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    Introducing Herman Junior

    I know I’ve spoken a lot about Herminia and Hermanette, but I never spoke of Herman’s son, Herman Junior. He’s almost 28 and is autistic. He lives in a group home and we see him once per week.

    Most people that are autistic have what is called a splinter skill and a very few have a “savant” talent which is somewhat incomprehensible-like the “Rainman” character. Herman Junior’s talent is playing the keyboard. He can play almost anything he hears by ear. He also does requests.

    Herman first discovered this talent when his daughter, Herminia, was practicing her piano lessons. She kept making the same mistake, so from the kitchen Herman told her to , “Give it a rest.” When after awhile the piano began again with the same piece including the mistake in the same place, he said, “I thought I told you…” then went into the living room to find six-year old Herman Junior playing the piano. It was a first. He had heard it with the mistake and played what he heard.

    This was the beginning of his career. Actually, he had already had a little notoriety as the Northwest Arkansas March of Dimes poster child the year before. Did I ever tell you that Herman lived in Arkansas for awhile to get his graduate degrees and run a bookstore? He tells me it was a great time in his life. All three of his children were born there.

    Another highlight of Herman Junior’s career was when he was getting music therapy at his special class in elementary school. The chorus at the school were singing “From A Distance” for a special concert, and when the chorus director heard how good Herman Junior was doing with the instrumental version of the song, she asked that he play it through as an introduction.

    Although Herman Junior is very speech impaired, often only repeating what someone says to him, when asked to play for a crowd he walked to the piano, bowed to the crowd, played the song through perfectly, bowed again, and sat down to the applause with a half-smile on his face.

    Herman Junior loves to eat. It’s a wonder he isn’t fat. A favorite of his is Taco Bell food and he also often asks for liverwurst at the house. Herman tells me he’s always had a great affection for food. And you’d never know to look at him. He’s quite slender. Must be the metabolism. Herman obviously doesn’t share that trait. He’d be the first to admit he too easily turns to fat. Also, the musical gene skipped a generation, according to Herman. But we’re always glad to hear Junior when he visits.

     

    Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com