Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adams Guitar

Jilda and I were doing the last couple of songs in our set Saturday night when two guys rumbled up outside on motorcycles and dismounted. I thought they’d head to a bar down the street, but they walked in to Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House. What’s even more odd is that one of the riders was holding a guitar. That’s something you don’t see every day, I thought.

He gently placed the guitar by a table and stepped up to the barista to order a coffee for himself and his friend. After ordering, he leaned against the counter and listened. Jilda launched into our closing song and I followed along, but I kept looking at the biker…then a flicker of recognition slid across my mind and the story began falling into place.

The biker was my old friend Carl. We worked together at MaBell for several years before I became un-jobbed. He had put on a little weight, let his hair grow to his shoulders and he now sported a beard, but there was no mistake. He smiled when he saw I recognized him.

Carl and I were close back then. We had breakfast together every morning and solved most of the world’s problems by 7:20 before hitting the data center floor running.

I thought of those good times as we hit the chorus of our final song, which gave it a lift.

When we finished, we thanked the crowd for coming out to hear us. I turned and secured my guitar in the stand, and stepped to the edge of the stage to hug my friend.

A lot of fond memories came to mind as we stood there taking stock of each other. But all those good memories were overshadowed by the memory of the last time I’d seen him three years ago.

It was at a funeral home, and he’d just lost his only child Adam, who died tragically in an automobile accident at the age of 24. Carl had been divorced for years, and Adam was his world.

It’s in my nature to try and find words of comfort, but standing in a sea of flowers with my hands in the pockets of my suit, the words would not come. I had no point of reference so Jilda and I just stood silently with him. When he did manage a few words, his naturally booming voice was not much more than a whisper. There are few times in my life I’ve seen that much pain.

I’d known Adam since he was in grade school. He became interested in guitar at age 12 and
wanted to learn to play. Carl bought him a guitar, and would bring him to the data center after work. He was small for his age, and the first time I saw him wagging the guitar, which was almost as big as he was, it made me smile. I stayed over several evenings and taught Adam the basic chords and how the changes fit together.

He was a sponge soaking up everything I taught him and soon he was playing the songs of his generation. Hearing him play made both Carl and me happy.

On Saturday night, Carl stuck around and we talked. He pitched in and helped us load all the sound equipment. When we finished, he stepped to the table, picked up Adam’s guitar and brought it to me.

“I want you to have this. You can keep it, or give it to another kid who wants to learn to play,” he said.  It was painful for him to see the guitar standing in the corner unplayed, and he felt that giving it to me would somehow completed the circle. He’d written a haunting poem entitled “Back Then” and tucked it under the strings inside the case.

We hugged again as we said our goodbyes and promised to not let time slip away before getting together again. 

I’m not sure what I will do with the guitar, but you can bet it will be something that honors Adam’s memory.

12 comments:

  1. Very sad. I'm sure you will think of something special to do with the guitar.

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  2. The circle is complete but must now be enlarged!! Can you please print the poem?

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  3. Tears in Phoenix. ....

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  4. How touching that he would think of you when he was ready to relinquish his son's guitar. I would like to know what you finally decide to do with it.

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  5. He must think the world of you to place his son's guitar in your care. Sad but poignant story.

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  6. How very sad. And sweet.

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  7. This is a beautiful story. I love how it is told. It is life. I especially paid attention as you described the last meeting and not having a reference point. How very important that thought is. At a time like that, silence said it all.
    Bitter sweet. The bitter and the sweet remain, but the sweet brings the guitar full circle.

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  8. This brought tears to my eyes... I'm sure you will find a wonderful way to honor him...

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  9. Was a sweet and sad story...and what a wonderful opportunity for you to have Adam remembered and his guitar played again. I know you'll find the perfect person or place for it and I sure hope you write about it....excuse me now because I'm needed a Kleenex to wipe my eyes. So touching.

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  10. What an unexpected way to end your set. Such a bitter sweet story. When the time is ripe, the student will show up. So sorry for Carl. It must be still very painful to see the silent guitar. Music is always powerful and I hope that soon the guitar will be played again.

    JB

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  11. Yes as the others have said so sad and so sweet at the same time

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