Thank You for A Broken Neck and Reversed “Nerve” Damage


When I turned fourteen all I wanted in the world was a guitar. I wanted to learn to play, to write songs about my my feelings— which I had difficulty expressing at the time.

My foster mother (the second one after my real mother’s schizophrenia was discovered 7 months prior) announced there would be few gifts at Christmas because the State did not give a Christmas bonus for the four foster children she took in—additional to her own five children.

She said we (the four foster kids) could ask for one thing and she would see what she could do.

My first response was “I don’t really need anything.” I knew asking for a guitar would be out of the question after the other three girls requested clothes, or cosmetics or a haircut like Farrah Faucet.

I felt ashamed for wanting it.

I tried to come up with something that was realistic but I could not. I kept settling for “Nothing” and tried to keep the want to myself where it was safe from rejection.

After much pressing from my foster mother I finally said “All I really want is a guitar but  you can get what ever you feel is right for me. It’s all right.”

My foster mother reenforced that I was an ungrateful child and chimed “What makes you think you’re so special?”

She was basically a kind woman but she had moments similar to my own mother’s unpredictable moods if she felt like she was not appreciated.

Christmas came. 

After everyone opened their presents my foster mother went into her room and brought out a guitar like it was a golden calf.

The other kids oohed and ahhed as she put it in my hands.

I was speechless.

She said “It’s used and it has a little crack in it, but you got your guitar!”

I looked down at the guitar.

The little crack went all the way around the neck where it used to be attached to the body of the guitar.

I thanked my foster mother and made a couple awkward strums while everyone laughed and crooned a few seconds of mock rock vocals.

For months I tried to learn new chords, plunked at it, strummed at it, learned how to tune and retune the guitar.

It would not stay in tune and I became exasperated with my own deemed inadequacy at making it sound right.

I hated myself. I had the audacity to ask for a guitar. I had the nerve to want one. Only a terrible person would ever complain that the neck was broken after all my foster mother went through to get it for me.

After I left the foster home I bought myself another guitar—with my own money from a job I got at a convenience store.

The new guitar was perfect, beautiful, and easy to keep in tune, but I could never get the hang of playing it like it was my friend.

As an adult, I have met many talented people who could play beautiful music. They have shown me the basics, given me instructions, practiced with me, and demonstrated patience for my lack of timing and confidence.

A broken neck can cause paralysis.

The nerve it takes to ask for what we really want can be accidentally damaged when trampled.

To reverse nerve damage is a tricky procedure, it takes a lot of stimulation and support.

I am no longer paralyzed

I am allowed to ask for what I truly want and I am allowed to stay in tune with my feelings.

I am thankful for the folks who have allowed me to get on their nerves while I thought I had a broken neck.

Their acceptance and support transforms my D minor into an A major.


~ by leakelley on March 15, 2009.

4 Responses to “Thank You for A Broken Neck and Reversed “Nerve” Damage”

  1. Thanks, this is such a special story.
    I’m so glad you’re ok now.
    God bless you, Jonie

  2. What else to say but wow. Brilliant writing but even better is the story itself.

    You know, I am right now dealing with one of those “The nerve of you…(fill in the blank).” Guilt. It’s a horrid trick to play on any child, and it leaves some real scars.

  3. How many of us growing up have felt ashamed for wanting something “foolish?” I’m glad your foster mother got you a guitar, even a flawed one. She did hear you. So you never learned to play? You have so much talent in other areas maybe there just wasn’t room for one more.

  4. This one made me cry, a mix of sadness and happiness. No one could have put that into better words or captured the raw emotions the way you did. Just amazing.

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