Up Close With Dr. E

The boy with the golden fiddle


This story is about the collision between a child prodigy named Daniel, and the darker power of a family secret. Does Daniel survive? Let’s find out.

Carnegie Music Hall, New York City: “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome tonight’s performers — Daniel Dafoe on violin, accompanied on piano by his father, our beloved conductor of this city’s Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Dafoe.”

Like a strand of lights, where each bulb radiated a different color, Daniel’s music brought out the best of the human heart: Love, kindness, hope.

Having uplifted the crowd, Daniel played his final note and bowed. The audience exploded into a standing ovation and, from that moment on, “The Boy with the Golden Fiddle” became legend.

16 years later:

Office Visit #1: Step-mother Cindy Dafoe meets Dr. Wilson. “Dr., my stepson Dan Dafoe has an appointment with you tomorrow. He wanted you to have this …” Cindy handed over a large folder. “Dan also asked me to tell you about his family:”

“Daniel’s father, Burt Dafoe, my husband, was once a powerful musician, who, for 30 years, conducted the New York Philharmonic. When Dan was born, Burt made it his mission to teach his only son the violin. Because Burt’s first-born child, Rose, refused to follow in his musical footsteps, Dan became Burt’s last chance to leave a musical legacy. Dan surpassed his father’s dreams, when he became the greatest violinist of the century. Then, at age 21, Dan disappeared. For 6 years, he went missing, until five days ago. He now lives with me. His father, Burt, is residing in a facility due to Alzheimer’s, and a lifetime of alcohol abuse. Dan’s mother Eve died six years ago of cancer.”

Staying late at his office, Dr. Wilson picked up Daniel’s folder, causing a sheet of paper to spill out. It was a song entitled, “A Boy of Nine,” with lyrics scribbled under the musical notes.

Office Visit #2: “Mr. Dafoe, I’m Dr. Wilson, please come into my office. Dan, your stepmother told me that from 2009 to now, you disappeared. What happened?”

“I don’t know.” “Dan, your passport has 39 stamped entries, all port cities in foreign countries.” “Yes, I hired on as a merchant marine, a sailor.”

“Why would the world’s greatest violinist vanish, sail around the globe, and then suddenly reappear?”

“Ever spent time at sea? On midnight watch, my eyes beheld moonbeams leaping from wave to wave, and meteor showers raining down bullets of fire. But it was the harmony and rhythm, the music of the sea, which gave me hope.”

“Dan, you vanished at the same time your mother died. When did you last see her?”

“My mother, Eve, divorced Dad when I was 10. =I last saw my mother when I was 21; she had come to New York to hear my concert.”

“Was it a good visit?” “No, we had a fight.” “Dan, what did you fight about?”

“I screamed at her, why didn’t you protect my sister?” “Protect her from what?”

“My father. Dr. Wilson, when I was nine, three life-altering events occurred. The first was my debut concert at Carnegie Hall. The second happened that summer, in June. I had gone to stay with my grandmother, who lived in the country. But I forgot my allergy medicine, so my grandmother drove me back to the city, and I went up to our apartment. I heard Rose scream, I crept up to her room. The door was open, just a few inches. I peeked in, saw my father raping Rose. I froze. I left her…”

“The third event occurred in July, while at my grandmother’s. Her home was next to a forest, where I loved to explore. The guilt I carried about my failure to protect Rose had grown into a mountain. I began having nightmares. On a Sunday in July, I walked into the woods, and it was there that I felt the presence of something good. But it was so small, so subtle, I didn’t think much of it until later, as an adult. That was why I wrote the song, ‘A Boy of Nine’, and two weeks ago, I put in the lyrics. Would you like to hear it?”

“Of course.” Dan took out his violin and played his song.

Conclusion: When Dan and Rose were traumatized by their father’s abuse, their lives were altered forever. How so? The knife of trauma cleaved their hearts into two parts: one good, one bad. As they grew up, these two parts became enemies and went to war. What do Dan and Rose need to win their internal battles and heal? They need you, parent’s teachers, doctors, friends, and pastors, to speak this truth: “As a child, bad things happened to you, but that does not make you a bad person.”

What’s that? You want the read Dan’s lyrics to his song?

A Boy of Nine

“A stranger when he first came to me, when I was nine.

That day he touched the very heart of me and eased my mind.

A cloud-free sunny Sunday in July, alone with me.

Under the cobalt umbrella of a vast and endless sky, he spoke to me.

The words were simple, the words were few,

But what was said, eclipsed all I had held to be true,

My hand he led.

He was a stranger, when he came to me,

But now I see, that on the day we met,

It was I who came to be, a boy set free.”

The content of this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional. The characters in this story are not real. Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.


Dr. Richard Elghammer contributes his column each week to the Journal Review.


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