In 1997, our family all decided to pitch in and purchase a bass guitar for my husband’s father. His 50th birthday was coming up, and he was the former bass player in a 1970’s hit band. We all pooled our money together and raised about $500.00. My husband took on the task of finding a bass. He visited a local pawn shop. As he looked at the selection of various instruments hanging on the wall, he saw a bass guitar that stood out. He thought, “This looks similar to the guitar my dad used to have”. So naturally, that would be the one he purchased. It had donned a few scratches and flaws, but was otherwise in good shape, and came with the original case.
We wrapped the case containing the bass and all were excited to present it to my father-in-law on his birthday. There were about 15 of us, all gathered at my father-in-law’s small apartment. Included in the celebration was my son (who was a one-year-old baby). He was the first grandchild in the family. We presented the gift and laid it on the table in front of my father-in-law. As he carefully and methodically unwrapped the paper, we all stood nervously with anticipation. He looked at the case. “Oh,” …he said. He gently opened the case and looked at the guitar. In that moment, time stood still. He was not overwhelmed with joy like we anticipated. It was as if he had seen a ghost. He was quiet. He lifted the bass out of its case, held it up, studied it. “It looks like the one you used to have, huh, Dad?”, my husband said. “Well, yes it does”, he replied. “In fact, I believe this is the same bass I used to own”. He continued to study the instrument, as well as its case. The scratches and flaws were the very ones he had engrained in it some 20 years prior. In particular, there was a small chip in the finish where his belt buckle had rubbed against it. We were speechless. How could this possibly be? But it was true. He was certain.
My father-in-law had pawned his bass many years prior, in need of money. He did not recall which pawn shop, however. I often wonder what its history was during the 15 or so years that it had been away.
After being reunited, my father-in-law didn’t play the bass that much. He dabbled with it a bit, but the arthritis in his hands prevented him from ever really picking it up again. 12 years later, he gave it to my son for his 13th birthday. My son is a musician. He played that bass. Although my son has transitioned into lead guitar, the Rickenbacker bass will forever be a treasured heirloom in our family. It’s as if it has a spirit of its own. And it knew where it belonged. And, somehow, some way, it made its way back to its rightful owner.
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