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Dad's Guitar

Learning the stories of a man's life though his music

by Rhiannon Nachbaur of Award-Winning Fiddleheads Violin Studio

Each person has a lifetime of stories to share. As a child of divorce, I got to know my father when I was 16, and that was the summer he shared his love of guitar and music with me. I began to hear the stories of his musical life.

I spent many evenings listening to dad play, the music he wrote and the pieces that had inspired him, stories of his musical past spinning in the air like sparks from a campfire. We talked music theory like it was tabloid gossip and we made music together until the sun was long past set and our fingers were worn.

My father's family, taken in 1973
after he'd grown up and moved away.

There were some stories I never learned and I suppose he always thought there'd be time to eventually share all the details that made his past up. I sometimes wonder what interested him in guitar and how old he was when he first strummed the strings: E A D G B E. I suppose he learned it from his mother when he could barely speak, as she herself played. There are old recordings with the children strumming vaguely familiar German folk songs, singing words I don't understand.

I frequently imagine my teenaged father at the end of a line, flanked by his six younger siblings lined up tallest to smallest, all of them dressed in clothes made from drapes. I've added the dramatic climax where he decided to leave the family production, making a symbollic leap from "The Sound of Music" to "A Hard Day's Night."

Dad did share the story of when he discovered the raw sounds of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and abandoned his classical studies. Around that time he left home and met my mother. He grew his hair out and learned the chords to songs that would make his parents' toes curl. He must have mellowed with age, because since I met him he had returned to his classical roots.

The guitar of my father's dreams

Dad always had a quirky dream to play an electric guitar with a classical width neck, a Frankenstein of an instrument that would merge his love of classical and classic rock. So for two years he and I watched a luthier turn a shapeless chunk of wood into a stunning instrument. My father loved that guitar like a soulmate and played it for hours at a time. Then for a long time his heart wasn't in it and the guitar gathered the dust of loneliness.

Cancer came into his life and the guitar was summned to duty again, it was his life jacket. He played his music on good days and the guitar waited when he was too weak. Last September it was displayed beside a wreath of flowers and my father's ashes. It returned to its case and wasn't played since.

As I grieve from losing my father, I am consoled by the stories other people have about my father. My mother recently shared her story from a time when she and he were first married and before I was born. She described how he sat cross-legged and hunched over in their tiny apartment, leaning into his guitar and strumming softly. She says he always had a distant look of concentration as he played his way through a song, like a scientist bent
over a microscope working things out.

That is how I remember him best, playing his music.

Losing my father made me aware that every family has a thousand stories bursting to shared. It was time for me to share my father's stories with my four-year-old son, Ryan. Time for him to understand our love for music and why I wept at night.

It was like the guitar was waiting for me this whole time, hoping I would pluck its heavy strings and pull out the notes that were my father's life. I picked it up and held it close; so much heavier than my hollow little violin. Large fingerprints on the varnish that won't be imprinted ever again, a scent of cigarette smoke in the leather strap. I fumbled over a few chords I learned from watching him play so many summers ago.

Ryan watched mesmerized, a familiar intensity filled his eyes and he understood what I was sharing with him. His sweet voice swept away my pain as he asked gently "can I play Grandpa's guitar?"

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Fiddleheads.ca Main Page Like and Follow Fiddleheads Violin Studio on Facebook View Shopping Cart: Pay with Credit Card or Paypal Account Fiddleheads is a Canadian Business that serves customers around the world Fiddleheads is an eco-friendly business Fiddleheads is an Award-Winning Business run by an Award-Winning Musician and Young Entrepreneur Serving Elated Customers Worldwide: Click here for Testimonials Fiddleheads Violin Studio is Operated by an Award-Winning Symphony Violinist and Teacher Fiddleheads is the World's First Eco-Friendly Violin Shop Fiddleheads' Owner has won numerous awards for Business and Musicianship Fiddleheads Serves Elated Customers Worldwide Welcome to Fiddleheads Violin Studio Located in Canada, Fiddleheads serves customers worldwide foo Like and Follow Us on Facebook!