To my son Grady, and the man who delivered him to us

I wrote this reminiscence a couple of years ago and have re-posted it -- and re-written it -- ​several times since. I wanted then, as I do now, to mark my son​ Grady​'s birthday, ​​a time he can't remember but one I'll never forget. He means more to me than even the most carefully chosen, most compulsively re-written words can say:

My son Grady will be ​41​ to​day,  at 7:28 p.m. I was there when he was born​ on a snow-driven evening ​on the poor side of the west side of Buffalo, NY, on aptly named Winter Street, in ​the upstairs bedroom ​​of a drafty old house ​his mother Patty and I called home. 

A midwife did not attend Grady's birth. ​We ​c​ouldn't find one. What we ​did have was a ​friend who was a ​nurse who found a doctor for us​. And a very brave doctor​ he was​.

Home births were essentially illegal in the early '70s in New York  State. But you could say Patty and I had already developed a taste for illegality back then. We'd both been active in ​the tiny little branch of the anti-war movement that specialized in stealing or burning or otherwise destroying draft board records. Legal? ​It was almost a dirty word to us back then. ​We weren't even married when Grady was born.

In the spring of 1972, when Patty found herself pregnant and I'd received a  suspended sentence for  my draft board action, she went looking for a midwife. Patty knew she wanted to have the baby at home.  If midwives were scarce back then, doctors willing to ​perform home births e​v​en scarcer. The ones she ​questioned said she was wrong to even think such thoughts. They called her names -- including the old standby, "Communist" -- and all but threatened her with arrest.

Such, such were the days of politically polarized America.

Our nurse friend and co-conspirator, whose name was Beverly​ Sottile, thought she knew a young doctor who might be willing to deliver th e baby at home. The doctor she had in mind was ​a Hungarian refugee named Louie Hevizy.​ He agreed to meet us.​

Louie ​told us he was a prince​, a Hungarian prince who had been strung up ​by government troops ​and left to die on a Budapest lamppost during the ​country's ​1956 uprising. He​ said he​​'d been cut down at the last minute by ​his fellow ​anti-Communist partisans who then​, with the mysterious help of the Rockefeller family, ​spirited him ​out of the country. 

I liked Louie from the start​, and not just because he agreed to deliver our baby​. He was ​​​about 10 years older than I was, a funny, fast talker and a spiffy dresser ​who loved good Hungarian food, good Hungarian wine and flashy American cars. He loved to brag about his various flirtations and love affairs​ ​and of the women he lured to his bachelor pad, where a giant ​water ​bed awaited, its vastness outfitted ​in​ black silk sheets​, above which was a mirror-covered ceiling. ​​

We had little in common. I was a hippie intent on living a Spartan communal life with like-minded peaceniks. I ate what I could find, drank the occasional ​beer and drove a cantankerous Ford Cortina, for which I remember paying $100.

Louie had his career path all worked out; I wasn't sure I had one, needed or even wanted one.

He was the least political political refugee I've ever met. He hardly even seemed a doctor -- he was too intent on having a good time doing whatever he wanted., however and wherever he wanted to do it​, and telling the world about it afterward​

When he looked at Patty and me, he couldn't have seen a payday. "Penury" doesn't begin to describe our condition at the time. But where every other doctor ​looked at us and ​​​saw only a pair of hippies or Communists or flakes, Louie saw people.  When he looked at Patty, he must have seen a determined young woman in need. Perhaps he saw a challenge. He never explained why he agreed to risk his career -- because that's what it would have meant -- to respond to our request, to act like a real doctor.

Beverly, our friend the nurse, quietly collected the stuff we'd need​ for the big event and stashed it in the blinding-bright orange--yellow--and green delivery room we'd made of our second-floor bedroom. I ​especially ​remember the half-dozen or so hot water bottles she lifted  from​ ​who knows ​what hospital storage closet with which ​we line​d​ the garish, red-painted basinette that had once been ​my first nest​.

It was Louie who, when summoned on that snowy Buffalo day, arrived at our door with his doctor's bag​ and half a dozen bottles of Asti Spumante​. And it was Louie who delivered Grady Kane-Horrigan ​that night and who took the ​first baby pictures with the Nikon he'd stashed in his bag, though not before he'd circumcised the poor kid and allowed me the terrible honor of cutting the cord. Then he bounced downstairs to where about two dozen ​suddenly relieved and happy ​friends and family members ​​joined him in toasting the baby, Patty, the night and himself, as if this was the way babies were always born. It wasn't, of course, though it should have been.

It ​all ​seems, as I look back on it, a great adventure, ​a perfect reflection of the times, with its ​despotic, authoritarian doctors, ​its ​idealistic​, naïve ​hippies and its​uncharacteristic happy ending. Or beginning. For Grady was our beginning.

We moved from Buffalo a few years ​later. Among the many people I lost track of ​over the years ​was Louie. What I know of his life after our departure I'm not comfortable relating​ -- my information is partial and second-hand​. I ​just ​wish I could re-write his story to fit the happy ending he deserved but didn't get.

But today I'll raise a glass to Louie Heviz​y, the ​real rebel of our momentary little band of outlaws, the man who broke the rules and  ​​bucked the odds and brought my wonderful, hard-working and loving son into the world. He was a doctor, a Lothario, a crazy Hungarian ​hedonist ​and maybe sometimes a bullshit artist. ​He was our deliverer. ​But more than anything else, Louie Hevizy was a prince.

Views: 235

Comment by Rosigami on January 4, 2014 at 3:42pm

What a lovely story! 
I worked for a midwife on Long Island during the 90's, teaching childbirth classes to her clients. Even 20 years past your experiences, midwifery continued to be frowned upon and vilified.  The one I knew performed some "emergency" home births but mostly in-hospital. Had all to do with her malpractice insurance and having to be under the aegis of a practicing M.D.; midwifery these days seems to have become the equivalent of an Ob/gyn Physician's Assistant. 

Comment by nerd cred on January 4, 2014 at 4:11pm

In 1972 I had to get a note from a Lamaze teacher to have my husband in the delivery room. At the beginning of that pregnancy, my doctor didn't much approve of drug-free births but by the end of it, patients had converted him. I contributed to his conversion with a fast and easy birth.Luckily, I had a doc whose expressed attitude was, "It's your body, I'm just here to help." I think he'd have drawn the line at home birth, though.

Hooray for your hippie ways and a nice illustration of some good we currently maligned boomers have brought to the culture!

**After my first, conventional, drugged birth I swore I'd never do it again - the most miserable experience of my life. After the 2nd, drug free one, I was elated and ready to do it again 15 minutes later. Pretty sure the doc noticed that & learned from it.

Comment by Joan H on January 4, 2014 at 5:05pm

What a great story.

Comment by JMac1949 Today on January 4, 2014 at 6:00pm

Most excellent post, I can nearly hear his voice... R&L ;-) Happy New Year to you and yours!!

Comment by Arthur James on January 5, 2014 at 2:11am

`

Thanks...

These love stories form us.

Love weaves . . .

It's Good to share. Love . . .

It's sure pain too. I saw tears.

I sorta re` visual tears now...

I recently saw tears and tears

always make me tear up. But,

the sadness is deep ... I weep

when I leave someone who

is deviant, and Knows

Ruin ... They invited

into their life, and

rejected Love's

counsel ...

Thanks.

Words fall short.

I senses` heart.

The seat ` emotions...

Comment by Arthur James on January 5, 2014 at 2:13am

`

I was gonna mention...

after the lollipop is gone

Some woman commence

to break your neck, and

seem to try to strangle.

Comment by Phyllis on January 5, 2014 at 6:29am

I like how life sends us the people we need when we need them, Louie sounds fantastic. Thanks for keeping his memory alive.

Comment by Jeanne Sathre on January 5, 2014 at 6:51am

Great story. Well told. A very good beginning for Grady.

Comment by Jeremiah Horrigan on January 5, 2014 at 6:38pm

Rosi: Sad to hear your assessment of the current state of home birthing. I've been out of that loop for some time now, altho I shuld add that Grady & his wife had their first two sons "naturally" in a hospital-based birthing home and their latest at home, in a giant plastic tub full of water in their kitchen, attended by two "dullahs." I was almst as nervous as my mother had been at his arrival.

nerd: It's nice to know thoughtful doctors can still be found. I've had mixed results with my non-ob/gyn interactions, surgeons being the least likely to resemble the kind of doctor Louie was. 

Jim: Thanks for reminding me I've still got a place to post. I'm happy to hear Louie seemed vivid to you. A capsule characterization that I cut from a previous version because it told more than showed: he bore a strong resemblance to Roman Polanski.

Art: It's always a pleasure and sometimes a mystery to receive one of your prose poems. Peace.

Phyllis: He was indeed. He's still alive, by the way, but not in good health, by all reports.

Jeanne: We thought so too. Cheers!

Comment by Arthur James on January 5, 2014 at 7:49pm

`

Jeremiah H. 

`

I think this Place is a Quaker Meeting.

People sit in Silence and No Quacks.

`

Arthur Miller ( paraphrased ) wrote:

`

The apple cant be stuck back on the Tree

Of Knowledge . . . Once we begin to see,

we are doomed and challenged to seek

`

( I like the word ` to Yearn )

`

the strength to see more, not less.

`

Life is struggle.

We need to brace.

We'll know griefs.

`

I share with my Son.

I spoke with him earlier.

Somehow we go on and on.

I no believe my two sons ages.

I guess I have no choice. Life.

It flies bye. We wither quickly.

All Life is as Grass. Vapors.

Life is a Withering Flower.

We dissipate as if dew.

( I just pop-off recalls )

Reading others inspires.

I agree - Life is mystery.

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