Kent Bernhardt: I can’t dance, don’t ask me
I like to think there are many things I do well. We all do.
I try to focus on those things. They’re my gifts, the special abilities with which I’m blessed. They’re what make me unique.
Often these days though, I’m confronted by the growing list of things I don’t do very well. In fact, the older I get, the longer that list grows.
I learned early in life that I wasn’t particularly athletic. Catching a high fly ball was a challenge for me. I would also never be the kid who knocked a home run out of the park.
I do remember one summer evening playing little league baseball when I really wanted to hit a home run.
A particularly cute neighborhood girl was sitting in the stands that night, and I was fortunate enough to actually have a turn at bat.
In true Mickey Mantle fashion, I flashed a quick smile her way, and stood expectantly waiting for my moment of glory.
I swung at the first pitch so hard that I actually provided a comforting breeze to the people sitting in the stands. The next two pitches I attempted to hit with equal vigor, and again lowered the temperature of the humid evening air at least five degrees.
After being informed by the umpire that my presence at the plate was no longer required, I took my place on the bench. A teammate dryly remarked that if I had actually hit the ball, they would’ve never found it.
That was as close as I ever came to athletic excellence. The cute girl went home unimpressed.
I’m also not the guy you call when you need assistance with a home or auto repair. I have, however, had my moments.
I can happily report that I have completely rebuilt the inner workings of two toilets in my home over the years. I’m a pretty good drain snaker, and just this week, I affected a small repair on my car that saved me tens of dollars.
While changing my oil last weekend, a local mechanic accidentally broke my oil dipstick. It wasn’t entirely his fault, I had noticed the plastic end of the stick was loosening over the past few months.
It was probably just a matter of time anyway.
The mechanic attempted a makeshift repair, but it failed to hold, leaving the metal portion of the dipstick trapped in the oil entry tube — or whatever they call it.
I consulted the dealership. A technician informed me that the metal strip would have to be retrieved, and it would be “no easy process.”
A new dipstick wouldn’t fit properly into the tube until the old one had been removed.
He said that to access the strip, they may have to go into the engine and remove the oil pan and possibly part of my spleen. I saw the dollar signs mounting.
At that point, I had a rare moment of brilliance. I purchased a new oil dipstick for $15, thanked the technician, and returned home.
I raised the hood of my car and attempted to fit the new dipstick into the spout.
As I expected, it did not fit properly. It did however latch on to the old dipstick, and when I pulled the new one out, the old one came with it.
The scientific term for this property is.....well, luck. Sheer blind luck. But it worked.
I’ve also been told I don’t dance very well. In fact, I’ve seen video of my dancing and it’s not pretty.
There’s only one visual I can give you to describe it. Take a sledgehammer and hit a giraffe in the kneecap as hard as you can. The writhing and stumbling you would witness from the giraffe is a pretty good comparison.
I have danced in plays before, but I probably should’ve used a stuntman. Still, I dream of taking a woman confidently in my arms and floating across the dance floor utilizing moves that would make Fred Astaire drool with envy. I would then deposit her back in her chair with nary a scratch.
Who am I kidding? I’ll definitely need a stuntman.
But my point is, what we don’t do well isn’t important - unless you are the girl who is dancing with me. Finding our own unique talents is a lifelong process, and there are new discoveries to be made every day.
So what if I’ve crippled a few dance partners! I can sing reasonably well, I know my way around a computer, and from time to time I can string a few words together in creative fashion.
My daughter tells me that when I’m not annoying the heck out of her, I’m a pretty decent dad.
I can cook a decent meal, especially breakfast. I know how to do my own laundry, and I speak fluent Pig Latin as a second language.
There’s a freedom that accompanies knowing what you can and can’t do. Embrace it.
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.