How Playing My Guitar Helped Me to Connect With My Stepdad

mochadad-guitarOne day, while I was playing my guitar, my stepfather walked into my practice room. He was visiting during one of the holidays and was drawn to the music.

“Hey,” he said. “You’re sounding good.” This was a nice compliment coming from him. He majored in music education and was a working jazz musician for many years. In fact, he was the one who nurtured my love for jazz music. But that was the only thing we had in common. When I was a teenager, I did my best to push him away hoping that he would leave and that my real father would return. Of course, that never happened. We learned to tolerate each other and formed an unspoken truce.

“Thanks,” I said. “Do you want to join me?” I knew how much he loved music and this was my way of offering an olive branch.

“Oh, wow,” he said. “I haven’t played in years. What do you want to play?” He sat at the piano, positioned his fingers on the keys and played a few notes. I looked at his hands and noticed that they were scarred and leathery from years of hard labor.

“Let’s begin with a simple 12-bar blues,” I said.

“You start it off,” he said. “And I’ll try to keep up.” I counted off and started strumming the blues riffs on my acoustic guitar. My stepfather piddled around a bit until his notes were in sync with mine.

As we played, something amazing happened. A spirit of unity filled the room and it felt like we were the only two people on the planet. We were saying things through music that we could never vocalize. What started as an impromptu jam, evolved into a healing session.

“Did you feel that?” My stepfather asked.

“I did,” I said.

“I haven’t felt that way in a long time,” he said. Over the next few minutes we opened up and talked like we never had before. He shared stories about his old bandmates and college days and I talked about our family and how I felt about him when I was a kid. After our chat, we sat silently and savored the moment.

“I enjoyed this experience,” he said. “I think I’ll buy a new trumpet so we can do more often.”

He never did buy that trumpet and we haven’t played together again. But we will forever treasure the powerful father/son moment we shared in my music room.

Read more of Fred’s writing at Mocha Dad and Frederick J. Goodall

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