Master of None

Is the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” still used? I don’t hear it as much as I once did. Then again, there’s a lot of things I don’t hear any more.

From time to time I like to do a self-evaluation. I think it is good for the soul. So, that’s what I’m doing today.

I once had a friend ask if there was anything I couldn’t do. He then listed a number of my accomplishments and made me feel better about myself than I had in years… maybe even decades! It was a wonderful compliment.

However, when I look at it through the lens of “Jack of all trades, BUT master of none”, I wonder where I really stand.

So, let’s take inventory.

I can sing. I’ve been singing ever since my parents paraded me out in front of our relatives and their friends and had me sing “Dear Hearts and Gentle People.” I have sung in church choirs, folk groups, a college choir, a fraternity trio known as “The Horny Toads”, the Tom Fallon Singers in Pittsburgh, and currently with the group called “Nostalgia” that entertains senior citizen groups.

I have never been offered a recording contract… and most likely will not. I’m too old to audition for “American Idol”, which is their loss, and probably wouldn’t get passed the initial auditions of “America’s Got Talent”. I’ll continue to sing in obscurity.

I can cook. I grew up with three brothers (our two sisters were married and had moved out while I was still an infant). All four of us boys were active outside the home and didn’t always make it home for dinner.

Mom made it clear that she was not running a cafeteria; if we were not there at dinner time, we’d have to fend for ourselves. While Dad was always there for Mom’s meals, he also liked to mess around in the kitchen. He served as a role model for his sons, and we were all fearless.

Over time, two of my brothers and myself evolved into the primary cooks in our homes. The other brother married an Italian woman who would not allow such foolishness.

I have cooked for people at homeless shelters, religious retreat weekends, pancake breakfasts, Irish dinners, and numerous other large groups. I cook the majority of meals at home.

I have never attended a culinary arts school and have never worked in a restaurant. I will never have my own show on the food channel and I will not run around the world sampling bizarre foods.

I’m a good cook, but will never be a master chef.

I can write. In high school I loved essay tests. I would write page after page about topics I knew nothing about, and the teachers would give me a decent grade rather than take the time to read it all and discover I was practicing for my B.S. degree.

I’ve written letters, essays, poems, limericks, novels, short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles. I was paid $100 by a magazine that went bust before my article was ever printed.

That is the bottom line of my writing career – $100 for something that was never read by the general public.

I’ll never be the next Mark Twain or Stephen King.

I can produce offspring. I have three sons and a daughter.

During their childhood, I tried to be a good father. I spent many hours with them in various sports, Indian Guides, and other activities. I attended open houses, school plays, band concerts, and other school sponsored events. I helped them move into dormitories and bailed them out financially. I loaned them money to buy cars and to make mortgage and rent payments. I attended weddings, and the births of grandchildren.

Our home today would appear to have children living here all the time. We have a room full of toys and children’s videos, a sand box, and a slide from the deck down to the sand box. We have a large wading pool set up during the summer months, and we have no children living here.

I like to think I was an above average father, but never expect to be nominated for father of the year. I’m sure my children see me more as Homer Simpson than Ward Cleaver.

So, there you have it. I’m sure there are other things I could list – work with wood to build furniture, build concrete walks and steps, screen in a porch, cut down trees and clear land for a house, finish a basement (wiring and all) and renovate a kitchen. But I would never qualify as a master builder or tradesman. I also built a free-standing two-car garage that is still standing after eleven years.

But I have to be totally honest.

I can’t dance.


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