Bob was a generous man. The first time I met him he brought me a thoughtful gift. Bob married my wife’s sister and they had six beautiful children. He became one of my dearest friends on earth. Bob went to be with the Lord suddenly on February 1, 2015. He was shoveling snow to get his family to church that morning and his heart gave out. Bob was a devout believer and a great husband and dad.
I discovered at his funeral that he was not only generous with me and my children, but with many, many others. It was his nature to be generous. He also had good taste. That is why I loved it when he would draw my name in the family Christmas gift exchange.
Bob would always buy me something tasteful, thoughtful, and unique. Usually he ordered a special gift of some kind of pen or notebook from Levenger. I think he almost always broke the $25.00 spending limit.
One year Bob gave me a harmonica in a leather case. I always keep it in my desk drawer and think of him when I see it. The case was beautiful leather. My initials KLP were nicely stamped into it. The harmonica was a simple, small instrument. I played it a few times, but not much. I always thought of it as a novelty.
I have another harmonica at home. It is a Hohner Chromatic 8. When my grandson comes over he loves to carry it around and play it. He visited last week and when he left I picked it up and went out on the evening porch. The acoustics are great out there. The harmonica somehow sounds sweeter out on the porch blended with the sound of the crickets and birdsongs, the cooing mourning dove, and the wind in the treetops.
Playing a harmonica in a wooden rocker on the porch of a century-old farmhouse just seems like the right thing to do in the evening after a long day of hard work in the season of sweetcorn, watermelon and red ripe tomatoes.
About then a thought came to mind. There are instructional YouTube videos on everything these days. I wondered if I could broaden my harmonica skills by watching some of them.
The first video I watched was by a talented blues harmonica professional named Adam Gussow. He said I needed a Hohner Marine Band harmonica if I was going to bend notes and play blues riffs. He said his first harmonica was a Hohner Marine Band harmonica and they are his main harmonica still. You would expect a professional to tell you that you need to spend hundreds of dollars, but a Hohner Marine Band harmonica can be had for less than $50.00.
I knew then and there I wanted one—I needed one—I would have to have one. If I’m going to do justice to my front porch out on Bittersweet Farm I need the right harmonica so I can play blues riffs and bend notes and play hymns and such. I could imagine the sweet sound of the last strain of a chord wafting out on the night air.
The next day I went to my study and got out the little harmonica that Bob bought me for Christmas years ago. It was right there in the left-hand drawer where I have kept it for years. I unsnapped the cover and pulled the little instrument out and turned it over in my hand. Only then did I realize I already owned my very own Hohner Marine Band harmonica in a monogramed leather case.
What I thought was a simple novelty was an heirloom-quality, professional-grade harmonica, the first choice of many professionals all over the world. I should have known.
I leaned back in my chair and smiled; “Lord, thank you for sending Bob Dunbar into my life. Will you tell Bobby I love him and I miss him… and thank him for the genuine Hohner Marine Band Harmonica? O, and Lord, thank him for spending way over the dollar limit on the Christmas gift exchange that year….”
Summit Township, Michigan
July 21, 2018
[Sometimes when I memorize Scripture I use a memory device–using the first letter of a word to remind me of the word. It is remarkable. Pictured above are a few of the gifts Bob gave me in family Christmas exchanges including my valuable harmonica].