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  • Karen Andrews

My Son Plays Guitar

Updated: Aug 1

My son is a musician, and plays guitar. He is also in a band. A really good band, and I’m saying that with no bias whatsoever. <wink, wink>. Tonight I'm watching him and the band play at a local venue. Less than halfway through the show, I was suddenly fighting tears, as I was transported back in time, so quickly.


I came to watch the show with my group of friends. My friends are actually my son’s girlfriend's family, and we go to almost every show. Right now they have scattered a little as they make their way around the room. There was laughing, eating and drinking…all to the rhythm of the guitars.


I happen to be sitting alone at the moment, and I was caught in my thoughts. I’m watching each breath the Lead Singer takes, watching the Bass Player strut to the beat of the Drums, and see how the 2 Lead Guitar Players writhe with each note and chord they play. I recalled the silence of the room when they were loading in, and how 5 of the nicest people in the world transformed the silence into this writhing ecstasy. It’s almost magic how they can do that!


As I watched my son play his guitar solo while lost in a world of music, suddenly he almost transforms into another person. Suddenly, I’m in Kissimmee, Florida, in 1994.



Photo Credit: Bain Testa

My Son, performing live


I’m in a 3 bedroom apartment, freezing cold by the blasting Air Conditioner. There is an old console TV from the 80’s sitting in the corner. I see an old love seat, that when you lift the cushions all you see is milk crates with sofa cushions on top. Next to it is an old sofa that reminds me of a peacock…80’s “sofa-suede” with blue and violet print on it with a blanket thrown across the back for me when I visit. If you look to the left, in the dining room, you can see a huge aquarium that houses an Oscar fish that gets fed cat food. If you turn on a black light in the living room, you can see designs on the white walls, there are cat footprints on the carpet, writing on the wall, and a spider web on the ceiling...all invisible to the naked eye. Bet you didn’t know if you use Woolite on the walls, it will be near invisible in natural light, but glows under black light.


Suddenly I’m standing just inside this 2nd floor apartment, freezing inside and away from the 95+ degree heat and humidity. I’m freezing, these guys keep that AC cranked down WAY too cold! An Eskimo would freeze in this place!


I see my 2 friends sitting on their worn sofa with a couple Budweiser’s on the coffee table and a couple more that I feel pretty sure were from last night. I’m not sure how I came into meeting these 2 guys, but somehow they “fit” and it seems I’ve known them my entire life. They are cousins, and one is an incredibly talented musician and guitar player, the other one simply enjoys life in the fullest. Jimmy is strumming Joe’s electric guitar and beaming with pride while playing his freshly learned song, “Breakin’ the Law”, by Judas Priest. Joe sheepishly smiles, and seems pleased to have taught Jimmy a song and almost regretting it since Jimmy keeps playing it over and over! Just like it was yesterday, I see Joe asking for his BC Rich, Mockingbird guitar back and he LAYS into a vicious guitar solo.


A small smile comes across my face at that memory, and my eyes well with tears...


Deep down, Joe seems an introvert. His best friend and cousin, Jimmy is not. Jimmy loves his Doo-Wap music, Joe loves his guitar. But both LOVE rock music! I enjoy Joe because he is quiet and comfortable to be around. He appears to always try and find a way to become invisible in a large crowd. I later learn this is only one aspect of his "complex" character.


Joe works so hard to impress me in hopes I’ll go out with him. I laugh to myself, knowing there really isn’t any way that is going to happen. He tries to use his charm to impress me and say the right things, but I always see right through it. Honestly, he’s pretty cheesy. But, he is consistent and most would have thrown in the towel long ago. But as time went by, I let slowly let my guard down, and he stopped trying so hard to impress me. And the broken heart I was experiencing at the time slowly subsides.


Memories…funny things. So random, too.


It must be the wailing guitar up on stage that stirred up that memory. Suddenly I wipe a tear from the corner my eye, and I hope my friends scattered around the room didn’t notice. The lead singer gives me a nod, knowing I come to see him, the band, and my son at every available opportunity. He knows I hang on to each breath the band makes and I yell the loudest for each song. I’m a PROUD MOM!


At 56, I’m one lucky lady! Life is good and it’s comfortable, I love my job, and all that jazz. But it hasn't always been that way. And while I used to have the “IT Factor”, by now most of “IT” got old. Sure, there may be bits and pieces of “IT” left, but by now, I thoroughly enjoy being Mom and watch my only child play on stage. I sit on my little stool sipping a little glass of red wine.


Merlot...it's my favorite. Wine and music… perfection.


My son goes into a new solo, and when I close my eyes and sip my small glass…I’m transported again. I hear Joe intensely play out his fanatical emotions on his guitar. He looks at me square in the eyes, puts it down, and we start talking and my world clicks.


That was a lifetime ago. I was working at Walt Disney World, meeting with friends after work to play darts, going to the gym in the morning…and spending my days wandering around Orlando. Life was good, easy, and fun. Only thing on my mind was where the next pool party was, watching Mickey Mouse while I worked at Disney, spending time in the sun, and having a few laughs to get through the day…and do it all again the next day.


I was living my life 100 miles per hour in the slow lane, and loved every minute of it. Looking back I was going so fast, but never left the spot I was in. I was living life to its fullest, grabbing every memory and minute I could and not looking back. But all that is gone now.


So long ago…


I’ve changed since then. I'm a Mom now, and the person I am today came alive when they placed my baby boy in my arms. I remember my first words to him as they placed him in my arms immediately after he was born. These words are important, and his first introduction to this new world.


Ready to hear what they were?


I look down at my brand new freshly delivered son, see his nose crinkled up to cry, and say the words…“Don’t cry. I don’t know what to do.”


That was it.


My son immediately stopped crying, slowly turned his head to me…eyes as wide as saucers…and stopped crying. All he needed to hear was my voice. While I had no clue what I was going to do next, I knew after this moment my son and I were going to be OK. And there my life started anew at that very moment. All the old passed away.


Immediately.


Life got real hard, real quick. And I learned as I went. My life forever changed that August 1st at 4:20 am. And I haven’t had time to look back.

Since then, I have raised a son on my own. When I say on “my own”, I mean on “MY OWN”. There was no family down the street, no checks coming in the mail, no free babysitter, no roommate, no boyfriend, no government assistance, and absolutely NO CHILD SUPPORT. I clawed my way up from the basic small minimum wage of $5.25 per hour. I paid my rent, childcare, groceries, utilities, diapers, toys, and baby clothes – all on my own.


Ultimately, I finished 2 more college degrees, found my career path…and unfortunately buried my mother 2 1/2 years ago. I’ve grown, learned, and gained strength…the hard way. Sure, it was worth it. But it was hard, EXTREMELY hard, and I changed- A LOT! There are times I wish I could go back to “1993 Florida” to visit for an hour or two to feel the freedom of life. It seems so long ago and far away.


Almost 27 years later, here I sit watching my grown son play on stage with his band, Feverslip. I’m sitting here wondering how in the world I got from "there" to "here".


I go back to my thoughts. All the feelings, and all places…Perkins, Pizzeria Uno’s, The Cantina, The Images Apartments, Baja Beach Club, and Walt Disney World… like a warm hug, it all embraces me. Tears fill my eyes, and the memories fall down my cheeks. Sometimes I just want to touch that part of my life, I want to remember in full detail, I want to smell the smells, hear the sounds, feel that cold apartment just one more time.


I force myself to remember a phone call I received years ago. And I remember. Joe died… Jimmy died… They died so young and unexpectedly. No one in my current life knew either of them, no one knew how Joe and I seemed to click. No one knew the priceless words Jimmy spoke to me. My life had changed on a dime, and suddenly the dime vanished. It is all gone. Like it never happened…almost.


I come back to the now, with an old plate of soggy nachos to my right. I hear people laughing, glasses clinking, drums beating..., and I see my son on stage. He is my answer to prayers spoken and unspoken, and proof that God is real. I see my son grooving to the music, writhing to the beat, wailing out an amazing guitar solo.


As time has passed, I'm ashamed to admit I almost forgot what Joe looked like, how he played guitar, and how he moved. I forget the look on his face, I forget his facial expressions. I forget his soft demeanor, his innocence, and his occasional vulnerability. I forget his street smarts, the color of his eyes, and how he carried himself when he wore his beloved leather jacket, and how he tried so hard to be the guy he thought I wanted.


But I see it all in my son.


Yes, my son is also his son. And the only child either of us ever had.


Life is funny. I’m sitting here by myself listening to the band play on a Southern Maine Saturday night. My son's leather jacket laid aside for later...not wearing it on stage tonight. The lead singer belting out high notes like nothing. My friends scattered across the room like social butterflies, and I'm lost in my thoughts while sipping my wine. All the years that have passed, all the things I barely remember…I see living right in front of me. My son has no idea, and yes, there is a long story that remains to be told by him one day if he chooses. But it’s also mine, too.


Rember, Joe died...quickly and unexpectedly before he and his son ever laid eyes on one another. Those pieces of his father that live in my son? My son doesn’t know or even understand those pieces - but I do. Those pieces are so different than I am. I knew Joe, and I also loved Joe.


There is a lot I don’t understand. There are so many twists and turns not mentioned here. But the end result is always the same...my son never met his father. How I made it through all that, I will never know.


I'm right here, right now. The best parts of my life... the past, the present, and even the future…are standing here in front of me. He is busting out the best guitar solo ever, fulfilling a prophecy he isn’t even fully aware of yet. I wonder how in the world I was worthy enough to raise such an amazing child/young man...


I don’t understand the path, the reasons, or the methods…but I know God is AMAZING! Even if I don't understand.


My son is a musician and plays guitar..



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