A Christmas Present From The Past
There is one Christmas present from the past which will always hold a special place in my life. It is an old Gibson acoustic guitar given to me by Uncle Justin D’Cruz back in 1981.
Uncle Justin D’Cruz was the man who showed me the joy of playing music and also taught me many important life lessons through his music lessons.
He was a retired school teacher living with his wife, a few doors away from our house. They had two adult children who had already married and they were living on their own.
When I was a teenager, each time when I heard the sweet sounds of the guitar wafting from Uncle Justin’s house, I would rushed over to watch him played.
Quietly, I would peek through the opened window of his living room, to watch him playing his guitar. Inside me, I secretly wished one day he would teach me how to play just like him.
That wish actually came true one afternoon, while I was engrossed in watching his dexterous fingers switching chords so effortlessly.
I wasn’t aware he was gazing at me. “Do you like to learn to play the guitar? Uncle Justin asked me, while he kept strumming away. At that very moment I just didn’t know what to say, but I stared at him and grinned.
Then Uncle Justin came out from the house with his guitar and invited me to join him at the wooden bench under the shady tree, which was just outside his house. “Come, let me show you how to play this thing”.
Since that afternoon, not only I got to learn about guitar playing from Uncle Justin, but I was also learning about life.
But at that time, I wasn’t aware that he was actually teaching me about life lessons. He interspersed lessons about life with his music lessons; making use of analogies between music and life.
Like many other new guitar learners, when I experienced having sore fingers, I thought of giving up. And if not for Uncle Justin’s encouragement and advice, I would have given up playing the guitar.
I would have missed all those happy moments: playing at school concerts, company dinner shows, friend’s birthday parties, taking part in countless talent shows, performing at charity events and Christmas caroling stints
Among the many valuable things he taught me during the guitar-playing sessions were, the importance of listening, learn by doing, perseverance pays, live with passion, about sharing and many others.
One of his memorable advice was: “Guitar playing is fun, but you need to practice. The more you practice, the better you’re at it, then you’ve more fun playing it. And don’t bother pursuing for the best, just be better each time”.
I still did not own a guitar of my own. And as my guitar-playing skills improved, my dad bought me a cheap Kapok brand guitar from a stationary shop.
Every weekend, I would bring my guitar over to Uncle Justin’s place. We had great times jamming together under the tree outside his house, until one day he suffered a mild stroke.
I still visited Uncle Justin every now and then, but of course I did not bring my guitar along anymore. Together with his wife, Auntie Francisca, we chatted. He shared with me his stories and wisdom about life , and of course he talked about music.
One Sunday afternoon, I was surprised that Auntie Francisca told me that Uncle Justin asked for me to come over to their house to entertain him with my guitar.
I knew he was depressed and disappointed like other stroke victims. So without any hesitation, I lugged my guitar over to his house to play for him. I was more than happy to cheer him up. After all, he was the one who showed me the joy of playing music.
A few months later, I was delighted to hear from Auntie Francisca that her husband’s condition had improved greatly. Much of his movement and speaking capabilities had restored.
After he had a stroke, one of his sons who lived in Penang, kept insisting that both his parents should live with them. Then a few months later, reluctantly, they decided to live with their son.
The day before they left for Penang, I went over to visit Uncle Justin and his wife to say goodbye.
Just when I was about to turn and leave, Uncle Justin called me, “Suat Day, I want you to have this”. I turned around and I saw him holding his Gibson acoustic guitar. “Since it is of not much use to me anymore, I want you to have it”.
I was stunned for a moment and then I said, “No Uncle Justin. I cannot accept it. It’s such an expensive guitar. Besides, this guitar means a lot to you”.
He looked at me for a moment and then said, “I want you to enjoy playing music with it and share it with others. That would mean even much more to me”, he added, “and anyway, since Christmas is coming soon, consider this guitar as a Christmas present from me, alright?”
A few year ago, I learned from Auntie Francisca that Uncle Justin has passed on. But the memories of those days playing the guitar with Uncle Justin still remains fresh in my memory, just like those evergreen songs.
Contributed by: KEE SUAT DAY