Everyone’s got talent. It’s embedded in our genes. I’m still waiting for my talent to surface and show itself. Now, in my mid-sixties, I hope it happens soon.
Coordination is not my talent. My mind thinks at a different speed than my arms or legs. It’s not that one’s faster or slower, but somehow, the gears aren’t connected. Before our daughter’s wedding, Lillian and I took Arthur Murrey’s twelve-step dancing lessons. The instructors wanted Lillian to sign up for the advanced course. After the eighth night, they asked me to leave.
At the wedding, people said the father-daughter dance was beautiful. Those people were family. They lied. After my eighth lesson, the only dance I could remember was the fox trot. Two steps forward, slow. Begin with your left foot, then fast two steps to the left. After about thirty seconds of spinning Jennifer in a circle, she was about to get sick. She let go and started to clap. A tear came to most people’s eyes. My career as Mikhail Baryshnikov was over.
Those disconnected brain-leg gears were misfiring on all eight cylinders when I was at the Air Force’s Officer Training School years earlier. Somehow, leading a squadron of your fellow cadets in marching drills was a pivotal display of future leadership potential. Leave it to the military to invent some connection between two unrelated actions and believe they added up. Four years earlier, I survived marching drills in basic training as an enlisted recruit by hiding in the middle of my flight. When you’re not good at something and of average height, you learn to hide. FYI: A flight is Air Force speak for an Army platoon. Some say the military went downhill after the Air Force became a separate service. Also, FYI, space cadets are called Guardians. I’m sure marching is a crucial activity.
There I was, leading my flight into battle. The great battle of Lackland AFB. Hup, two, three. Hup, your left, left, left, right left. There we were, going in circles—a death spiral for my career. The drill instructor announced, “I’m going for a smoke. Let me know how Prince Charming does.” “Great job, Sir! The prince swept us off our feet.”FYI: They don’t call drill instructors for Air Force Officer cadets drill instructors. I think we addressed them as, Yes Sir, Den Mother, Sir.”
Somehow, I graduated. By act of Congress, I was a gentleman—two gold bars on my shoulders, hiding my two left feet.
I’ve always had a quick wit. I can come up with the exact wrong thing to say at just the right moment. Unfortunately, my tongue isn’t connected to my brain. My tongue flops around, and sometimes, I say the most useless things. Somehow, the synapsis in my brain leaves my arms, legs, and mouth dangling. At times, my tongue is a big source of trouble. Now in my sixties, Lillian says my ears have dislodged from my brain. A different room, the same room, makes no difference. She says even when I’m looking straight at her, and it seems like I’m paying attention, I smile. Nothing. She repeats louder, getting aggravated. I smile wider. “Open the pod bay door, Hal.” “What a space cadet.” Selective hearing, a floppy tongue, and disconnected arms and legs. For much of my life and at some critical moments, I‘ve been lost in space.
Lillian and I just got back from visiting our grandsons. The oldest one is teaching himself to whistle. He’s learning the piano and has moved up front in the school chorus. He’s nine and full of talent.