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Cousin Rob


Totally unexpected, this e-mail reached mi computer:

Estimado Federico,

Espero que estoy dirigiendo esta nota a la persona correcta. Asumiendo que sí, te diré que soy un primo segundo tuyo, Robert, que soy hijo de Carmen, quien fué prima de tu madre Leni… Ha sido por lo menos media vida desde la última vez que nos vimos, así es que ha hecho muchos años. Escribo en Español.. aunque recuerdo que hablabas Inglés.. y mi Español sea mas imperfecta. Posiblemente me recuerdes claramente a pesar de los años. Recuerdo que la visita con tu, y tu familia fue muy memorable.”

…and yes, after a brief effort the memory of cousin Rob came up in my dusty mind. I had met him during a trip to California in company of my Mother and my sisters. We were children then, so we played together for a few hours while mother visited her cousin Carmen, Rob’s mother. I remember being fascinated by the fact that Rob’s father worked for Disney studios.

As my renewed friendship with this long absent cousin continued through frequent calls, a personal fact was brought up by him in a telephone conversation: Rob is autistic. He suffers from “Aspergers” disease, a mental ailment that at times makes conduct strange and social interaction difficult. Once this was made known, everyone in my home suggested caution, because we ignored what effect my relationship with this newly found relative, absent in my life four decades, might bring into our family life.

While our cousin relationship went on, my family and I were spending the Summer in New Mexico. Every year we leave our home in Puerto Vallarta for a few weeks to rest from the heat, humidity and laggard economy typical of the season. Rob on his side, has lived in Maine during many years. Sometimes he and I would talk on the phone and other occasions we would skype. As we became more familiar with each other, we touched on many different subjects. He became interested in my work as a painter artist. Some afternoons, while I painted, I would aim the computer camera to my canvas so he could watch my every brushstroke. This was pleasurable for me, because although I enjoy my work, painting is a lonesome occupation and this way he kept me company. I received many compliments from Rob, to the point that it made me feel talented and perhaps conceited.

One of those afternoons, when Fall was starting, I was talking with Rob. While he was watching me paint all the way from Maine, I was enjoying a splendorous Albuquerque afternoon with my studio door open to a golden scenery. Sunlight bathed my space, rays filtered through leaves then turning intense yellow and red, lazily waiting for the softest breeze to fly away. Suddenly, I took notion of the time and casually asked Rob what he might be doing that afternoon. With his habitual simplicity he answered he would perhaps relax by playing some piano. I then suggested he play while I continued to paint -taking advantage of the fact that internet communications are free, at least for now, we could go on for hours. He agreed and proceeded to set his microphone and camera so I could see him. He began playing: Chopin, Piano Etudes, Rachmaninoff, and went on to others I was not familiar with. The music notes vibrated out from my computer speakers flying out to my ears, running through my body until they took hold of my brush… I then understood many things about my cousin´s soul. I have always felt a special affection for piano players; I feel they are able to lift our spirits with their agile hands and bare our souls. It so happened Rob turned out to be a very good pianist…and that afternoon he made me cry. Inevitably I cried, because emotions brought by his piano mixed with those of my painting and in that splendid afternoon I willingly lost control: the colors of Albuquerque’s autumn Fall broke in my eyes as in a kaleidoscope , the special effect of tears.

One assumes to know people…but they sometimes have hidden treasures; we fill our ignorance about them with prejudice and we make up stories about their possible history. Hardly can we know the reality they store inside.   After that evening I decided to talk less about myself and my things and to ask more about my cousin. I learned Rob is a member of MENSA, an organization for specially gifted people with high Intelligence Quotient. In addition to being a very accomplished pianist and a composer. He is also a mathematician hired to make complicated calculations. I feel proud to have him as part of my family.



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