[Note: My son was married this weekend to a wonderful young woman. Below is the speech I delivered at their rehearsal dinner as I handed down a family heirloom]
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this moment, I find that I have become one of those parents who uses those same clichés that all parents say as they watch their kids grow up and get married: “Where did the time go?” or “Why, I remember the day he was born as if it were yesterday.” Well, the reality is that it didn’t just happen yesterday. I have a full head of gray hair and some store bought teeth to attest to that. A somewhat long period of time and a series of events have lead me to the moment where I stand here and address my son as he is about to marry the love of his life. As I think about some of these events, 3 numbers keep coming to the front of my mind: 6, 12, and 27. 6, 12, and 27…seems like a bit of an odd grouping. Bear with me for a moment while I explain.
When Tom was 5 years old, I let him hold one of my guitars. It was a Steinberger copy that had a small square body. I figured it would be easier for him to hold than my larger bulkier acoustic. Tom strummed that guitar to the point that he wore a blister on his thumb (which his mother wasn’t very happy about). Still, you could see the fascination in his eyes. The same fascination I had with guitars when I was his age. This is where the first number appears in the bonded world of my son and me: 6 strings made Tom’s eyes light up.
Over the next few years, Tom would learn a few chords and tolerate his father’s noodling a bunch of random notes, licks, and chord progressions. Then he was about 14, I gave him an acoustic guitar that I had owned since my father gave it to me when I was about the same age. This is when the second number really began to show up: 12. Tom was finding joy in learning different ways to manipulate 12 notes. Even today, if you watch him closely you can see the same fascination. 6 strings and 12 notes. Tom and I don’t always see those 6 strings and 12 notes in the same way which is fine because I didn’t always see those 6 strings and 12 notes the way my father does either. Nevertheless, Tom, my Dad and I remain strongly bonded by them or to quote Hank Williams, Jr.: “I am very proud of my Daddy’s name although his kind of music and mine aren’t exactly the same.”
Fast forward a few years later to 1993. Renee and I got married. This is where the third number comes in: 27. I was 27 years old when I was presented with a wedding gift from my father. My father had a late 1930’s Gibson L-00 acoustic that he purchased from Gruhn Guitars (a legendary dealership down in Tennessee). The same numbers that bond Tom and me also bond my father and me: 6 strings and 12 notes. I then realized another bond between Tom and me as he is about to marry: 27 years. My son is 27 years old. This meant we not only have a marriage to honor but a family tradition (thanks again Bocephus). So, I found a vintage guitar to give to my son. Thankfully, I still had an old guitar case that tom loaned to me to hold this vintage guitar. So to honor a tradition my father started, I present something old and the return of something borrowed. It is my pleasure and my honor to present Tom with this gift that represents 6 strings, 12 notes, and 27 years that will continue to bond Tom and me together.
Tom, I hope this brings you as much joy as my father’s guitar brought to me. I love you so much and I am blessed to be sharing this moment with you and Christy. Congratulations!
[On the left is Yours Truly. On the right is my newly wedded son with the vintage Gibson he now owns]