Let’s just say I’m lacking.
My dad could fix almost anything mechanical. His degree came from the School of Necessity, a university a lot of men attended in the mid-20th century South. We were not poor by standards then or now, but there wasn’t a lot of cash lying around to spend on things like eating out or buying new cars. I think dad only had one new vehicle, a Chevy pickup that he managed to keep running for the last 15 years of his too-short life.
Some traits are genetic. Mechanical ability apparently is not. Or perhaps it just skips a generation every now and then. I am mechanically-challenged. My youngest son is not. He simply clicks-up YouTube, watches a couple of videos, then proceeds to do things like rebuild the front end of a wrecked motorcycle he bought at a good price.
I watch the videos too. All they do for me is remind me that I am a mechanical doofus.
It’s not that I didn’t have my chances to learn. My dad worked on that aforementioned pickup almost as frequently as he stopped to put gas in it. I remember replaced starters, water pumps, radiators — even a transmission. I was the assistant for all these repairs, but I didn’t learn the skills to actually do them.
I was standing right there. But my mind was not. It was always somewhere else, like on that girl in seventh grade homeroom, the skinny one with the big brown eyes and the double railroad track braces.
I did develop a specialty, however, one that I am skillful at even today. It’s called “HOLD THE LIGHT OVER HERE.”
I don’t know why that old pickup had a tendency to break down in darkness, or maybe we just didn’t get finished before sunset. But dad was going to finish. Not finishing meant not having a way to get to work the next day. Not working meant not getting paid. Not getting paid meant not — well, you get the picture.
My skill at “HOLD THAT LIGHT OVER HERE” was developed through a rigorous training system that usually went something like this:
“Hold that light over here on the bolt.”
“Yes, April, I would like to hold your hand.”
“Uh, um, yessir.”
“No son, on the bolt, not on my hand. I can see my hand. Shine it on the bolt.”
“On the bolt, son. HOLD THAT LIGHT OVER HERE.”
It took years to master.
A few nights ago the Redhead called me from a gas station. “I just filled-up, and now it won’t start. All the indicator lights are flashing on the dashboard, but it won’t turn over. Not even a click.”
“Ah,” I said. “The battery is dead. I’ll grab some tools and a flashlight and be there in a few.”
Fortunately, there was an Advance Auto Parts right across the highway. I managed to get the battery out. Ran over and bought the replacement. Dropped it right back in. But the cables would not fully-tighten on the posts.
“This must be the wrong battery,” I said. “They’re on well enough to get us over to the store. Follow me.”
There was no look of skepticism or disappointment. The Redhead knows my limitations.
Parts Guy immediately diagnosed the problem. “These new batteries are made so that the cables won’t fit tight on the terminals. You need sleeves. We have those. Let me grab a set and I’ll help you hook it up.”
No, I did not ask why he didn’t sell me the sleeves when he sold me the battery. But I sure thought it.
Parts Guy had trouble with the installation too. After twenty minutes of wriggling, cussing and finagling he finally got that battery installed properly. I just stood there, flashlight in hand.
Not once did he say “HOLD THAT LIGHT OVER HERE.”
I told you I had skills.
Author’s note: This is not a Christmas story per se, as you might have expected. But in a way it is, at least in a metaphorical sense.
A lot of people will have difficulty seeing the light today in a sea of darkness.
If you have the light, try to shine it in some way that may help them see it too.