feel him peering right through me as his gaze always seemed intently focused on me. When my eyes would catch his, he’d offer a smile so bright it was difficult not to smile back.

As the days passed, the piano man wasn’t always around, but when he was, I couldn’t help but feel he was a lonely man as he’d sit by himself and never talk with anyone. I’d look at him sometimes from the corner of my eye just to see if he was still around, but something within me warned me to keep my distance from him, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

The fact that I thought I’d seen his penis hanging out from his bathing suit one day as he lay on a sunbed with his legs sprawled apart taking in the sun didn’t alarm me because, quite frankly, I’d seen a few of those mishaps a few times when some older men were sitting awkwardly in a chair. Besides, I knew nothing about sex or desire at that age.

I was the carer of my siblings by that age, even on vacation our mother was busy socializing, out with her then boyfriend on some lazy afternoons when she thought she wouldn’t be missed. We spent most afternoons at the pool there during those summer holidays while my dad was back home in Toronto working. I’d learned years later that my mother’s boyfriend was indeed a family friend who coincidentally also had a condo with his family in our same building in Florida. Convenient.

Nobody seemed to pay any mind to that piano man, not even my mother.

One day when I’d had enough swimming and wanted to head upstairs for some lunch, I found myself sharing an elevator with the piano man. I supposed he’d had enough sun too and was going back to his condo. He never spoke, just smiled at me the whole time in the elevator then he followed closely behind me as I exited the elevator. His door was next to ours so I thought nothing of the coincidence, as a naive girl of eleven.

While I stood at my door fiddling with my keys, he’d caught up to me. I felt him push his body up against me as I was opening the door. In that exact moment as I flung open the door, and wondering what he was trying to do, my mother appeared in the front hall doorway. The piano man said hi to her and made a beeline for his condo.

My mother never suspected anything other than perhaps he’d been walking me to the door. I was confused at the man’s actions but never mentioned any of my concerns to my mother or anyone else. After all, what did I know in 1970 about pedophiles?

That story could have had a much worse ending, and it’s a story I’ve never forgotten. I never had any growing up lessons from my mother. I knew nothing about the birds and the bees, only about never having courage to ask my mother about anything personal, especially about anything regarding my private parts, my fears, hopes or otherwise.

Many children share some of the same fears I had as a child because their parents don’t give them a platform to discuss their personal selves or don’t allow them to feel comfortable doing so. Particularly in the world we live in now, parents must talk with their children, not scare them, but make them understand that when strangers approach them, invading their private space, or trying to lure them away with offers of treats or fantastic adventures, they must understand the boundaries of safety. They must talk to their children and make them feel comfortable about coming to their parents with any concerns.

Had I felt a comfort talking with my mother, I would have told her about the man who kept staring at me whenever he was around, his penis hanging out of his bathing suit, and him pushing himself on me. I knew instinctively that he was trying to get into the condo with me, not merely walking me to the door. I was scared of that man after that day. I didn’t tell my mother I was scared, but I never again went in that elevator or into my condo alone without asking one of my brothers to come with me. I learned from my own instincts and gratefully, it wasn’t too late. By the grace of God I wasn’t raped.

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70 Comments

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  1. OMG! Your Guardian Angel was watching over you that day. I am so sorry your mother didn’t protect you by having that mother daughter talk. It seems you were given special instincts to protect yourself. Bless your heart. I know a few women that went through that and I thank God that as poor as we were my mom sat us all down and explained all the things we should know. I guess I was rich after all. xo

    1. Oh yes Patricia, you were rich! Being able to have intimate and important talks about life with a parent are priceless and should be made mandatory. I winged a lot in my life and as I write in my books, I grew up fast. While I was sitting at the pool here in Arizona one day I recalled that day at the pool when I was a child and thought I should write about it in my memoir bytes because it is an important reminder for parents. <3 Thank you my friend. xo

  2. This was SUCH a chilling story, Debbie, despite a relatively uneventful turn at the end. I am so glad that nothing more dramatic happened. Angels were watching over you, and sent your mother – but I wish she had spent more time with you and had taken the time, especially, to speak with you about why you were avoiding the piano man subsequently.

    Parents really need to make SURE they open the doors to conversations about this topic and others they tend to avoid or skim over – penises and vaginas, death, chronic illness, mental retardation and physical disabilities, etc. It’s so difficult for children when they don’t – and they carry the difficulties into adulthood, subconsciously.

    A friend recently disclosed that when they buried her brother, who died unexpectedly young as the result of a sledding accident, she was extremely troubled that he would suffocate when they threw dirt over his coffin. Obviously she didn’t understand the meaning of death, but the adults were all too consumed with their own grief to support her, even a little bit. When she overheard her mother say to her father, “Why did it have to be him?” she actually believed for way too many years that her mother would have preferred that she had died instead. But her brother was never mentioned in her presence again – almost as if he ceased to exist, compounding the guilt she carried from that day forward.

    40 years later, in the wake of another tragedy, she is finally bringing those feeling to light and processing them. As the result of her feelings of worthlessness in the intervening years, she made many unfortunate decisions that could easily have been avoided with a supportive, communicative family.

    Stories like yours, sadly, are not rare. A male friend of mine actually WAS abused by a family friend – a doctor, and repeatedly, under the pretext of teaching him about sex. He never spoke about it until he was in his late 30’s believing for all those years it was somehow his fault because he was an usually “pretty” young boy and his average-looking sibling was ignored by this doctor.

    Another close male friend from a large family by anyone’s standards, a writer, was sexually abused by his oldest sister’s husband when my friend was still a little boy. The entire extended family accused him of lying when he finally told someone because the abuser was a regular bible-thumping church goer. My friend spent quite a few years in therapy over that one.

    Truly an important post, Deb. WELL done! Thanks for sharing. Hopefully it will encourage parents who read your blog to do more than their first instincts when they talk with their offspring, even with very young children.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    1. Thank you so much Madelyn for sharing more stories similar to mine. I say similar to mine because all those incidents you mention, along with mine boil down to children not having the courage or comfort to go to their parents when ‘uncomfortable’ situations arise. I know it was a different era and I grew up in dysfunction, but it still happens and unfortunately children should be made prepared at younger ages than in the past to keep up with the vast amount of evils in the world that have evolved over the decades. Communication is so important. Thanks again for your valuable input. 🙂 xoxo

      1. You are most welcome. And again, I am so sorry that you were not loved and parented as you deserved.
        xx,
        mgh

        1. Thanks for your compassion Madelyn. That’s why I write. I’m one of the lucky ones who managed to build a normal life. I share my stories so others can learn that there is always hope to overcome and grow. 🙂 <3

          1. We are alike in our desire to make things easier for others – although my challenges and life are different from yours. My friend, anybody who takes such great vacations has a much better than “normal” life. 🙂 🙂

            Congratulations. I know it took many years of hard work and self-exploration to get to that healing place so you could allow the inflow of the good stuff – not just luck.
            xx,
            mgh

          2. Thank you Madelyn for your understanding. It took many years – decades, but I got there. And P.s. even with the vacations, they were long time planned out and lifestyle changes were made a few years ago in order to be able to do those vacations. There is always sacrifice. 🙂

          3. Yes, of course – but there are many with “normal” lives for who no sacrifice could be enough to make a trip like that possible – sufficient reserves do not exist. I was merely seconding how fortunate you are.

            It must have been such an acknowledgment for the years you tightened your belt to take the trip. I’m glad you had a wonderful time.
            xx,
            mgh

          4. Thanks again Madelyn, sorry if I misconstrued. I couldn’t even begin to tell you about the changes we’ve gone through in the last couple of years. So I’m grateful for every day I have away in the warm sunshine, especially since I know what I’m missing in winter storms at home, lol. 🙂 <3

          5. That’s the problem with being virtual buds – had we been chatting over a cup of coffee you would either had sensed my meaning was supportive or responded immediately so I could have let you know that I was not dissing you (as the kids here say). I’m totally in your corner and am thrilled for every good thing that happens in your life – especially after your childhood.
            xx,
            mgh

          6. Aw, thank you my friend. I appreciate your words and friendship. And I never thought you anything less from you. <3 🙂

  3. Looking back we were so innocent in those days. Your memory brought back one of mine that I’d pushed to the back of my mind. I was eight, he was a blind man (around fifty I guess now) and I thought I was helping him to find his own way home. Strangely my father was furious because he thought I said the man was black, not blind.(says a lot about my father) When he realised he insisted the family befriend the man. I spent three years, every Sunday, avoiding being in the room on my own with the man – I remember the fear even now. Well, now I know what to do… off to write. Yours is a chilling story, and thanks for sharings, Debby; Hope you help others with this memory. Jx

    1. I’m sorry Judith if I brought back memories long ago buried, but as you said, bringing these awful matters to light is important for others to learn from.
      You didn’t finish your story. You avoided the man for years because you were scared of him. I hope to hell he didn’t do anything to you! Hugs my friend. xo

  4. This gave me the chills, Debby. What a creepy, ugly experience. I remember similar things from my childhood, though never quite as much of a close call. We don’t want our children to be frightened but they need to be aware. You were lucky. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. It was creepy and ugly Diana, and remembering the incident compelled me write about it as a reminder to parents and children. <3

      1. Reminders of something this important are always appreciated.

  5. A powerful and well written memory of what have been a horrible experience but thankfully wasn’t.

    1. Thank you John. My goal in sharing my memoirs and memories to create awareness. 🙂

  6. What a terrible incident! It would be awful at any age, but at just eleven it must have been terrifying. I’m just glad your mother appeared when she did.

    1. Thanks so much Bun, and you are so right. Angels were with me. 🙂
      P.S. Sorry for the delay, but I just found your comment in spam. 🙁

      1. Sorry about that. I sometimes get lost and end up in people’s spam folders. 🙂

        1. Lol, well I’m glad you found your way back here this time! 🙂

  7. Children don’t know what grown ups are upto and don’t even know how to react…their touch on the pretext of love does arouse those intuitive fears, which our bodies have been blessed with. Still it is very difficult to communicate and I do have such memories, which I have never shared with anyone.
    Thanks for sharing this story Debbie, it has very clear messages that children ought to be told how to protect themselves and avoid being alone with such predators.

    1. That was my intention Balroop. Too many don’t speak about such matters, but perhaps when I speak of such things, eyes will be opened. 🙂

  8. Such a powerful memory. My mom was always one to talk about the female body and that one should be proud of it, but she never went into the birds and bees, etc. So even though she espoused reveling in being a female, she did not invite sharing of the kind that kids need to be comfortable doing with their parents in instances like you’ve detailed above.

    1. Thank you Jeri, for sharing a bit of yourself. What you said is exactly what I meant for the message in this story because many parents from the last generation didn’t talk about such matters, and still today some parents need that reminder to discuss with their children, how to handle inappropriate behavior. 🙂

  9. Thank goodness you were okay Debby. I had a bit of a weird experience once with an optician when I was very young too. He asked me to stand up and pressed his body against mine whilst he was supposedly testing my eyes – but later he did get found out (perhaps his behaviour escalated,) and was fired. The experience has stayed with me to this day, and I still hate going to the opticians.

    1. Thank you for sharing your brush with a pervert experience, Marje. Can you imagine how much that sort of behavior happened when we were kids because it wasn’t suspected or talked about. That experience was certainly enough to creep you out for life and a prime example about how incidents like those leave mental scars. This is why I write, to spread awareness. These things still happen and all parents need to have these talks with their kids. 🙂

      1. Yes, totally agreed Debby, I have told both of my daughters about this creepy experience. There are too many men out there who think it is alright to behave in a totally unacceptable manner. It does worry me.

        1. It’s important to share these unpleasantries Marje. 🙂 <3

  10. Today so much more is out in the open but my mother says that when she was a child back in the 1920s in the village that she and other children were warned not to go near a certain man. The trouble is that it has always been a part of the fabric of our society and it is evil. I am sorry that you had to experience that and thank goodness for once your mother was where she was supposed to be. A very important message to share Debby.. love and hugs ♥

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Sal and for sharing something about your mother. Yes, go figure, the universe had divinely timed my mother in the exact right spot at the exact right moment. When I thought about that day while lying at the pool here, I felt I had to write about it, even if it only helped raise awareness for one person. Big hugs xoxo <3

  11. Too many of us can share stories like these, happening as they do at the threshold between innocence and awareness. You are brave to share this story. Your instincts were right!

    1. Thanks Marian. I was gifted with great instincts, I think that was part of the deal I made when I was born and chose my family. God certainly knew I’d need it. And you know me, I always share ideas and experiences in order for others to learn from them. 🙂

  12. I was holding my breath, Deb. So many close calls for us growing up back then. Like you said, an issue that wasn’t discussed. Glad you didn’t experience what was moving toward the inevitable 💖

    1. Thank you T. I’m grateful things didn’t end as they were heading, but when I thought about that story, I knew I should tell it, even if the message only helps a few. <3

  13. Debby, when I started reading this I didn’t know if I dared read on…thankfully you were safe and instinctively knew how to protect yourself and not be alone again near this guy. My mind wonders about other girls who might not have been so lucky. In today’s world there is a real open conversation between most parents and children – even to the extent that they are terrified when adults say hello to them – the pendulum has swung the other way but I suppose that is necessary.

    1. Thanks for reading Annika. I’d like to think you are right by saying in today’s world there is an open conversation with parents. I suspect that is true in many cases, but I still believe there are parents still lost in a time warp who find it difficult to talk about such matters with their children. The fact is they need to.

  14. Thank goodness your Mother appeared when she did Debby, and I am thankful your Eleven year old self listened to her instincts thereafter .. I wonder how many more untold stories are hidden within the minds of children and those who have grown into adulthood.. Too many.. and worse..
    Its a harsh and horrid world for many young girls and boys.. And its saddens me so much when I think about such cases..

    Love to you and Kudos to you for sharing.. xxx

    1. Thank you Sue. Yes, the angels were with me that day. And I shudder to think how many hold in these dark secrets, that’s what inspired me to share it, hoping to open more doors for communication. <3 xoxo

      1. Yes, I shudder too my friend.. Much Love xx

  15. Thank God you had an acute inner sense, Debby. That man oh I don’t even want to think about it. I’ve had some similar experiences when I was a teenager, it’s horrible, disgusting.

    1. Sadly, too many of us have had these incidents. That’s why I thought about sharing. 🙂 <3

      1. I know Debby it’s shocking how many even within a close circle. It’s awful xx

  16. Children are so trusting and vulnerable. I was lucky enough to have been warned by my mother and avoided going anywhere near a man who sat outside his house all day and invited children in for sweets. You had a lucky escape.

    1. Yes I did Stevie. And thankfully, you were warned by your mum about strangers luring, that’s the message, parents have to inform their children about safety. I hope that someone would have taken a closer look at this man luring kids in his house with sweets, as it was obvious that he sat out daily and invited kids in. Sickos existed from way back in time. Unfortunately, in older generations it was as recognized.

      1. He sat outside every day on his step. We had to walk past him to get to the park, but we always made sure we were on the other side of the road. It’s discussed more with children these days; I think in the 1960’s it all tended to be a bit hushed up.

        1. That is so scary. And you are so right, that was the problem, back then the possibility of these sickos weren’t even thought of or easily recognized. 🙁

  17. What a harrowing experience and memory, Debby. Thank goodness your mum appeared at that moment. However, despite the subject, you’ve written this piece so wonderfully.
    xx

    1. Thank you so much Hugh. Yes, I’m grateful for tender mercies! I thought it was a worthy share because of the message for parents to talk with their children about safety and strangers. My situation was an insight into the innocence of childhood when one doesn’t know enough, how vulnerable kids can be when alone without parental guidance.

  18. An excellent post Debby. Chilling too. A reminder that sometimes the stranger isn’t the danger.

    1. Excellent point my friend. xo

  19. I’m with Diana here. That is an ugly experience. I’m sorry. It’s all too common, unfortunately. And we want to warn our children (as they NEED to be aware) but not scare them. 🙁

    1. Exactly Sarah. Thank you. 🙂

  20. That was a very lucky escape, Debby. I’m so pleased your Mum was home that day and not out somewhere. I hope he left you alone after that. I’m pleased your instincts kept you safe. We can’t always identify the “creepy” ones by our feelings, but we often can. What you say about the need for parents to be open and encourage their children to talk with them is a very important message.

    1. Thanks for chiming in here Norah. I know you’d feel exactly the same way as me being how involved you are with child education. And yes, he did leave me alone after that as I think he realized he got too close to getting caught, plus I never walked alone again in that building after the incident. 🙂

      1. You did a bit of growing up in that moment. Lucky escape!

        1. Yes, on both counts. 🙂

  21. Apart from the unthinkable you skirted, D, what saddens me is the loneliness of your growing up, of your inner journey in the midst of family. I’ve come to see there is nothing harder than parenting but as you say, some things are not only doable but necessary. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your heartfelt comment Diana. As you are such a dedicated mother teaching your little boy not only with education, but about life, many mother’s like mine could take a few pages out of your book! <3

    2. yeah. I totally agree. What a story. Chilling for any age group.
      Keep pushing forward as you have.

  22. I read your post with great sadness, Debby. One could easily see exactly where it was going and it is such a terrible shame that you had to suffer through that. God definitely smiled on you that day. At least children today are made aware very young of the dangers lurking out there.

    1. I hope you’re right Robbie. I know it was another era when I was a child and such things weren’t often heard of, even though decades later, so many cases have come to light. I do hope parents keep on top of such issues in this new world, it’s imperative and a parent’s duty. 🙂

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