Hardshell.

I’ve played the guitar since I was about 17 years old and my guitar case has been with me since I was 18 years old. Somewhere around the age of 19 years, I backed over my guitar with the car. The sturdy case held, although it cracked on the corner above where the tuning heads are. My Ovation was secure and still in tune when all the heart-in-throat drama subsided. Duct tape was applied and that was that.

Tonight I had the distinct pleasure of loaning my newer guitar to the Escuincle and listened as he and his father played some Johnny Cash tunes. I never thought I’d live to hear them play together and it warms the cold and prickly cockles of a rough day to have it wind down with such a sweetness. It’s a solid comfort, hard and true,that a father and his son should be such friends and find new ways to enjoy their time together. Usually they smoke cigars and drink bourbon together in order to better arrange the world’s problems and solutions.

Paul exclaimed as how his fingers hurt after playing my guitar and I assured him that although I don’t play much anymore my callouses would spring right back after a few days on those steel strings. I used to rake that guitar with such joy that the steel would succumb and cry mercy and the strings at last would rend themselves as an offering to the rhythmic catch of the pick.

All the while they played I had been in another room, listening halfway. When they were done Paul walked in where I was and said, “I cannot remember a time when that guitar case wasn’t a part of my life. Is it as old as me?”

“Older than you, my son. Why, the duct tape on the head corner is older than you.”

“It’s just now that I’m thinking it’s been such an iconic part of my life. It’s been everywhere and all the time with us,” he surmised.

The three different guitars that have resided within that case have made thousands of hours of music, but the solid protector of the songs is what has captured the imagination of our only child. I know that the gypsy life of his parents has created this longed-for steadfastness and familiarity in his heart. I look upon his sense of loyalty and duty all rolled up in a fun-loving and mischievous personality and wonder at the man within: accessible, tender-hearted, immensely protective.

I look at the hard shell case, ill-used and duct-taped over these many years, and I wonder at the changing music within. I know the worth of a good instrument and am aghast at the inattentive moments that would leave it vulnerable to crushing carelessness. Yes, a hard protective shell is necessary in this life, as is an assist by someone willing to stick with you all these years and cover the broken places. Just don’t forget to open up and let the music out.

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