Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hey, Doc: What's your favourite song?

(My Favourite Guitar)

I placed an ad a couple of weeks ago on a site called kijiji.ca. The ad caption was: Another no-talent aging guitar player wanted. I was looking for a jamming partner. I got several replies, including one from a fellow inviting me to play lead guitar in a group that plays music from the sixties and seventies and that is made up of guys in their fifties. I don't want a new career, just to have some fun playing guitar in my home, so I am hooking up with one of the other responders, a man who has experience and tastes most closely like mine.

We have exchanged emails and have had a couple of telephone conversations. He seems like a nice chap, bright and charming with a good sense of humour. He may need that sense of humour around me. Tomorrow night we will meet in person for the first time, at my home. Hopefully, it will be fun for the both of us.

That I play guitar at all is a bit of a miracle. Way back in the seventies, I fell through a window which had been covered over with lead paint. A piece of glass measuring about 1.5 X 4 inches entered my left wrist, travelled about 4 inches and lodged itself on the top of my hand, severing everything in its path. I didn't know how bad the damage was at the time. When I got to the emergency department of our local hospital, there was simply a gash just above the wrist, and pronounced swelling at the top of my hand. I had no idea anything was in there. Thankfully, the doctors knew their stuff, fished around in the affected area, and pulled out the glass. Then they sewed me up and sent me home.

Fast forward about 8 years. One day, I noticed that I couldn't straighten out my left index finger. I got an appointment with a specialist on December 23rd and was booked into the operating room the very next day. I was wheeled into the operating room on Christmas Eve. As I went under sedation, I remember hearing the doctors joking around and Christmas music playing in the background. I awoke much later, after a 4 1/2 hour operation, with my arm all bandaged up. When I saw the surgeon, one of the first things I asked was whether I would ever be able to play guitar again. Probably not, he said.

I don't have the dexterity today that I had before. But I do play guitar. My hand tires easily, but the fact that I can still play at all astounds me. All of the tendons that control the fingers of my left hand are sewn together, so if I extend my fingers out straight and bend one, they all bend. In the extended finger position, I do not have individual articulation of my fingers. Somehow, inexplicably, when my fingers are curled around a guitar neck, I have enough articulation to play chords and even melodic lead riffs. My hand tires after a while and I would be hard pressed to play complete gigs lasting more than an hour or so, but I can play.

I am very grateful for this. I can't imagine not being able to lose myself in my guitar music.

What had happened to me, after the initial accident, according to the surgeon, was that the tendons had first been damaged by the glass, and then over a number of years they had been eaten away by the lead paint that had coated the glass. Somehow, he was able to work around these impediments and restore more use to my hand than either he or I had expected.

We don't always appreciate the world around us. We don't always appreciate the skill of the professionals who try to keep us healthy or solvent or out of jail. Just as there are many deadbeats and loafers and other miscreants in our world, there are the competent individuals who go about their business and often save us from ourselves. Thanks, doc, for helping fix my hand, and for making it possible for me to place an ad saying: Another no-talent aging guitar player wanted.

I appreciate it.


  1. Excellent.
    It's great to hear the damage was not permanent or lasting.
    I sincerely hope such services will continue to be available when needed, not sacrificed on the altar of political expediency!

  2. We all need diversions outside of ourselves. My husband learned to play guitar at 40. That inspired my son to pick it up much later. Then he went on to drums. They've recorded music together. Not only do they lose themselves in this hobby, they make the house sound great.

    Yes, count your blessings that you can stil play.