I own a magnificent six-foot Steinway grand piano. I play it as often as I can, usually every day, not because I want to improve my playing but because the instrument itself is so beautiful.
Some time ago in this blog, I told the story of how I came to own such a magnificent and expensive piano. The story is worth retelling, this time with more detail.
The story starts with my divorce from my first wife, the mother of my four children. During the divorce hearings, my wife had testified about me and offered evidence why she should be awarded the lion’s share of our joint holdings. When it came my turn on the witness stand, I was ready to relate the ways she failed me in my moment of greatest need.
That moment was in April 1975 when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, and I escaped under fire. My hearing was severely damaged by the shelling, and I was suffering from both amoebic dysentery and pneumonia, brought on by muscle fatigue, insufficient diet, and sleep deprivation when I was holed up in my office for weeks as the North Vietnamese laid siege to the city. Worse, I had a psychological illness we didn’t have a name for back then, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). The symptoms, which I had to the max, were panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, irrational rages, and depression.
When I arrived back in the U.S. in late May 1975, I telephoned my wife from Maryland at her father’s house in Massachusetts. I begged her to come to Maryland. I needed her. I was physically and emotionally ill.
She refused. She told me that she wouldn’t return until I got our house back from the family that had leased it for the three-year period we expected to be in Saigon. I finally repossessed the house the following July. Only then did she and the children come home.
They had toured the world when they were evacuated from Saigon, twenty days before the city fell in April 1975. They’d toured all through Asia and Europe, getting back to the states after I did. My wife knew that Saigon had fallen but she didn’t know if I had survived. She made no attempt to find out.
That was the story I was prepared to tell during the divorce proceedings. But as I took the witness stand, I spotted a neighbor coming into the courtroom with one of my daughters. I clammed up. I wasn’t about to narrate my wife’s considerable failings and egregious acts before one of her children.