For many years as I went about my weekend routine of doing all those chores around our house I would regularly hear the sound of a piano playing and singing in the background. One of our neighbours has always had a love of music and obviously the family enjoyed gathering around the piano on the weekend. The music and singing was never something that was hard to take, in fact I often found myself humming or singing away with a song that I knew well.
Living in a fairly relaxed and quiet suburban area does have many pluses, however, this little bonus of weekend enjoyment was something I looked forwarded too, although at the time I never realised that I did.
Around three years ago the music and singing stopped and it wasn’t until our neighbours told me of the troubles that their teenage son was dealing with that I came to realise why, the family was no longer a happy one where the sound of music and singing could be heard.
Being a parent is a wonderful thing even though it is full of lots of highs and lows, however, when the lows hit it can be a challenging and very saddening experience. As I was to discover over the following months our neighbours son had got involved with a group of other teenagers whose lifestyle included late night partying, drinking, drugs and doing lot’s other anti-social things. This was something I found hard to comprehend as their son use to play with my two son’s and the other boys who live in our street, but suddenly he was off hanging out with another crowd of young people doing things that were not consistent with what I new about him. Such is peer pressure I guess, however, it didn’t make it any easier for my two delightful neighbours who had always been such wonderful parents and who had brought some weekend enjoyment to me as I went about his household chores.
Over the last couple of years I have often spent time with them in an endeavour to be of some assistance to them in the time of trouble. I also had a couple of conversations with their son but nothing seemed to be working to get this young man back on track and his family, personal and schooling life suffered greatly.
Just over a year ago things started to change for the better and this young man who was now almost out of his teens started to come out of the horror period in his life. He went back to school to complete his high school studies and has now gone to commence studies to become a naturopath. From afar and as a neighbour it is great to see that at last everything is back on track for this young man and his parents.
From time to time all our immediate neighbours get together to celebrate those special yearly occasions and there is an informal sort of rotation system with these events which see us all move from house to house year in year out. Just recently our neighbours with the son who had gone through this rocky period and come out the other end back on track, invited us and a number of other family’s over for lunch to celebrate one of those special yearly occasions.
During the course of a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon I sat on the piano stool in front of now silent piano. I am not sure of the brand of piano, however, it is one of those upright models with a highly polished black finish. I could not help but notice that there were some words and some images scratched onto the front of the piano, immediately above the keyboard.
The words said ‘I Hate You’ and they appeared they may have been scratched onto the piano in a fit of rage as they were very rough and fairly deeply etched into the surface of the piano. An attempt had also been made to cover up these three words with a series of scratches crisscrossing over the top of the words.
Immediately underneath this crudely written and very sad statement were three images spread across the front of the piano. The images were three stick figures, two large ones and a slightly smaller one, followed by the shape of a heart and then a flower.
As I sat there I felt the urge to find out what these three words and three images meant, however, I did not feel it was appropriate to ask for fear that is some way it related to past events that were best forgotten. The answer came without me even having to ask as our neighbour and mother of the young man saw me looking at the front of piano and came over to sit next to me on the piano stool.
She explained with just a hint of tears in her eyes that her son had scratched the words onto the piano during a fit of anger as he struggled to come to terms with the pressures he was facing at one of the lowest points in his life. She also explained that they had then endeavoured to remove the words themselves but to no avail and could not afford the high cost of repairing the panel. Equally, at that time they did not know if he would do it again and so decided to leave it there.
She went on to tell me that some months later, both she and her husband came home one afternoon to find that the three words had been scratched over in an attempt to cover them up and that the stick figures, heart and flower had been added, and they both took that as sign that their son had come back to them in both spirit and body. She then smiled at me in a way that said we are okay now and then went off to speak to one of our other neighbours.
There is no doubt that for many months these three words etched on the piano would have created significant distress and sadness for my two neighbours as it was clear that they had been directed at them. My admiration for them as human beings had now moved to an even higher level, knowing that it takes a lot of guts to face up to something like that day in day out.
What their son had done was unforgivable and had hurt them both so deeply, however, I found myself understanding why and that perhaps he had come to realisation of what he had done and what it meant to his parents during that low period in his life. I thought at that very moment that he may have decided to make a statement which said I am sorry and the only way he could do that was with the three images. It also occurred to me that perhaps his first message may not have been directed at his parents but rather himself.
I am reminded of a well know quote ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’
What that young man said and did in writing those three words may over time be forgotten, however, what he did and said when he etched those three images into the piano made his mum and dad feel something that will never be forgotten – it was a visual expression of the love of son who had returned to them.
Their family life seems much more settled and happier now even if the sound of music and singing does not punctuate the weekends as it did before, however, this neighbour can live without that in the knowledge that there is again love and music in their hearts.
Inspired by Alex, Jim and Gerard and written by Keith Ready