Learning Your Limitations


Learning Your Limitations

Anyone who has ever read anything here knows how much I love playing the guitar.  It’s like an extension of my arm, so to speak. Years ago someone played one of those word games with me: “which would you rather lose, an arm or a leg?”  I picked the leg.  I can still play guitar that way.  They thought that was strange for some reason. I thought it was a stupid word game anyway.

But I have four really talented children who have interests and loves of their own.

One of my sons is going to be on student council and on the school news team and probably a ton of other things.

My middle daughter is an amazing guitar player and singer-songwriter in her own right.  Okay, not all of it is my cup of tea. I don’t lean toward the shuddering angst that she prefers, but it’s still good material and many days I wish I could write lyrics as easily as she does.

My oldest daughter is in drama and theater and she’s amazing.  Again…don’t always understand the material the way she does but I can appreciate its complexity and the emotion she puts into it. She says that’s more than enough and I believe her.

Then there’s my other son.  He loves animation, particularly the old stop-frame animation.  Think Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or even Wallace and Gromit for the material he likes.

Still…for the last year or more he’s wanted to learn to play the guitar. He got a bright red Stratocaster for Christmas and he plinks around on it. He asked me to teach him . . . which I found out earlier in my life just isn’t going to work.

I realized when trying to teach my middle daughter to play the guitar something that I wish wasn’t true: I’m just not a good guitar teacher. Honestly. I didn’t have the patience, which is pretty amazing. My late wife even said so. I had taught my kids to read, to clean, to play the stereo, how to change an actual LP, how to build things . . . all of this with complete and utter patience, according to her. She would look at me and marvel at how I would repeat things over and over and have no worries about it whatsoever.

Then when my daughter wanted to learn guitar I couldn’t get through to her. I tried, lord knows I tried, and it just…didn’t…work. I learned guitar by ear, listening to Clapton and Muddy Waters and Elmore James and the Allman Brothers Band.  I was re-learning what to do and what key we were in and all that and my daughter would just get more and more confused.

So when my son asked me to teach him . . . I said no. He was a bit heartbroken until I told him he would get lessons from someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

“I’ll wait at the cafe inside the store for you, so you’ll always be in reach,” I told him.  His first lesson is this week, though, and I’ll be out of town. Still…he’s thrilled. He’s going to finally start to learn to play.

And instead of him . . . it’s me that’s beaming now.

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