In Dirty Dancing, Johnny says, “It’s not on the one, it’s not the mambo. It’s a feeling, a heartbeat.” He then put Baby’s hand over his heart and placed his gently over hers. Then he said, “Gagong, gagong, gagong.” He knew at that moment, teaching her to dance required more than words.
Roger was the teacher in our family. He taught Tyler, Sam, and Max to tie their shoes, swim, and to ride a bike. It’s never been my strength due to my general impatience and lack of skills in instruction. Because Baylee was not even three when Roger passed, I had to teach him to do all those things without Roger’s help.
We were at a Jacksonville High School baseball game when Baylee finally tied his dinosaur high top Converse into the perfect, bunny-ear bow.
“I did it!” His smile was toothless, and his eyebrows were raised high.
I couldn’t speak. It was my greatest accomplishment, until I taught Tye to drive a stick.
Tyler was in college when he got his car which is a standard transmission, so I had to teach him or he wouldn’t be able to use it. We went to a parking lot at The Commons in Jacksonville and he learned. We weren’t happy with each other for some of it until he stalled it quick, hit his chest on the steering wheel, and made it meep. (His horn is the meepiest of all meeps.) We laughed, composed ourselves, and didn’t quit. Now I’m teaching Max how to drive a stick, but words aren’t working.
It’s difficult to teach something to someone when words don’t work. I attempt different ways of saying things in words, because it’s what I know, but it just doesn’t cut it when trying to teach someone to drive a stick.
“Too much clutch,” I say. “Try again.” The Jeep engine cries.
“Too much gas. It shouldn’t sound that loud.”
“OK. I’ll try again,” he says patiently.
“Lift the clutch up half-way and gas it until the Jeep starts moving.” It stalled.
“Don’t let go of the clutch so fast. It’s like a dance.”
He’s getting it and could probably find his way around town if he needed to, but maybe I should have channeled my inner Patrick Swayze and realized that driving a vehicle with a standard transmission isn’t something to be taught with words, it’s a dance with rhythmic heartbeats like gagong, gagong, gagong.
I’m managing on my own teaching the kids. It takes longer and they’ll probably not be as proficient in certain traits, but all of them can tie their shoes, ride a bike, swim, and some can even drive a stick shift.
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