My dad's voice was a guitar last week. Well, actually a song played on the guitar.
Here's how it happened:
My cousin, Gary, played a song early one morning last week. We were in his kitchen, post campfire session the night before, and he was plucking this tune on the guitar.
"You improvise as good as anybody I know," I told him. "Like Dad used to do. It's great, man."
Then it happened.
My dad, who died this past April, spoke.
Gary started a song, mid-neck on the guitar, a ninth chord, then a transitional run, then a thumbed pair of bass notes that led into a full chord followed by a run.
That was my dad's musical fingerprint – ninth, transitional run, thumbed bass notes, full chord, run.
I was looking away when Gary started the song and I kept looking away as he continued. For me, those notes, a song played on the guitar, that song in particular, is the exact same as my dad's spoken words. I closed my eyes and listened.
"Your dad taught me that one, bub," Gary said. "He wrote it."
Music and my dad are one thing to me, always have been. This song was my dad speaking up through the dirt and roots from his place on the hill in Wright's Bottom.
I thanked Gary and stepped out to the porch for a cigarette. My eyes felt heavy and salty and I almost cried. It would have been the first time. He died on April 21 and I played guitar, one of his favorites, at his funeral on April 23, my birthday. I spoke to him as best as I could that day.
But I didn't think I'd hear his voice again. It was nice.