The Guitar

This story was written to a dear friend of mine. We were at church on day and discovered that his guitar was stolen. I felt bad and decided to write him a story. Each morning before I began work, I was the church secretary at the time, I would open my email and write…after a few mornings, the below story was complete.

The Guitar
by: MaryEllen Herrera

A Melody of Words, Creating an Everlasting Song,
Rising Up to the Lord, for Whom They Belong!

It was a cold night…very cold and unfriendly. The wind howled outside, beating against the cabin door. It was merciless…like the illness that was taking his strength. If only there was some comfort in this day- to-day agony he lived. Hopelessness was settling in, just like the bitter winds blowing outside his window.

Looking out into the world that he no longer could enjoy, the old man saw his grandson coming up the walk. It was times like this he was glad he decided to move his bed into the main living room, for it lifted his spirits when his grandson came by. As the door opened, a smile spread across his aged face, and despite his pain he welcomed the young boy with a whispered hello.

He knew his grandson was trying to stay upbeat as he talked too loudly and walked around the room too energetically. If only he could comfort his grandson, like he did before – when he was a real man. Yes, times were changing…he was no longer the provider, the protector of his family…no, now it lay on the shoulders of his grandson: a teenaged boy. It was no wonder his grandson had turned to doing things the unlawful way. That’s how he thought of it because he just couldn’t admit to himself that his own flesh and blood would and could resort to theft. Shaking his head he refocused his thoughts on what was currently happening and was surprised to see his grandson’s handsome face smiling down upon him.

“You aren’t gonna believe this Grandpa…I think I’ve just about earned enough money to pay for the medicine you’ve been needing!”

Alarmed by what his grandson said, he shook his head violently and retorted, “Isaac, no! Don’t tell me you’ve gone out and swindled another innocent person outta their money!” He was about to continue, however, the outburst took too much out of him and he began to cough violently.

Not wanting to stir up anymore emotions in his grandpa, Isaac rushed to his grandfather’s side, took his fragile hand, and gazed lovingly at him, “Grandpa…please”, Isaac whispered, “You’ve gotto stay calm…don’t worry about anything – I’ve, I’ve got it under control…really, don’t worry none.” And with that Isaac leaned over and kissed his grandfather’s wrinkled forehead.

*****

The air within the church was hot and the job was hard but the hired help worked diligently as the merciless sun heated up the room. It wasn’t easy work but it was work none-the-less and it was part of the program each one of them agreed to participate in when they came to the church for help and support. Being accountable and watched all the time wasn’t easy either; trying to break bad habits of alcohol and drugs was even harder. Yes, there were good days, but then again on days like this when so much was expected of them – well, sometimes it was tempting just to leave it all behind and to return to the way things used to be…at least back then they knew what was expected of them and they were comfortable in that knowledge.

Shaking his head Isaac tried to clear such thoughts…yet they kept lingering – lingering at the edge of his mind confusing him and the goal he was steering towards. He had to break this cycle because he had to be there for his Grandfather. There was simply no one else.

A shout from the distance shook Isaac to reality. A rest was being given and everyone was breaking into groups, slumping to the floor and enjoying a brief moment of socializing. Isaac looked around. He didn’t want to get too comfortable with these guys in fear it might cause him to go back on his word. Becoming too close with this crowd could lure him back to the life he was trying to break free from. Hard as it was Isaac wandered away from the crowd looking for a place of solitude. Instead he found himself in front of a Takamine 12-string guitar, nearly in perfect condition and worth well over the amount he needed for his Grandfather’s numerous medicines. Looking around he discovered he was alone. Unwatched for the moment and without too much hesitation he grabbed his prize and headed out the back door.

Out in the afternoon sun he scanned the area for a place to hide the guitar. He knew he had to be quick with his mission or else be caught. The church leader would notice him gone if he didn’t return soon. With luck he noticed a recycle dumpster not far away. He ran over to it and opened the lid; he was rewarded with a nearly empty bin. He immediately but carefully placed the guitar down and covered it with a few stray pieces of cardboard. Once he had completed his tasked he casually reentered the church.

That night under the cover of darkness, Isaac returned to the church and recovered the guitar. He stood there for a moment contemplating his actions, but before his conscience could get the upper hand he defiantly shook his head, as if the motion would knock the doubts clear, and said in a harsh whisper said, “Grandpa, I have to…”

*****

Isaac had arrived early the next morning to show his Grandfather the prize he had scored at a nearby garage sale. Although Isaac’s Grandfather had some doubts about the way Isaac obtained the guitar, he couldn’t help but feel joy as he watched and listened to his grandson play the instrument. Seeing his grandson slumped in his chair as he played brought back memories of years passed when he was healthy, full of life, and sharing the love of music to a much younger boy. The sound of Isaac’s voice jolted him back to the present.

“…selling the guitar in order to get the cash we need for your medicines. I’m sure…”

Before Isaac could get any farther he was interrupted by his Grandfather’s exclamation of surprise. Not so much a word but a sound.  Isaac became concerned as he looked at his Grandfather and tried to distinguish what the problem was.

“Grandfather! What’s wrong?!” Isaac was instantly at his Grandfather’s side. Concern rising within him as the seconds passed.

Looking back at Isaac, his Grandfather tried to compose himself. He had become so full of emotion at the thought of Isaac selling the guitar that he had become temporarily speechless. But slowly he began to calm himself down enough to say, “Isaac, the guitar! You can’t sell it…”

Isaac was thoroughly confused as to why his Grandfather would react in such a way about a guitar he had “just found” at a garage sale. He stood by his Grandfather’s side anxious to find out what was causing this emotional eruption.

“Don’t you see Isaac?” his Grandfather continued, “This guitar is a blessing. Not only to me, but to you as well.”

His Grandfather lay back on his pillows overcome by exhaustion and closed his eyes.

Isaac could see that the whole ordeal had taken its toll on his Grandfather and so he leaned over him and whispered, “Sure Grandpa. I understand.” And with those words, Isaac reached for the guitar, held it, and then began to play the sweet old hymns his Grandfather adored so much; the first song he played he had learned as a boy, taught to him by his Grandfather, Amazing Grace.

The heaviness of sleep left his eyelids as Isaac’s Grandfather woke early the next morning. Turning his head he could see his grandson sound asleep on the recliner next to him, the guitar still in his arms. Smiling, Isaac’s Grandfather closed his eyes again…letting the memories of yesteryears overtake him. The warmth of the memories warmed his old bones and he sighed with content before he allowed himself to open his eyes again. His grandson still slept. Not wanting to wake him, he reached for the notepad and pen he kept on the small end table beside his bed. With one more glance at his grandson he began to write about the guitar.

When he had completed his task, he once again closed his eyes. But instead of traveling to the past he ventured to explore the future – the future of his grandson. He knew, in time, his grandson would find his way back home. And through these times of trouble he’d find a way to make all of this work for the good of himself and others. It was with these thoughts and reassurances running through his mind that Isaac’s Grandfather drifted off.

*****

Isaac looked upon the now vacant bed. The grief he felt upon discovering his Grandfather overwhelmed him still. His body was numb and his face expressionless as he slumped over the bed where he found his Grandfather.

He ran his hands over the blankets, sheets, and pillows trying to find some comfort in them but the comfort he sought eluded him. Sighing deeply he climbed onto the bed, curled himself up in a ball and let the tears fall. As he mourned the loss of his Grandfather, the realization of the death hit Isaac hard. He was now alone.

The next morning Isaac found himself in the same position he had fallen asleep in the night before. His body was stiff as he climbed out of bed and as he stood there in a daze, the events of yesterday replayed in his mind. He rubbed his throbbing temples and his sore body as he gazed around the room. Looking for something to distract him from the numbing sorrow, he decided to make the bed and straighten up the room.  As he began to make the bed a little notepad fell from among the pillows and caught Isaac’s attention. He picked the fallen notepad up and was about to toss it aside when he noticed his Grandfather’s handwriting. Clutching the tablet he opened it and flipped through the pages until the he came upon the stark white pages empty of his Grandfather’s familiar handwriting.

Out of curiosity he turned back to his Grandfather’s last entry and to his amazement he discovered it was written on the morning of his Grandfather’s death. Overtaken with the need to find some kind of comfort he began to read the entry:

March 2, 1997

Oh how amazing is God! And how He has rewarded my faith.

Isaac is sleeping now, but when he awakes I have to tell him about this.

That guitar is an answer to years of prayer.

Isaac stood there confused. How could the guitar he had stolen a few days ago be an answer to prayer? He looked at the guitar leaning against the wall, unsure of what he should do next but whatever his next move was going to be he knew it involved the guitar. Walking over to the guitar he somehow felt encouraged, as if his Grandfather was with him and this gave him the boldness to pick up the guitar.

He examined the guitar in his hands hoping against all hope that the guitar he held would answer all his questions. Instead it made him angry. Why must he stand here and search for answers? Why couldn’t his Grandfather still be alive to tell him what was so special about this guitar? Frustrated and ashamed at being frustrated, Isaac firmly placed the guitar on the bed. He then began pacing the room hoping it would help him control his emotions. They seemed to be going in all directions: from anger to fear to sadness and back again.

He was about to give up when he noticed something etched on the bottom of the guitar. Moving closer he realized that someone had carved a word into the wood. Kneeling beside the bed he read in amazement “Isaac 1983”. It was written in childlike print and upon seeing the inscription, Isaac flashed back to a moment in his childhood. It was his fifth birthday and his Grandfather had been acting giddy all day. He remembered how curious he was when his Grandfather brought in a box about the same size as himself. When he had opened it his eyes couldn’t believe what they saw. A guitar! But not just any guitar, no, it was one just like his Grandfather’s; a twelve string Takamine! And later that night his Grandfather snuck into his room and promised Isaac that when he was old enough he would teach him how to play. It was then that Isaac had inscribed his name. What made it even more special was that his Grandfather had helped and even made sure that he added the date. The memory overwhelmed him with feelings of pride and happiness, those same emotions he felt as a boy.

It also brought back another memory. One that wasn’t as pleasant. It was a dark night and full of tension as his Grandfather entered his room. He was 14 years old and his Grandfather came to him that night with no laughter in his eyes as Isaac had become accustomed of seeing. This night his Grandfather wore a frown, his eyes were dark, and Isaac could see them welling with tears as he was told that his Mother was seriously ill. She needed medical attention and unfortunately they didn’t have the money for it. It was then that his Grandfather reached for the guitar. He said that together with his own Takamine they could get some money to help pay some expenses. Both guitars were sold but in the end his mother’s illness became worse until it overtook her completely and she was gone.

Tears streaming down his face, Isaac cried anew. He wept for his Grandfather, for his mother, but also for the guitar. It brought such comfort to him because it was part of his past.  It was also a part of him and a part of his Grandfather. It reminded him of the hours he practiced with his Grandfather and he remembered his mother singing as he played. The memories brought warmth to his soul.

Into the night Isaac sang, his voice rising with emotion as he played the guitar. He was once again that young boy sitting next to his Grandfather learning to play as his mother sang alongside his strumming.  He knew without a doubt that he would return to the church and return the guitar.  He also knew he wasn’t alone. He felt it was not by chance his guitar found him at the church.  Instead he believed it was guided back to him by God and the prayers of his Grandfather.  It was brought back to him for such a time as this, when he needed it the most.

 

 

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