My Post-Childhood Journey into Music: Part 3: I’m Free

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The pivotal song in the rock opera, I’m Free, is also pivotal in my own life. Tommy’s mother throws him into the mirror out of exasperation for all the years he never responded to her efforts to communicate with him. The rough equivalent of this for me was when after only two months of knowing my future stepmother and stepsiblings, my father, on Mothers Day, told me that the five of us will become a family. Given the fact that only two months meant that they were still strangers to me, in addition to the inability to gain closure over the loss of my biological mother ten years earlier, it felt as if I were thrown into a mirror, just as Tommy had been.

However as the four months between the day I was told of the marriage, and the day of the wedding had passed, I began to accept the new reality. While my fifteen-year old brother-to-be and I had a lot of tension between us, I adored my five-year old sister-to-be.

The key to my successful transition and integration into a new family was the result of acceptance of the new family by relatives from my biological mother’s family. So instead of feeling like an orphan living in a family of two, my Dad and myself, I was integrated into more than one family. First, my new immediate family of my father, stepmother and stepsiblings. Second, my stepmother’s extended family. Third, my biological mother’s extended family.

However beyond attainment of a normal life and finding peace within myself, I evolved from someone self-absorbed with my own problems, to a person finding empathy with others experiencing problems or challenges in their own lives.

 

 

 

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My Post-Childhood Journey into Music: Part 2: Christmas, Cousin Kevin, There’s a Doctor

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The Christmas scene in Tommy shows him sitting in a circle, but despite being surrounded by friends, is silent and completely withdrawn. This holiday is regarded as being a time of joy and celebration. The same held true for me during my fifth or sixth birthday party. I have a vague memory of crying loudly  after everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. To refer back to Part I, I perceived the inability of adults to help me grieve over the loss of my mother, and find what therapists today call closure, as a continuing cover-up. Since I could not yet comprehend and verbalize how I was feeling, I, like Tommy, became silent and withdrawn. In other words, I could not enjoy the celebration of my birthday without the physical presence of my deceased mother.

During one part of this holiday celebration, we can hear Tommy internally crying, See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me. Something similar was happening to me, with the Heal Me being a question of how my mother will continue to live on in other ways.

The Cousin Kevin scene is about Tommy being bullied by a member of his own family. I was bullied in school by fellow classmates. In addition to being insecure, I was also short in height, both of which made me easy prey with other boys.

The emotional trauma I was experiencing, in addition to bullying in school, resulted in testing that revealed I had a learning disability. This is where the There’s a Doctor scene enters. The doctor in the Tommy movie was one who conducted physical tests on the boy. I have a vivid memory of being physically dragged out of the car by my father when we visited a local psychologist. I recall that I was asked to participate in a few exercises, of its purpose I do not know. I do recall that throughout elementary school, I would be taken out of a class in order to participate in various activities by some sort of special education instructor. I remember feeling that something was wrong with me, such as being “dumb” or “stupid” in some way. It was only the fact that I never had to repeat a grade that gave me assurance I had normal intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Post-Childhood Journey into Music: Part I: What About the Boy, Amazing Journey

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The first scene in Tommy that has a similarity with my own life is entitled, What About the Boy. While Tommy watched his father being killed, my mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. The chant from Tommy’s mother and her lover to the boy was “you didn’t see it, you didn’t hear it.” My father and other adults were perceived myself, at the age of three, as evasive whenever I asked about my Mom’s death. So to me, her death felt like a cover-up.

The next act, Amazing Journey, is when Tommy shuts down and internalized all his anger. While I internalized much of my own, I was told that I also externalized denial. Pretending that my deceased mother was playing hide-and-seek with me, I would walk around the house, telling her to come out from where she was hiding.

Pete Townshend, the band member who created Tommy, said that when the boy emotionally shut down, he experienced everything as musical vibrations. My own outlet also came from music, by hearing sad love songs on the radio. The one song which I related to more than any other was Carole King’s tune, So Far Away. The lyrics are:

So Far Away

Doesn’t Anybody Stay in One Place Anymore

It Would be so Nice to See Your Face at my Door

But it Doesn’t Help to Know

That You’re So Far Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Post-Childhood Journey into Music: Introduction

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The following is a six-part post. The first three are the most personal I have written for this blog. The last three relate to personal stories and challenges of three current musicians.

A previous post entitled, Listening to You, I Get the Music https://dwor2345.wordpress.com/2012/02/ , is about the rock opera that brought The Who to its superstar status. However the main character in this opera, Tommy, and the title of it, has many similarities with my own life.

My biological mother had died when I was three years old. I was an only child at the time. Although the death of any family member is hard for anyone at any age, no adult was able to help me get through what therapists today call a normal grieving period. As a result, I became emotionally traumatized by my mother’s passing. It had impacted my social and educational development.

In short, I was not living what people working in the field of child development would regard as a normal life. It was not until the age of 14, after my father had remarried, and I gained a stepmother, stepbrother and stepsister, did I finally discover what a normal life is supposed to be like.

The story of Tommy is one in which he, too, is an only child who experiences the death of a parent at an early age, becomes emotionally traumatized, but is able to free himself much later in life. However, in addition to attaining a normal life, Tommy tries to help others who are less fortunate. I try to do the same with family members, friends, etc., who are going through tough times in their lives.

For those readers who may be unfamiliar with each act and sequence of Tommy, access the link to the Tommy movie, below. Watching the movie for our purposes is better than listening to the original soundtrack, since the movie conveys needed visual images.