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 today, 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 couldn'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 even 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 lined 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 itsuncharacteristic 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 Hevizy, 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.