Most of us would never expect a very young child to protect his family from his own father’s extreme physical abuse. But in the dynamics of these kinds of family units, such an unrealistic expectation is, sadly, often the norm.
Such was the case for young Norman Malone, who at only 10 years old was burdened with this responsibility by his own mother. So seriously did the young Chicago boy take this task to heart, that when one night he fell asleep on the job, he continued to blame himself for his entire life for what subsequently befell both him and his own brothers at the hands of his cruel father.
Now 78, Malone still trembles when telling the heart-wrenching saga, which he relayed to Steve Hartman on CBS’ On the Road series recently.
Young Malone awoke on that fateful night to the horrifying reality that his father, armed with a hammer, was attacking all three of his boys with a level of rage and savagery that can only be described as psychotic. So vicious was the assault that all three siblings never entirely regained their mobility.
As tragic as this was for all the boys, for Malone, it was especially devastating. A young piano virtuoso with an amazing talent, he had envisioned a professional musical career since a very tender age. But now, in just one unimaginable night, that dream had been leveled to a nightmare.
Most people would have understandably simply given up at that point, assuming they would never again create melodious sounds from their instrument of choice. But Malone had a dream, and while his hand may have been shattered irrevocably, his dream would not be, as Hartman learned in speaking with the senior who now lives in a Chicago apartment building.
After spending the better part of his life teaching himself, amazingly, to play as a southpaw, Malone eventually found a very special gift: musical scores created specifically for those who are lefties. But while he pursued his passion privately, the wafting loveliness of his musical sessions in that Chicago apartment was carried to many a neighbors’ ear, and one of those neighbors decided that this tremendous talent deserved to be heard by a greater audience.
A jazz critic got wind of the virtuoso via said neighbor, and he decided to follow up. What he found was so inspiring, he gave Malone the chance to play his first live concert ever at two years shy of being an octogenarian. The former high school choral instructor stunned even his now-grown students who attended the dazzling event, for which he received a standing ovation and roses.
Malone also got something even more precious for his once-in-a-lifetime performance: a chance to live out a dream that was almost destroyed in the darkest way possible. And in doing so, he redeemed something from that ugly, ugly night that his father could likely never have envisioned: he found his very soul.
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