I play guitar, and I don’t play it too badly. I used to play an old Martin grand auditorium, which I had for a good 20 years. I loved that guitar. Of course Billy took it back as easily as he once gave it to me all that time ago. He had just purchased it, back in the early 90s, It had a lush green velvet case and when I picked it up I never wanted to touch my beat up old Ibanez again. It had a low sweet action that didn’t shred fingers and a deeply resonant sound that almost rang to the point of echo, I guess it was that Indian rosewood back and side that did it. Adirondack spruce top. It was my baby. My darling. When I got into the car and made off for San Francisco I mourned it. I tried guitar after guitar, trying to find a cheap guitar that a good friend wanted to buy me for Christmas. I tried Yamahas and Blueridges, Gibsons and Recording Kings. Everything felt clunky and sounded worse than I remembered was possible. I decided I just was not going to play anymore. That I’d relegate it to the past, like I relegated being a mother of a daughter, and the partner of a man who loved me. I’d throw it away, trinket, I didn’t need anymore. Who needed a guitar to play?
Turns out I did. I found the Guild sitting unloved on a shelf in a local guitar shop. Someone had dinged it, lost the case, it was missing a pick guard, and so deeply discounted. I had never tried a Guild. I was trying on plastic sided Martins for size, which I hated, ditto any Taylor, plastic or otherwise that I put into my hands. This guitar was different. A deep brown matte to black burst, real mother of pearl inlay, a nice ebony fretboard, not a scrap of plastic on it, apart from the binding, which I presume to be plastic. Open backed tuners, which actually are not bad at all. It has an odd cutaway, which I was not sure about, but I played a G chord, and fell in love. More of a mid range boldness than the Martin. I left, fretting for my old lost guitar, but returned the next day, and rushed her home in the cheapest gig bag I could find which they threw in for free, I changed the strings to some Ernie Ball earthwood lights, and I have myself a guitar.
I’m having a tough night, calling round hospitals to see if Billy has been brought in, and having no luck reaching him. I’ve felt sad all day. In fact past sad into devastated.
My son turned round and hugged me. He told me he knew how hard it must be for me, losing his sibling, and now Billy. Even if Billy is alive still, he is lost. That brain tumor plus the drinking won’t hold on forever. I noticed he was crying too, not wanting me to see. We hugged each other. It is hard for us both. I don’t think either of us have dared to even admit this before. We skirt around it. We don’t talk about it. It is the thing that must not be mentioned, for fear I’ll fall to pieces again.
I pulled out the guitar, and asked him what he wanted me to play. It comforted him as a small child when I would just pick out quiet songs on the old Martin. I swear the children thought it might be part of me at one point.
He looked at me, and said “Don’t tell anyone, Ma…but I’d like to hear little Stevie Winwood’s Back in the Highlife Again.” I had to smile, his stepdad, Billy always called him Little Stevie Winwood, and I was never quite sure why.
So I pulled the stiff new leather strap around my neck and started playing and singing softly with him….”back in the highlife again, all the eyes that watched me once will smile and take me in”…or something like that.
I threw away religion a while ago. I figure God doesn’t much care if I suffer or not, but I can’t help hoping we will all be together one day, back in the high life again.
The kiddo just pointed out to me that the early 90s are now 30 years ago, not twenty. I am Displeased. How the heck did that happen!