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The Martin

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am."
-Joan Jett

Wow. I haven't posted a blog since mid-April. That's probably a good indication of how stuck I have been. But today I had a really big problem. I'll get to that in a second.

Of course I have been struggling a lot since my dad's death in February. Unfortunately, sadness turned to anger when I found out about my dad's will and that he had left absolutely nothing to my brother and I. My dad was wealthy and had more than enough money to share with his children. Instead, he left everything to his wife of five years. It was a total slap in the face and undid a lot of the forgiveness that I had worked so hard for so I could have a relationship with my dad as an adult. He had convinced my brother and I that he was a changed man. In the end, my brother and I felt bewildered and abandoned. It isn't even the fact that all of his assets had previously been left to only me and my brother before he met his wife; it is the fact that he chose not to leave anything to us. He even told my brother that he knew that would piss us off, but that's the way it was. I wish my brother had told me about that conversation (he only told me about it last week), because I would have said something to my dad.

I know that disinheriting us does not actually mean that my dad did not love my brother and me. But to see this woman, who he only met six years ago, becoming an instant millionaire has been unnerving. My brother and I always felt like we were second to the women my dad was dating when we were growing up. Moreover, his wife's behavior has been rather disturbing since he died. She is not acting like someone who has lost someone, she's behaving as though she won the lottery. She started selling my dad's stuff within a week of the funeral. She made my poor brother help with cleaning out some of his stuff, and I know it was way too fast for him and he was very upset. Not four months after his death, she has moved into a huge house overlooking a lake. Needless to say, she doesn't afford that on her pay from her part-time job at a church.

I wasn't overly upset with the whole situation until a couple of things happened. I finally accepted that my dad chose not to leave anything to my brother and I, although it is very difficult not to feel re-abandoned by him. A couple of months after my dad's death, I finally started to think of some of his personal items that I might want. His wife had only offered my brother and I what she considered to be junk, whatever she and her sons couldn't make use of. She gave my brother and I a few of the turtles from his turtle figurine collection, which granted, I did want some of those. My dad also collected magnets wherever he went, his collection increasingly crowding his refrigerator throughout my lifetime. She gave me all of those; she handed the large plastic bag filled with them, saying, "Ugh, it's heavy." In sorting through them, I found a lot that were from trips that he had taken with his wife. Some even had her name on them, but I guess they didn't mean anything to her. However, she never actually offered to my brother and I to go through his things to take what we would like of his personal items.

I realized it wasn't the money, there was only one thing that truly encompassed my father for me, and I wanted only one thing: his Martin guitar. F*ck the money, f*ck everything else, I wanted that guitar. My dad was a very talented guitarist. He had played most of his life. When we were little, he would play "You Are My Sunshine" to us a lot, his deep voice vibrating the words through the air. As he played various rock songs from the 50s and 60s, I would spin around in circles, my golden pigtails almost swinging behind me. My dad always had a hard time communicating with us when we were children, but he could speak loud and clear through his guitar playing.

When I was a teenager, he bought a high-end Martin acoustic guitar. I was with him when he picked it out. He looked like a giddy schoolboy looking at the wall of guitars, trying out different ones until he found the perfect Martin guitar. The Martin was stored in a hard plastic case, the locks clanking loudly against the side when he opened the case. He would not allow my brother and I to touch the guitar unless we performed a surgical scrub first, so our hands were always stripped clean with Dial soap when we picked it up. I didn't know how to play, but the sound that came from strumming the strings was exquisite. He rocked out acoustic versions of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, and The Beatles. That guitar was the very soul of my father.

I sent his wife an e-mail asking if she still had the guitar. She wrote back that she had given it to her son, and did I think that she would have been silly enough to part with such a great guitar? She rambled on about how much her son enjoyed playing it and that she might play again some day, and by the way, was there a specific reason I was asking?

Oh hell no. No way.

That guitar was absolutely not going to stay with someone who didn't know or love my father. It was not going to stay with someone who saw my dad as a big dollar sign. I was enraged that the guitar had already been given away. Didn't I know that it was a GREAT guitar...I wanted to say, "Lady, I don't want it because it's a GREAT guitar, I want it because it is my FATHER'S guitar." Instead, I told her that it was of great sentimental value and that I would like to have it. She responded that, if it really meant that much to me, that I could have it.

She had absolutely no idea what that guitar meant. None. All she knew is that the guitar had been expensive and was a valuable item. This woman did not know my father as a lifetime; she knew him as a snippet. She knew him as security for her future. And if she did not know what the Martin guitar meant, then she did not know my father.

I would not despise this woman and her sons so much if they acted like family. But she looked around my father's belongings and saw dollar signs. Her sons, who both acted insanely bored at my dad's funeral and have made zero attempts to be there for me and my brother, will probably attend grad school on my dad's dime. In any case, it took about a month, but the guitar is back in my hands. I was on edge the whole time waiting to get it back; it was the only item that truly defined my father. If his wife were a real family member, I never would have been on edge and I never would have been worried about getting a hold of it again.

My brother and I went to my dad's house for the last time last week when we went to get the guitar. The house was empty because she was moving, but I had been there a few weeks before and there was already no trace of him there. She had refurnished the place. There was not even a single picture of him anywhere. My brother was visibly disturbed. He was not ready for our father to be erased, and neither was I. Even with the mistakes he may have made as a father, he was still my father and I love him. Even without being able to tell him, I need to forgive my dad.

I consider myself to be a kind and decent person, but I have my limits. And with this woman, my limit was having to beg for my dead father's guitar. I will never forgive this woman for making it difficult to get the guitar back, nor that she was thoughtless enough not to offer it to me or my brother. I will never forgive her for erasing my father's existence almost immediately after his death. But she is inconsequential; she was my dad's wife, but she was not my family. Now that she is out of my life, I am starting to feel like I can move on from this anger. I have no plans on following this woman around and kissing her ass in hopes that she will share some of my dad's money with me and my brother. My dad blatantly chose not to share any of it with us, and I have much better things to do than to keep such a toxic person in my life to get money. I am way better than that. But I have the Martin guitar now...and yes, I do plan on taking lessons, although I regret not sticking with the guitar so I could have played with my dad.

When I got home after getting the guitar, I opened the case, the familiar smell of the varnish wafting from the case. I gingerly picked it up and examined it. I picked at the strings, having no idea what I was playing. I grinned a little, realizing that I had not washed my hands before picking it up. I always was a rebel. I don't know how to play yet. I can't even remember how to play Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," one of the few songs I learned well as a teenager. This guitar needs to be played by someone who knew my father. These six strings are what is left of my dad, and although it is unlikely that I will be as skilled as he was, I hope my love for him shines through the notes.

The anger I have been feeling--towards my dad, towards his wife, towards the unfairness of the whole situation--has been almost incapacitating. The anger and confusion has been so exhausting that it permeates my bone marrow. Unfortunately, I have directed a lot of this anger towards myself.

I have been eating whatever I want when I want. I feel puffy, bloated, and sluggish. I've been eating wheat and dairy. I haven't been tracking. I have been drinking alcohol, something which I normally rarely do. I have been drinking soda.

I don't even LIKE soda.

It's like I want to do anything to prove to myself that I have never changed. That my dad's death and being disinherited by him has undone me. But of course this is not the case. I am a grown woman, and I can handle this. Deep down I know this is true. That does not mean that there will not be struggles, but it is foolish to believe that these events have caused me to revert to my old habits permanently, and that I have become a person I deem unworthy of taking care of myself. It is not that I am not motivated...even the most motivated people can be seriously sidelined.

I have been bad about exercise. I feel like just about anything but a personal trainer in the making. It isn't that I don't WANT to work out hard again...I really want to want to...and I know I will feel like it again. I have not been practicing Jiu Jitsu as ardently as I would like. Even when I do show up, I just kind of lay there and let people kick my ass. My teacher Marcelo asked if I was planning on competing any time soon. I told him although I really wanted to, I just didn't have it in me right now.

He nodded. In his thick Brazilian Portuguese accent he asked, "Your fire has gone out?"

Fighting back tears, I nodded. "Yeah." He patted me on the shoulder and gave me his kind smile. It is hard to look at Marcelo's sweet eyes and deep dimples and not want to do better.

I got tired of laying there and doing nothing. I kept telling myself that at least I was showing up to class sometimes, so that's something.'s not enough. I needed to BE there. And I knew if I couldn't BE there for Jiu Jitsu, then I don't have anything else.

Last week I was rolling with one of my classmates and the image of a match came into my head. As the match struck, I noticed the very moment the match head made a spark, before the sound could even register--the tiniest of sparks that starts every fire. That first spark exploded into a flame that died down into a small steady fire. My partner was on top of me beating the crap out of me while I did almost nothing to fight back. But this time, my fire was lit. I wanted the fire to burn. I wanted to fight back. As she reached to put me in a tight hold, I grabbed her arm. Her eyes widened. I grinned as I threw her over and took her back (a dominant position). I did not submit her that time, but I stayed in a dominant position for the rest of the match. I did not give up and would not be beaten.

I finally felt like moving again. I felt like kicking ass again. But I still felt like I didn't know where to start. A habit can be so ingrained, but strong emotions can lead us in aimless directions, wandering through a wilderness in our mind trying to hack our way through the jungle. I WANTED to get back to the way I was a few months strong, so positive...but I felt like I had strayed so far. But my kick-ass self was peeking around the corner of my mind asking, "Can I come back out now?"

So, back to the problem I had today. I wanted to take the dog for a walk and realized I hadn't done laundry in a while and none of my exercise clothes were clean. I started digging through my closet and drawers to find a pair of pants. I tried on several pairs.

Not a single pair fit...not even close.

Some of the pants were so huge on me that they almost fell down. I pulled on one of the pairs of jeans and pulled on the waistline, like in those weight loss "before" and "after" pictures and looked at the huge amount of space between my waist and the pants. I used to fill that space. I didn't just have a different body, I had a different mind. I won't venture as far as to say that I was a different person--I have always been me. I have always just done my best...although my best over the past few months has been pretty lame. I can only build upon myself and strive to make myself better. My mind and body may change, but I am always me. Just like my old clothes, that other mind just doesn't fit anymore.

It is so easy when we are in "crisis mode" to convince ourselves that we are unworthy and that we have never made any positive changes. It is easy to only focus on our mistakes and to tell ourselves, "See, you haven't changed at all." I've been very stuck in this negative mindset. But if it were true, that I have never made any positive changes, that I just mess up everything I try to do, I would still be squeezing into those gigantic jeans.

I am near tears now, just writing these words. My fingertips are flying across the keyboard, finally wanting to reach out again. Finally feeling worthy of saying something. Finally being able to put those thoughts together in some coherent manner.

My fire may not be burning bright, but it has been lit again. It has been lit enough that I can see in the dark. I can't see perfectly, not yet, but the warm glow is spreading again. My way will be lit again. I can keep nurturing the fire now; soon, I know, it will burn again. In the meantime, I will pluck at the Martin, making nonsense noise until I can afford to take some lessons. Even through the nonsense, I know my dad is playing right alongside me.

And he always will.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Erin, I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. emoticon

    I'm glad you fought for his guitar and that you are finding your spark again!
    1447 days ago
    Such a beautiful blog. I was so upset for you when I read this. You are such a loving and protective person, and to see someone dishonor the memory of your dad like that is definitely not someone that you could call family by any means. She's been in his life for a brief fleeting moment. And now special one, it's the job of both you and your brother to keep your day's spirit alive.

    Thank God you fought for that guitar. It is no a play thing for someone who would never appreciate the love and adoration like its previous owner.

    This line really spoke to me: "A habit can be so ingrained, but strong emotions can lead us in aimless directions, wandering through a wilderness in our mind trying to hack our way through the jungle." So true! And so well written.

    I'm glad you are fighting back those demons. They can't have you. We need you!

    1459 days ago
    my husband has a really nice Martin guitar too and I'm really glad you got you dad's guitar at least. It saddens me that you did not get more.
    1467 days ago
    "It is so easy when we are in "crisis mode" to convince ourselves that we are unworthy and that we have never made any positive changes.", SO true!

    You have had your fire throughout this oh-so-agonizing process, it's just been roiling about inside and now that you're tapping into it I just KNOW you're gonna be a-blaze shortly!

    Very cool undertaking, mastering your father's Martin! I know he's just beaming over this! I love my old Yamaha classical and still dust 'er off now & then...not as often as I'd like, but still have most of my chops! :-)

    1470 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    Oh, Erin, speaking of fire and flames, I am burning up a bit on your behalf. WHY oh why do people do something so mean and spiteful and so guaranteed to cause anguish, as to leave valuable assets to a new spouse and their children, and leave their own children in the lurch? I understand if the children have been selfish, grasping ogres and the "new" family has been nothing but warm and supportive, but that is certainly not the case here. And, why oh why, when confronted with such a situation, does the surviving spouse not do things to make it more equitable? Seriously, this kind of thing is just maddening. I couldn't help but think of the term "ill gotten gains" when I read about the situation, though, obviously your father put the whole thing in motion. I am so glad you have the precious guitar. I am SO very glad you are tapping into your fiery spirit again. I have spent most of the last week in a morass of gluttony and sloth, to put it bluntly. I was just physically and emotionally burnt out. I am so happy it has passed. Your blog, as always, is beautifully written and was so descriptive I felt like I was experiencing it with you, in a small way. Take wonderful care of yourself, Miss Erin, you SO deserve all the best.
    1472 days ago
    emoticon for this blog. I am a step-mom to the 23 year old daughter of my partner. We made wills a few years ago when she was 18 and he left me everything. In the event that we both die at the same time (as in a car crash) then his daughter will get everything.

    I do not intend on erasing JF from my life if he should pass away before I do, nor do I intend on keeping his "fortune" for myself which is basically just this house we live in on the lake. It will always be Valerie's, but to have left it to her would have guaranteed that I would be homeless (because we are living common-law and in this province common law partners have no rights to their spouses' property after their spouses' death), and that my business and gallery that is attached to our house would have to close down.

    Val is a girl without means, without a job, always struggling and her father still pays her rent and gives her money every month so she can buy food. We bring her home-cooked food weekly and take her out often to events and dinners that hopefully contribute to the richness of her life.

    Your blog taught me something though and that is that in the event that he passes before I do, I will give her whatever she wants that was once her father's. I will give her and the entire family a chance to come in and collect whatever mementos they hold dear of our beloved JF.

    Whether it's an old sweater, a photo or JF's Taylor 12 string guitar that Val grew up hearing every night while she drifted off to sleep...before she left this house at 14 years old to live with her mom on a permanent basis (because it really is a commuter's nightmare driving in from the country to work/school everyday and getting home so late that you don't have time to do homework).

    I'm really sorry to hear that your father chose to leave everything to his wife of 5 years and her sons. It's tragic and saddening. It's injustice at its highest peak, but it happened and there is no undoing it unless you want a costly court battle.
    Through the past year or so I have been studying Buddhism and this I know for sure:
    Thinking about my past and the injustices that were perpetrated on me makes me re-live the emotions I felt then and keeps me stuck in the past in my anger and resentment. Living in the future (like planning too far in advance or thinking of all the things I *have* to do in the short term) makes me anxious. Living in the moment or in the now is the best place for me to be because I can actually savor things like the person I'm with or the music to which I am listening or my surroundings. Staying in the present is best. The rest just seems like a mind F%$K and it is.

    It's all in your mind, you know.
    ~ George Harrison

    Don't believe everything your brain tells you.
    ~ Dr. Lisa Mask (a friend of mine who is a Dr. of psychology)

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1474 days ago
  • THOMS1
    I am glad you were able to ask for and receive your fathers guitar. Enjoy playing it. emoticon
    1474 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    There is no pep talk/words of encouragement I could have said that would have brought you to the insights you have already worked out for yourself. You are your own best friend and support. Your sharp intelligence and clarity of process are great gifts.

    I am so sorry your father laid things out the way he did, but that's about him, and not you. Your choice was as to how you would respond. You've got your brother. You chose to ask for the one gift that means something positive to you ... You are going to be fine. Doesn't mean you won't have to struggle first ... but you are forging your own life. It is going to be the life you want for yourself. And it doesn't get any better than that.

    Big hugs,
    1475 days ago
    Wonderful blog...and so good to have you back. Sounds like you've been dealing with a lot, but are in the right mindset now! Looking forward to more jiu hirsute success stories!!!
    1475 days ago
    Wherever you are is the entry point.
    -- Kabir

    Astounding revelations, Erin. Praise be, my dear friend. You bless the world with your presence, doing the work, feeling and moving through, rather than denying, the pain, again and again and again....

    This is a track from Bobby McFerrin's latest album, spirityouall. My own inner Spark is who I look to to *fix me* -- which could be otherwise known as my *inner Jesus* lol (like the Spark that you were finally able to reignite).

    I am a big fan of Bobby McFerrin and just bought this CD. I love his original take on the traditional pieces, and there are lots of strings on this cut too!

    The oppressed peoples knew all about suffering and grief way down deep, and to me it's amazing that they could say/sing, "glory glory! I feel like shoutin' since I laid my burden down!" (Crummy camerawork, eh.)

    I hope you get the *spirit* in which I share the music and reflections, oh you of great wisdom...."Where words fail music speaks."
    1475 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/12/2013 4:59:43 PM
    1475 days ago
    Sorry about all of the things you have been going through. Glad your found your fire again!
    1475 days ago
  • APED7969
    No wonder you've lost your fire for awhile, you've been dealing with a lot. I can't even imagine how angry I'd be at my dad or his wife. I am glad to hear you're letting go and feeling better. I look forward to reading your blogs and hearing about you kicking some ass!
    1475 days ago
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