Robert used to tune my piano. He travelled all through the Peace Country of Alberta and British Columbia tuning and repairing pianos.
Robert is a big man – 6 ft 8 in - and has enormous hands that can span 13 keys on a piano.
What makes this remarkable is that Robert is profoundly dyslexic. He can't read music, can't even read his own name most days. Everything he's ever played or taught or known is memorized.
After a long career at RCM, he retired and moved to northeast BC, where he started a new life tuning and rebuilding pianos, repairing antique clocks and charming the local ladies. He even rebuilt the antique touring car he took on his rounds.
I can't remember how I found him, or he found me, but it was a long and very enjoyable friendship. He often stayed the night at our place while on his semi-annual road trips tuning pianos. Husband and children enjoyed listening to him play the piano, or play improvised duets with me after supper (although the son did once say “It's very hard to get to sleep for school, Mommy, when you and Robert are playing music all night long.”).
I'll also state for the record that Robert is the number one, top-of-the-heap most neurotic person in our wide and diverse collection of friends. Those who share him with us agree. We still love him.
One day at our place, he told us that his life's dream was to be a welder.
Excuse me? All those gifts and talents, and he wants to learn how to weld?
He bought all the equipment and paraphernalia that any welder would want in his or her dream shop. Then he found himself an old codger to teach him how to ply his new trade.
Robert told us about his first lessons, the trials and tribulations, many failures and few successes.
Then came the greatest segue line ever:
“After I welded my gloves to the bench, the old guy looked me straight in the eye and declared, 'You can't be taught.' ”