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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Lackey

This Old Guitar

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

I do not play the guitar. But if I did, "This Old Guitar" would be one of the first tunes I'd strum. There's a melancholy sweetness woven throughout the notes and lyrics. It sings the sentimentality I feel about certain things that I keep for longer than I should.

Truth: The longer you keep something out of sentimentality, the harder it is to part with.

This week, I'm retiring something that has comforted me for at least ten years - my blue and white striped seersucker robe. Grandma Kinzbach would have called it my housecoat. The robe has a backstory that whispers to me when I shrug it onto my shoulders. Our shared history is soft and sweet. It's not my first blue and white striped seersucker robe, it's my second. The first robe is the reason I bought a second one.

The original robe belonged to my sister before it was passed to me. Someone gave it to Kathy when she was undergoing rugged treatments for acute monocytic leukemia. I have vivid images of her wearing the robe emblazoned in my memories. Her bald head. Her bright smile. For years I kept several of her this-is-so-Kathy t-shirts. Her Kliban cat t-shirt reminded me of how much we enjoyed Kliban's wry, irreverent humor. Four Klibban posters graced the walls of her bedroom. Her favorite poster was the cat playing the guitar and singing "Love to eat them Mousies, mousies what I love to eat. Bite they little heads off...Nibble on they tiny feet."

After Kathy passed away, her blue and white seersucker robe became my grief "lovey." Wearing it comforted my broken heart. It was also the perfect weight for spring-to-late-fall temperatures. When icy winds blew in from the north, I hung it on a hanger squaring up the shoulders and straightening the collar, tied the little belt in a bow and put it in the back of my closet. My big pink fuzzy robe sees me through the chill of winter. It is hot pink.

Years passed both slowly and quickly after Kathy died. The blue and white seersucker robe aged along with me. It softened - surrendering to the beatings of many trips through the spin cycle of my washing machine. The collar and cuffs lost their crispness. The pockets began to pull away from their stitching. It began to look like my son's much loved "bonket" that he drug through the house dangling from his little drooling mouth - frayed and ragged.

Finally came the day when even I had to admit that Kathy's robe needed to be retired. I could not stomach the thought of casually tossing it in the dumpster. It was too far gone to donate. Ripping it into dust rags seemed disrespectful. Kathy's robe deserved something akin to burial at sea or being burned on a pyre fueled with old family photos. Words of appreciation needed to be spoken concluding with "well done my good and faithful servant."

My sweet husband came to my rescue and disposed of the robe for me. He served as the official escort for all family pets that were old and withered and in need of a march across the rainbow bridge. I said all of my goodbyes in the privacy of our home. The sound of my howling over a euthanized pet at the vet's office would have sent the dogs and people in the waiting room running. Alan is much stronger. His tears are nobly discreet.

I asked my beloved to take the robe to the dumpster when I was NOT at home.

"Don't do it today. I'm not ready. Wait a week or so or a month or so. Oh, and put it in a black trashbag so that I don't accidentally see it if I take out the kitchen trash. Seeing it in the dumpster would just be the worst. Better yet, take it to work and throw it in the dumpster behind the building. After the mission is complete, don't tell me that you checked it off of your to-do list. I know you're proud of checkin' things off. Just play it cool. We shall never speak of this again."

Alan knew the drill. He had followed the same instructions when he ditched a box of cheap chocolate-covered cherries that Kathy gave me for Christmas about two weeks before she went to heaven. Cheap chocolate-covered cherries were a "thing" between us. It took me at least five years to give Alan the OK know...bury them at sea or whatever.

My current blue and white seersucker robe is almost an exact replica of Kathy's. I jumped up and down when I found it on a rack at Dillards. We quickly bonded, and it became my new lovey. For at least ten years it has served me well. Lately, I haven't been able to wear it straight from shower to kitchen because the fabric has worn so thin. It requires both undergarments and pjs underneath to maintain my G rating.

This fall, a tiny hole in the front of the robe began to bloom. Soon it began to catch on drawer knobs stopping me dead in my tracks. I have unhooked it from almost every knob in our home. It began ripping both with and against the grain of its weary fabric. The tiny hole became a flag of fabric that waved as I walked through the house.

In anticipation of transitioning to a new lovey, I began my search for a robe about six months ago. Apparently, I'm Goldilocks. This one was too heavy. That one was too thin. This one only comes in pink. That one is way too short! The fabric on the one I ordered from the Vermont Country Store felt rough like construction paper - just as some of the 1-star reviews warned me.

Then, I found it. It's perfect. It was pricey (one of the most expensive things in my closet), but considering how often I will wear it factored in with at least ten years of use it comes down to pennies a day. I will be well into my seventies before I need to search for a replacement.

Now that I've shared with you the history of my blue and white seersucker robe, you are ready to see the picture below. You may judge me for walking around the house and trotting out to get the paper in the rag that it's become. I hear you. I respect you. But, I'm a loyal, sentimental old fool. Please, give me grace.

Goodbye, dear friend. You have served me well. You and your noble predecessor have kept Kathy close to my heart over the 23 years since she's been gone. And, you both kept all of my wiggly bits covered for decency's sake.

Welcome, new friend. You will be loved.

This sweet note was tucked into the box with the robe by some random person in the Matouk shipping department. Tears stung my eyes when I read it. Ahhhhh, Matouk. You know me so well.

This old guitar taught me to sing a love song

It showed me how to laugh and how to cry.

It introduced me to some friends of mine

And brightened up some days

And helped me make it thru some lonely nights. Oh

What a friend to have on a cold and lonely night

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Mar 13, 2021

Lovely story. So glad you are still writing!

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