- OK, so, there was something I had not mentioned in my stories which has to be included. Before I get to that though I want to commiserate with all parents. Remember when your children were young and they’d tell you what they wanted to be when they grew up? My son changed his mind many times which was of course common for most kids. For a while Judah wanted to be a superhero. He wanted to go out and save people which I have to admit made me proud. I could just see my son wearing his long impressive cape with the letter J on it. Then he switched between wanting to be a cop and a policeman. Oh, you didn’t know there was a difference between the two? Well, according to my son a cop has an office and doesn’t deal directly with the bad guys. I have to admit, I wasn’t so thrilled with him being one of those considering the danger factor and the lack of pay for such danger. However, he changed his mind again and more currently Judah wants to be a lawyer. The first time I asked him why he wanted to be a lawyer he said it was because they got to wear suits with a tie. Then that evolved into him wanting to be the governor of GA so first he wants to be a lawyer, then a judge and then a public speaker so that he can become governor. Don’t you know this Jewish mother certainly liked that latter idea best however, I won’t be holding my breath for it to come to fruition as of yet. As we all know a child can meet someone, read about a character in a book or see someone on TV to help swayed them on what they want to be when they grow up. It’s part of growing up to be ever changing and curious.
As you might have figured out, Daddy didn’t interpret things in the same manner as other people. In our home if either me or my sister vocalized what we wanted to be when we grew up, we were bound to that forever. It didn’t matter if I was 6 years old at the time. It was like a promise to Daddy and he expected it to make it to fruition. And not only did he expect it but he’d advertise it to his friends, colleagues and anyone else who would listen. I always hated when he told other people because that meant I couldn’t change my mind. Not that I ever remember Daddy saying something to me but as a kid I knew once he told other people, I’d disappoint him greatly and embarrass him if I wanted to do something else. Meanwhile when I think about my own son and his many changing professions over the years, I’m struck by how out of touch he was with a child’s development. Come on! It’s not like you saw me me go out and get Judah his cape with the letter J monogrammed on it when he wanted to be a superhero. OK, so I did tell my friends and family and I did choose to have a “Superhero’s” theme for his birthday party that year but it was all in fun. Oh and yes, I did get him a cute little suit with a tie but that was for his own enjoyment. Never did I etch any of his career du jours in stone. However, I did have to think about my dad and he remember was by no means the normal dad.
So, when I was 6 years old I made the biggest mistake of my life. I told him I wanted to be the greatest and best bagpiper in the world. Why didn’t someone, ANYONE stop me for such an idiotic statement? I know I was just a little kid but even at that age I should have known better. I should have known what that would have done to me when I grew older. OY VEY! What was I thinking?
Let me explain how it came to be that I said such a thing. Oh, I know it was normal. I was just a kid. But, remember that was NOT Daddy’s interpretation. So, when I was 5 I’d have to take a nap after school. Daddy would be home and while I “napped” he would go into his office to play his records. Two things here I have to mention. First, when Daddy played his records there was never such thing as keeping the volume down. And because he always had to have the volume cranked up to as loud as it could get, Momma forbade Daddy to play his bagpipe records when she was at home. It also didn’t help that she absolutely loathed the sound of bagpipes.
Now, most parents would understand while their child was napping or at least trying to nap it was quiet time for everyone. But for some reason Daddy didn’t get that important memo and we can’t forget life revolved around him. His concern was not to make sure I was getting my rest but instead to fulfill his need to hear his music while Momma wasn’t home. From the mind of a 5 year old it was the perfect excuse for me to get out of having to take a nap. What kid wouldn’t have used that opportunity? Any idiot would have recognized that fact. I will refrain from taking to word “idiot” and placing it with the word “Daddy” but you get my drift. I don’t know how many children could have slept through the loud noise anyway especially when their dad’s office was right next to the child’s bedroom.
Listen, initially I went to Daddy’s office to get out of taking my nap but in time I chose to go for another reason. I loved watching Daddy’s excitement when he saw my interest in his music. He was so happy and was loving during those times. I hardly ever wanted to spend time with him because he was so grumpy and mean. But on the days he played his bagpipe records I loved being with him. I had fond memories from that time. And yet as I remember those times now I can more clearly see how Daddy manipulated me into saying I wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes. I understood being a redheaded, Jewish girl was a unique combination in itself but add bagpipes and gosh do you have a combination. But I can see where Daddy had a much bigger plan in mind. FIrst and foremost it was certainly payback to Momma who hated the instrument. Nothing like being tortured by her own daughter when she’s practicing daily. OY! I’m so incredibly sorry Momma!
Back to Daddy’s plan though. I can see how he was scheming so early in my piping career, “How can I get my daughter to learn to play the loudest damn instrument on the face of the planet so it can bring attention to me as her dad and get me recognized? And the thought just crossed my mind by her playing the bagpipes because it’s so unique, it could help me get business for my new law practice!” And so his plan began with me falling for it hook, line and sinker. Especially after Momma died me playing the pipes became Daddy’s obsession and he used it to his full advantage to attempt to bring him notoriety and above all, to bring him money. What began as an instrument of love turned into the instrument from hell.
When I first started playing the pipes I had started a correspondence with one of the finest bagpipers. He was an older gentleman who lived with his wife in a small, cold town in Wales. Just a month after Momma died Daddy had a grandure idea that my correspondence of this piper would be his ticket to bringing him the notoriety he had longed for and wanted for so many years. If only Daddy could figure out the perfect way to get him and his wife to come visit, he would be given all kinds of accolades which once again in Daddy’s mind meant it would get him the business.
Daddy had always thought bigger than what was realistic. In his mind he would get the British consulate, the local University president and the mayors from our surrounding cities involved to make it a huge affair. Bagpipers would come to our town from all over to see this amazing piper. The piper would be recognized but even more so Daddy would receive huge amounts of fan fair for knowing this “famous” piper and for having him stay in our home. People would flock to Daddy wanting him to represent them in their divorces, criminal cases and other matters where an attorney would be needed. Daddy would become a sort of celebrity in our area because of this one bagpiper from Wales.
What Daddy failed to think was what if all of those people he wanted to get involved didn’t even know this piper, then what? It wasn’t as if piping was so popular that any Tom, Dick or Mary would recognize his name. But that was irrelevent to Daddy because he was certain his plan would work.
There was a catch though to his plan. And don’t you know by now there was always a catch. I always was suspicious because he was never thinking of the welfare of anyone else but himself. And with that meant a lot of bulldozing over other people including me, his own daughter. As a teenager I was well aware of that fact and tried to protect myself the best I could.
A month after Momma died and during the time Daddy was pressuring me to do his taxes that was when he had come up with his outrageous plan to bring the piper and his wife over from Wales. He sat me down for a serious talk and said he had to do something because he “ was in a do or die situation.” Basically, if he didn’t start bringing money in from his law practice, we were both going under. I didn’t know what that meant but boy did it sounded terrible. Of course when he sat me down to discuss anything it was usually a long, drawn out process. But, when it came to his lack of funds and his needing ways to figure out how to get money fast, I knew they would be hours and hours long. During this long meeting when he told me of his idea and how he knew it would bring him lots of business, I was very skeptical. I knew it would cost lots of money. Lots of money he didn’t have and would have to find. So, not only did he need money because as he said he could barely keep us afloat but then he needed money to even arrange this great plan for it to even work? It just didn’t sound good. When Daddy told me “we” had hit rock bottom and if “we” didn’t do something soon, we were both in deep shit trouble. Again, I didn’t know what that meant but I knew I didn’t want it to happen. Deep shit just sounded so ugly.
When Daddy started telling me his idea in more detail on how he was going to make this plan work, my immidiate thought was, “hold on because here comes the roller coaster ride! Everyone get ready and fasten your seat belts for we’re all about to be a part of Daddy’s psychological up and down roller coaster.
Daddy really believed he could bring the piper and his wife to our city and present them in such a way people would have as much interest to see them as they did with wanting to see British royalty. He’d get people like the consulate and the University’s president to plan events where folks would pay to meet him. His biggest idea was to have the local mayor give a ball in Daddy’s, oh I mean the piper’s honor.
Because Daddy needed an income, he decided having them come that upcoming summer would be perfect. However, it was only 4 months away and I just couldn’t conceive how he was going to successfully pull it all together. But, Daddy believed this piper alone would sell his idea so he had plenty of time to arrange it.
I hated the thought my summer was going to be taken away because I would have to help Daddy with his over the top idea. I loved my summers. There wasn’t any school. I could relax. Even if I had to work 4 jobs it didn’t matter as long as I didn’t have the pressure from school. And Daddy was going to take it away. On top of that I knew I’d have to carry a large part of the load of whatever Daddy was doing. In other words what was I going to be fully responsible for doing and then screwing up and then blamed?
I have to admit he was good in making it all sound exciting And of course in order for those things to happen successfully he told me I needed to buy into his plan. OK, so how much was it going to cost me? I asked him what that meant. He told me I would have to write the piper a convincing letter to get him to come for a visit. After all Daddy’s plan could not work without him or my letter. He told me my letter could make or break the deal. Daddy felt in order to persuade him and his wife I’d needed to promise I’d eat, drink and sleep the bagpipes if he’d come. Well, the fact I was 15, soon to be 16, I just didn’t have that kind of passion for the pipes. But wouldn’t you know it, Daddy reminded me of my desire to become the greatest bagpiper. I responded by telling him I was 5 when I said those words. He didn’t care. I said them and they were etched in stone as the holy grail. I was afraid to get involved in one of Daddy’s schemes because his ideas never worked and they always backfired. And when they didn’t work, it was always because of something I did or didn’t do.
I asked Daddy how long was he asking for them to come and stay with us? I wanted to know how much of my summer I’d have to give up. I thought it was a reasonable question. He got angry and told me I should be thankful for just having that piper willing to give me lessons. He said while they were in our home, I was to wake everyone at the crack of dawn by the sounds of me practicing the pipes and I was to put everyone to sleep from the sounds of me practicing on my pipes. He told me if I didn’t do that, I’d single handedly ruin his entire plan preventing us from keeping a roof over our heads. OY! This was not going to be good. I just knew it.
After several hours of Daddy wearing me down I felt I had no choice but to tell him I’d do as he said. At that point I just wanted Daddy to shut up. To solidify the deal he made me sign a contract he had drawn up promising I’d spend every waking hour playing my pipes to show the visiting piper I had the desire to become the world’s best bagpiper. The contract had a lot more in there but I will refrain from giving you heartburn with all of the crap Daddy wrote. And did I sign it you ask? Yes, I did and finally he stopped torturing me with having to sit and listen to him any longer.
The next morning Daddy was excited about his plan. He kept talking about all of things he was going to buy us because the piper’s visit was going to be an overwhelming success. He was loving and caring that morning and he even reassured me we were going to be OK. I was skeptical which always made him angry. He saw me as the bubble popper but I just felt I was being more realistic. Plus, after many years of hearing so many of Daddy’s wonderful plans and witnessing each one’s failure, I couldn’t be hopeful. That made him mad too.
Two months later Daddy wasn’t so confident anymore which made him on edge and very worried. He didn’t have a commitment from the local University’s president or from the British consulate to pay for the piper and his wife’s visit. They didn’t know of the piper and really didn’t see how him coming would be beneficial to the community. Daddy in great Daddy fashion insulted them by basically calling them idiots for not knowing about this wonderful and great piper. Listen, we aren’t talking about Yitzhak Pearlman who was widely known even if you didn’t play the violin. However, we are talking about a bagpiper where only a select few would know who he was. Why would Daddy have expected it differently?
He was desperate to find a sponsor to bring the piper and his wife over. I had already sent my letter to them requesting they come for a visit. In the letter Daddy made me promise we would basically role out the red carpet for them. Little did Daddy know it wouldn’t be that difficult at all to get them to commit to coming for a visit. See, it really didn’t matter if my letter was inspiring at all. Once they read they wouldn’t have to pay for anything, they were convinced. That’s all it took. And so they eagerly waited to receive their tickets from Daddy and even called to push him along. However, down to the wire of needing to send them their airline tickets, Daddy was still void of a sponsor.
He was stuck and felt he couldn’t back out. He had too much riding on it he would say. But he was at a point he had to do something so he began reaching at straws. He started calling lawyers he knew who had Scottish last names but to no surprise of mine that didn’t work. He also called the mayor of a larger neighboring town to see if he could get their support. Their only offer was they would give the piper a key to the city and acknowledge him during a counsel meeting. Daddy was disappointed because he really needed the money but he took their offer anyway because he had no events set up to honor the piper. This would become the one event.
By the time it was May Daddy had promised the piper and his wife they’d be receiving their tickets. When they didn’t receive them they began contacting him to complain they wanted their tickets. They were quite insistent for being our guests. Daddy was scrambling to find the money. The good news was Daddy found the money to bring them over just in time. The bad news was Daddy had to ask a girlfriend for the money to pay for it and would have to pay it back. But for Daddy, the first hurdle was over. And so, the piper and his wife were officially coming to visit.
Now, Daddy had his own perception of the piper and his wife. He assumed because the piper was an older gentleman who had won many top piping competitions and awards, he was not only of the upper class but very accustomed to it as well. The image Daddy conjured up of this piper and his wife were much different that the two people who arrived at our home that summer. It certainly was an experience and only one that Daddy could create with his outlandish ideas.
Well, people, when the piper and his wife arrived they had no apprehensions to tell us what and where they wanted Daddy to take them. They were quite a pair and I don’t mean in a good way and definitely not of the class Daddy had thought. They actually reminded me of the Clampett’s from the Beverly Hillbillies. It was as if they had never traveled or knew much about the outside world. They had no concept how large the US was as they requested to be taken to Washington DC and New York. First that wasn’t an option but when Daddy told them how far those cities were from us, they were in shock and disbelief. They were odd. It almost felt that our “free invitation” was being stretched as far as they could stretch it without any regards to us. They were a kid in a candy store wanting to do whatever it was they wanted to do. I was astounded by their ignorance and lack of class. I wasn’t expecting the made up royalty Daddy had made up in his head but I certainly did not expect what we saw. They expected their every need to be catered to and to be taken where ever they wanted to go. Since I wrote (well, dictated) the letter that was sent to them, I knew they were not promised such grander plans. For such little people in stature they certainly had a way to make their presence known. I was fascinated.
There was one thing the piper and his wife loved about the South and that was our weather. At over 100 degrees they would enjoy going outside and walking around with their faces facing towards the sun. As time passed they would go outside, roll up their sleeves, open the top buttons on their shirts and roll up their pants to expose more parts of their body. They wanted their friends to be impressed with their tans when they went back home. It was very comical and I couldn’t imagine what our neighbors thought. Even though they loved our heat, they had never experienced humidity like we had which added to the heat. We noticed they were only able to sun for about 10 minutes at a time before they needed to go inside to cool off. Daddy tried to explain to them to be careful with being outside too long because of the oppressing heat. He recommended they drink lots of water. One of the days during their visits they wanted to go for a walk. They asked how far it was to the nearest shops. I told them it was too far to walk because it was a good 5 miles down the road. They were excited the shops were that close and insisted they were going to take a walk. I contacted Daddy at work because I was worried. G-d help me if the very people who were going to make Daddy money had died from heat stroke, I would have surely been in a shit load of trouble. Daddy told me to let them go , wait about 15 minutes and then pick them up. After waiting the designated amount of time I headed out to get them. When I pulled up to them as they were walking they were very relieved.
There were a few days Daddy took them sightseeing. He took them to an old plantation to show them the real South and not what they had seen on TV. They loved visiting the assorted stereotypical places. One city which had lots of wonderful historic sites for them was a good 45 minutes away. To us it wasn’t that far but to them for some reason they had in mind they would have been able to walk to all of the assorted tourist sites from our home. As we continued driving they could clearly see that was not possible but it floored me they would be so upset by it. Along with touring Daddy took them to local government buildings to introduce them to the local dignitaries. Daddy had it in his mind that the dignitaries were impressed by him bringing over this piper and his wife but honestly, they didn’t care. They didn’t know who he was and really weren’t interested. It was incredibly sad my dad wasn’t able to read people properly and as a result would only make himself look bad. I guess it was good he didn’t know but that alone was so damaging.
Listen, to see Daddy, the piper and his wife who all had strong and unique personalities going at it like three rams continuously head butting each other was a site to see. Because Daddy wanted to show them off in order to try to get more attention for himself he took the piper and his wife to meet a variety of people in our community. They really weren’t interested but it wasn’t as if Daddy gave them a choice either. Those days were great because I didn’t have to go. I used that time to visit my friends and to nap. With no one being home, I was able to lie and say I played my pipes (when I really didn’t). Listen, I was not a great piper and certainly NOT the piper Daddy had built me up to be. I hated practicing in front of people and I certainly didn’t want to practice in ear’s shot of someone who was an excellent piper to say the least. I tried anything and everything to get out of it.
After 3 weeks of them staying with us their visit was coming to an end. I was ready to see them go. I clearly wasn’t willing to put piping as my top priority and I was tired of the conversations revolving around piping. A few days before they were to leave I was about to walk into the dining room for breakfast when I heard Daddy, the piper and his wife talking. I stopped when I heard them say my name and I stood very quietly in the hallway so I could listen. The piper was telling Daddy how disappointed he was in my lack of drive in wanting to play the pipes. He felt I was a different person than who I represented in my letters. Daddy agreed with him and added to what he said by telling him d he was also dissapointed with me. The piper went on to explain how his own father would use a switch to hit his fingers when he didn’t play a piece correctly. He spoke about how much of a cattle driver his father was and how there never was the option of not practicing when he was growing up because his father would have killed him if he hadn’t. Basically, the piper had no life. It only revolved around piping. It sounded like a crazy upbringing. But more than anything, it angered me that the piper was suggesting Daddy just needed to whip me into shape with harder methods of discipline just as his dad did to him. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the piper say he is grateful to his dad for doing that for him. GREAT! All I needed was another person to support Daddy’s already abusive behavior. Daddy told the piper he was beyond angry because I was such an ungrateful daughter. To that I remember the piper responding, “Ashamed.” I was fuming while over hearing their conversation and so wanted to barge in to stop them. Hearing Daddy comiserate with the piper about more forceful methods to get me to do as he wanted made me sick. Did it not matter to any damn person that my mom had died only 5 months before and I had been basically abandoned by my dad who when he was home was verbally and physically abusive? OK, no one knew about the abuse but hearing how the piper condoned that behavior it amazed me that no one at least gave me the benefit of the doubt of losing my mom. I really thought I was in a bad dream. How could so many people not care? Each person Daddy brought into my life never would acknowledge my pain because of my loss. I hated that lonely and isolated feeling as I heard more crap coming from Daddy and the piper. Why in tarnation did my piping matter so much to the piper. He didn’t care. They were there because they were opportunists who received a free trip to the States. They weren’t there for me. They expected to be “limousined” around and treated like royalty. They never paid a dime for anything. In fact if we went out to eat, they expected Daddy to pay. Even their souvenirs they expected to be paid by Daddy. It was incredible. They had already over stepped their boundaries but then they had the nerve to add to my already hellish life? What was it to them? Why were they being so mean?
Needless to say, the piper and his wife’s trip was uneventful and unsuccessful for Daddy. And even though he personally found our guests from Wales to be “low life, greedy bastards” my dad was still able to find a way to blame me. If I had only done as our contract said, then things would not have turned out as they did. Daddy did like the the pipers advice to try to get me to play my pipes more. I hated the piper for doing that to me.
Having shared all of that you can see how my piping was a perfect pawn. Whatever he was conjuring up at the time, another demand rolled on down. Well, during my Junior and Senior year in high school Daddy had a new plan. I had to bring my pipes to any and every gathering we were invited to regardless of the wishes of the host and/or hostess. I HATED it. It was so incredibly embarrassing. Like a dog, when Daddy gave me the signal, I was to play my pipes. I remember begging him to not make me take them. He’d always yell that he was the one who got me the pipes and if I wanted to keep them I was to play when and wherever he wanted. I don’t remember any event or dinner party we attended when the guests appreciated it. I suppose Daddy’s master like behavior was a huge turnoff and easily angered those in attendance.
I clearly remember one of the time Daddy made me bring my pipes. We were invited to a family friend’s house for Thanksgiving. They had a lot of people there which was the perfect set up for Daddy to show off. He had this way about him when he felt superior than anyone else. It always started with him lighting his cigar. He’d never ask if he could. He’d simply do it until told otherwise. Then, once it was lit, he’d demand I get my pipes and perform. So, there we were at our friend’s house. I was always waiting for the next shoe to fall as Daddy was always picking a fight with someone. This particular night though he kept to himself. He attempted to light his cigar but several people there told him to put it out. Oh my! How do I say this? Daddy didn’t like that very much and I could see revenge in his eyes. He turned to me and motioned with his hand. What the hell did that mean? I just sat there in a passive and aggressive way waiting for him to talk to me like a human being. Because I didn’t do as his hand movement commanded, he angrily told me it was time for some piping. I didn’t want to do it. It felt wrong and obtrusive. Daddy was pissed by this point and in a demanding tone told me I was to play for him. The hostess who was standing right behind Daddy told him to stop demanding for me to play. She added that there were a lot of people there and because the pipes were so loud it really wasn’t a good time for it. She was trying to help me. He got angrier at me and started threatening me. The other guests didn’t like Daddy which I knew would come back to haunt me. Finally I did as he demanded and in tears I got my pipes and played. I looked at my Dad as I played and I could see he really was clueless to the feelings of the others. He was able to twist the course of events in such a way that it never put any responsibility on him as the wrong doer.
On our drive home that Thanksgiving evening he told me I had behaved like an ass and should have done as he demanded. He said the only reason the others got mad at him was because I didn’t do as I was told. If I had, then he wouldn’t have had to force me to do as I was told and the others would not have seen him as the fool. Daddy then went into a rampage on how my piping was my ticket to success. He told me I needed to use my playing of the pipes to my advantage but because I was such a fool, I wouldn’t listen. When I asked him how playing at a damn Thanksgiving dinner was relevant, let me just say I hit a raw nerve in him. He started driving the car like a wild maniac. Each time he’d make a turn the tires would screech and felt as if the car could flip during any given turn. When we pulled into our driveway, he stopped the car. Still with his unlit cigar in his mouth, he turned towards me. He shoved me against the car door on my side, got right up in my face while pointing his finger and said, “I want you to hear me and hear me loud and clear. If you know what’s good for you, you will bring your pipes and play them whenever and where ever I tell you to. And if you don’t you will pay a heavy price for it. You are my private piper and even if it’s during breakfast at our house, if I say jump, you are to only ask how high. Do I make myself clear?” The rage in his eyes exemplified how disassociated he had become. I was scared. OK, I was terrified. Regardless, there were many times I found the Chutzpah to stand up to him. I think it was the fact I was a teenager more than anything. As Daddy was in my face pointing his finger I sat up and told him to get his damn finger out of my face. He got closer to me and put his finger on the tip of my nose. His finger on my nose was like that last feather to fall and break the camels back. The only way I could explain how I was feeling was just like when you feel nauseated. Your mind tells you not to throw up but your body takes over forcing you to throw up. Your body knew just what to do and your mind had no control. My rage was the same. It had built up and had to get out. And with my body in control I twisted his finger in such a way where the palm of his hand was facing upwards. Then, I pushed downwards and towards in a direction his hand did not bend naturally. It was a self defense move Daddy had taught me when I was a little girl. I could have easily broken his wrist. I never understood what possessed me or gave me the strength to fight back except my feeling of rage could no longer stay plugged. It had to come out. Ultimately, I never saw what I did as self defense. I could only see it as participating in his abuse. I hated myself for losing control. I hated when I felt that rage and believe it or not I never knew from where it came. I know now. Hello!!!
I never hurt Daddy and always stopped myself before I could do something terrible. I say always but I only fought back 3 times. And even though I felt bad for what I had done I knew I couldn’t show that to Daddy. I had to look strong regardless.
After I let go of Daddy’s finger I sat straight up and looked intensely into his eyes. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I actually saw a man who was scared of what I had done and could have potentially done to him. He clearly was larger and stronger than me but with the rage I had building, my power to hurt my dad must have been overwhelming and way beyond my comprehension. Today when I remember those few times I stood up for myself, I proudly give myself a high five and a “you go girlfriend”. But back then all I could feel was guilt and the lack of understanding for how I could have had so much rage inside me to want to hurt my own dad. I loved him and didn’t want to ever hurt him.