Robert Silverman Poems
On reaching 60

An introduction to the book «Car Free»


Soon I will be 60, I nearly did not make it. So its time to celebrate; above all, that I am alive. For I could have died 5 times, and on every occasion, by a car.

I am hoping that I will be incarnated on my 60th birthday or soon afterwards. My life was given genuine meaning after I rediscovered the bicycle and its political signifiance. It saved my life and, for the first time, I became emotionnally employed.

The book is dedicated to the skeleton in my family closet: my grand mother, Hedwig Furhman, my father's mother. Grandma Hedwig died in the Douglas Mental Institute after being involuntarily committed by my grandfather Norbert. My grandma look like the elephant man for she suffered from growth on the pituary gland. Her chin and forehead were hideously distorted and her legs, huge and mishapen. She scared people who came into her vicinity. On Esplanade street, beside the park children threw stones at her. My father could not look at his own mother. And I am the son of the man who could not look at his own mother.

I have shotgun chlorioretinitis, perforations in my two retinas. This diagnosis was made several years ago by the opthamologist Dr. Feander. The condition has not grown worse since the age of 5. People at the time said I was a beautiful baby, particulary my aunt Alice. Grandma Hedwig, quite naturally in the context, want to look at and pickup her only grandchild, the new son of her son Bert and his beautiful wife Florence. At that time, I did not understand what was happening. She didn't hit me in the eyes. but the sight of her in front of my infant eyes perforated my retinas. And that's why I often seem spaced out.

Many Cambodian women were found to be blind in California.There was nothing physically wrong with their eyes. But they stop seeing, after witnessing the horrors of their children and husbands being tortures before their eyes.

I am looking more and more into the life and circumstances of my grandmother Hedwig, who I never consciously knew, but who decisively affected my life... A few weeks ago, with vision teacher Beth Baldwin, I spent an hour looking at all sides of her.. naturally, I got a vision improvement out of the hour for I dare look at her.

I thank you grandma Hedwig for making sure I would never get tunnel vision, a narrow overspecialization, encouraged by the school system and so destructively common.

Next week I will be sixty. Supposedly, and old man. So, at this time on the eve of becoming a senior citizen, I asked myself about my life and its lessons.

The three main lessons of my life are this: being saved by the bike, the smallest of commodities, animated cooperative volleyball, and doing vision improvement. You must always question authorities, especially medical ones. And love.


©Robert Silverman 2000