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My dad was addicted (in a good way) to sharing his talents. Perhaps addicted is not the best word. Rather, I should write compelled. He was compelled to assist. Compelled to help. He shared himself with people he barely knew, with people he’s just met, with people he knew well, with people at church and, more importantly, with his family.
This is not one of those stories.
This is the story of the 12-string guitar I purchased for myself almost 10 years ago now, right after I got divorced. I don’t know what made me want a 12-string or why I thought I could handle such an instrument then – I really can’t all that well almost a decade later – but I got it in my head that I wanted it, I got it from amazon (naturally) and got right to playing it when it arrived at the door of my condo one afternoon.
It was a “Stellar” brand guitar, not a “Stella” brand, meaning it is a rip off, but that was okay. Post-divorce, the fact that it was a knock off is why I could afford it. It was cheap.
The guitar had a very nice sound and, because it was a 12-string, it made me sound like I knew more about playing than I actually did. It also had a built-in pickup meaning it didn’t need to be mic’ed, just plugged into a sound system or amp. That was also very cool.
One day at church – during a mass at which my dad, a deacon, was on the altar – I dropped the guitar and the instrument cable which was plugged into the pickup rammed its way into the guitar itself. The wood on the base of the guitar splintered and popped and the input mechanism (about 3 inches wide and three inches deep) ended up inside the guitar floating loosely, jostled from its mounting by the force of the drop.
The Stellar was trashed. That’s what I thought.
Dad told me to bring it home to my parents’ house after mass and asked me if I wanted him to try to fix it.
I was skeptical. I’d seen him fix many-a-thing before. I’d even been pressed into service to help him. A light switch, he could fix. An underground sprinkler? Sure. My guitar?
“It’s broken now. What are you going to do? Use it as firewood?” He said.
We unstrung the guitar and he got out his tools and his glasses, the ones he had that lit up at the temples so he could shine light on whatever he was working on. He grabbed a drill and pulled out a round rubber disc from somewhere in his toolbox, a circle the size of a half-dollar and about an eighth of an inch thick. And he got to work.
Of course you know where this story is going. Dad fixed the guitar and I still play it today. He fixed it with skill I didn’t possess and with confidence I didn’t have. He remounted the pickup, drilled a new hole for the instrument cable input and patched the splintered hole in the side of the guitar with the rubber disc.
I think of Dad every time open the case, strap on the guitar and plug an instrument cable in. The guitar has become a physical reminder of Dad’s presence in my life.
Today marks four years since Dad died. Four years really fly by, don’t they? Moment-by-moment, time may seem to be ticking quite slowly, but when you hit a day such as one like this – a day where a flag has been forever planted – there’s a cold-water splash in the face about just how quickly time moves on.
In recent days, I’ve been talking with family and friends about Dad as my parents’ anniversary was last week (it was their 50th) and I’ve said more than once “I think about him every day”.
And I don’t just think about what he would have said (although I hear his voice in my head quite often) or what he would have done (although, every time I am confronted with a household task or a car issue, he’s very much around), I am reminded of Dad by what he did say or things he did do.
Like the simple act of fixing my guitar.
I can’t imagine all the other things he fixed in his lifetime. I can imagine how much better the world is that he shared himself with it.