Monday, August 20, 2012

Uncommon Vision

Cindy & Rob


Growing up, I had one of the coolest brothers on the planet. He was always ready to try something that was just a little more over the top than anyone around us.

Like the day when we were exploring the alley in a new neighborhood- one of at least ten neighborhoods that we got a chance to experience before I was out of high school. We ran into some boys while exploring, and before we got three sentences into the conversation, Rob asked one of his classic questions:

"Wanna see something cool?"

Of course they did. What red-blooded American nine-year-old would turn down a chance like that? Only no one had prepared them for what my brother Rob had in store.

He casually put a hand to his face and removed his eye then held out his hand to show our acquaintances. Their eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and just like that, my big brother gained two more friends and followers.

No sleight of hand was involved. No tricks of any kind were employed. An injury when he was very young eventually caused him to lose an eye. It was replaced with an artificial one, which Rob was more than happy to let people examine first hand, so to speak.

"Maybe the funniest time" Rob told me when I asked him about it, "was when our cousin Danny talked me into taking it out to show Nanny's (our maternal grandmother) sister. She almost fainted. That suited Nanny fine because I don't think she liked that sister."

Just like Rob.


I am four years younger than him, so I got to watch a lot of his antics over the years. They all seemed normal to me.

I never questioned how Rob could have become such a fine athlete with only one eye. He did not have access to special therapies, coaches, or instruction. I never really thought about how he learned to compensate for the lack of depth perception that came with only having one eye.

It did not occur to me to wonder how he made up for the complete lack of vision in one whole field of view as I watched him excel in football, basketball and track. It did not occur to me to ask what motivated Rob to take advantage of every chance to participate in any sport- any activity at all- without fear of injuring his good eye. I never questioned his physical toughness or his ability to cope with accidents that brought him close to complete blindness on more than one occasion. 

In college, he had two nick names, not just one. He was alternately known as "Dead Eye," and "No Slack." Those two labels say more about Rob's character than I could write in two hundred pages. He did not ask nor did he give quarter to the circumstances that life dealt him.  


As an adult I've had much more time to appreciate the incredible courage and resilience that my big brother has demonstrated. I've seen Rob continue to figure things out without a whole lot of help or cheering from the sidelines. I've watched him battle personal tragedy and work his way through to healing, a mature faith in God and profound capacity to love those around him. 

Rob found love with Cindy, has grown a family and nurtured two remarkable children: Brit, a social worker who just finished an award-winning year serving the needs of the poor with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Chicago; and Clark who at16 years old is a medal winning swimmer with Down Syndrome who almost did not survive the first year of his life.  Through it all Rob has partnered with Cindy in the same unique style he demonstrated when we were growing up. I've also had the privilege to watch him become an accomplished healer as he works with others who are facing their own challenges.

Through it all he has never stopped laughing, or making those around him laugh; and while my big brother is not quite as crazy as he used to be, he is every bit as funny as he ever was.



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