Anyone who knows me probably knows that I play guitar. For many years, it was my constant companion - a beat up, low-end Fender Acoustic Guitar used to go with me pretty much everywhere - and if I wasn't playing that, I was playing my old Stock-Modified Red Fender Stratocaster. I was give the Acoustic Guitar for Christmas when I was 15, and the Strat when I turned 17. My father was an enthusiast - he played himself. Some of my earliest memories are him playing his 12-string guitar around the campfire - I knew all the words to American Pie before I could write them all down.
Sadly, in the past few years, with my declining health, it feels like I don't get to play as much as I used to. Or, and this is hard to admit, the spark (or want) to play hasn't been as furious as it was in my youth. I think I had most of the fire sapped out of me to fight off the effects of my disease. But, still, deep in my soul - I still burn for the music. I can feel it in my body - almost like a source of energy that flows through me. On those night where I'm "on", it's almost as if a luminescent entity is flowing through me, into my forearms, and into my fingers. I can feel every tendon in my hand snake up my arm, and they dance in this odd tango as my fingers press against the fretboard. I love the feeling. I can't explain fully, but at best I'd say it makes me feel connected to the human experience in a way that is so different from life.... it's almost like a waking dream.
So, I pulled out my old guitar from it's case today - this one's a beautiful Martin Guitar - again, given to me by my father. I received this guitar on my 25th birthday.... five months after I was diagnosed with ESRD and started dialysis for the first time. I didn't know if I'd make it to 25.... and it was a beautiful gift. This guitar has been with me through all the ups and downs of my journey with transplants and dialysis. I think that when I get to a better place beyond this, that guitar is finally going to tell all its stories. All the moments I haven't shared - the pain, the doubt and the fear that comes with being chronically ill..... yeah, I have the feeling it's all in that guitar.
Last year, my wife and my father in law scoured the internet and newspapers to find me a guitar I've long dreamed of owning. They found it, and my Father in Law drove to PA to get it... he surprised me with it on Christmas. He said "Steve, can you take a look at this guitar I got for Jeremy and tell me if it's any good?" He handed me a soft-case with an electric guitar in it. I opened it, and saw it was a '72 Fender Telecaster Thinline Reisssue - in wood finish. The very guitar I'd longed for - and pointed out everytime we visited a music store. First I thought "Oh, man, Jeremy is so lucky.... this is my dream guitar...." then I noticed the tag that said "To Steve".... I almost broke down right there. Again, I was gifted with such an amazing instrument. It's become my main axe for the past year, and I love playing it.
I can trace so many amazing moments of my life through my guitars. I've met and bonded with amazing friends because of it. I first met the girl who became my wife one night when I was out playing my guitar. She loved to hear me play. It's been with me on road gigs - it's been with me to camp, it's been with me when I was alone, it's been with me when I was surrounded by family. There's so many memories tied to it.
In a way, my guitar has been my best friend. It's given me so much more than just the music. I love playing it, and I love playing it for my friends and my family. I've been blessed with enough talent to make it sound good some nights, and I'm thankful for that mystical gift. Who knows why people are good at certain things, but I'm glad that playing guitar was one of my gifts.