Monday, November 9, 2009

I grew up in a town called Erie, Pennsylvania. It's in the NW corner of the state, and sits on the great Lake Erie. I lived there till I was 18, and moved away in 1980. Ultimately a year later our home was gone and my mother entered a nursing home. This blog is primarily about my mother's Alzheimer's disease. I wrote a book about it. I have not talked much about my mother before her Alzheimer's Disease in this blog yet.
My father died in 1978, about a year before my mother was diagnosed. He was a doctor in Erie. There is a columnist named Kevin Cuneo who writes for Last week he wrote a little article about my father, who had been dead for thirty years. It was a really wonderful surprise, since sometimes I feel little connection with the past as my parents have been gone for so long. I am going to copy and paste the article and enclose the link. It was such an incredible honor to learn someone actually remembered my father after thirty years in this way.

Flu season recalls memories of 'miracle cure'

Because half of Erie seems to be suffering from some type of flu, and there's a snarl deep in my throat that makes me sound like a cross between Brenda Vaccaro and Louis Armstrong, I've been thinking about an old physician I really miss.

Dr. Michael Sivak, long deceased, used to practice medicine in a modest little office on East 25th Street.

He was a man of few words and didn't waste any on kids like me. But Sivak was a genius at treating colds or sinus infections. My mother would send us to Doc Sivak, as everyone called him, after we'd been really sick for a couple of days and none of her home remedies worked.

Doc would peer into your ears, up your nose and down your throat, and then he'd grunt and start what we called "the treatment."

It wasn't pleasant. He'd pack your nose with cotton and then squirt a stream of some awful medicine through each nostril. You'd retch and gag, but after he pulled out the wet cotton, you'd feel better. Almost instantly. It was amazing. The next day, you'd feel like your old self again.

I asked him once what he called this miracle procedure, but he gave me a hard look and snapped, "It works, doesn't it?"

Even though he had little time for kids, unless they were sick, Doc Sivak was a great guy. At least that's what my father always said. They were close friends, and I have an image in my head of the two of them driving down the street in a really old car Doc owned -- a Model-T, or something.

When my eyesight faltered slightly, and the teacher sent a note home, my father took me to see Doc Sivak.

He conducted a thorough examination, repeatedly asking, "Better, or worse?" "Better on, or better off?"

When he was finished, my dad asked, "Well, Doc, does he need glasses?"

Sivak gave his standard reply: "He either needs 'em, or he wants a pair." I thought, who in the world wants to wear glasses? But you didn't argue with Doc Sivak.

Doc was old-fashioned in that he always treated members of the clergy and doctors' widows for free. They used to do it that way in the old days, but by the 1970s, it was a long-forgotten courtesy.

Forgotten by everyone but Doc Sivak, that is. An old lady in our neighborhood outlived her doctor-husband by almost 40 years, but Sivak treated her regularly and never charged a penny. Same with the nuns. I never visited his office once when there wasn't a sister waiting for treatment.

She probably had a cold and needed Sivak's miracle cure. We all could use it this year.

Here is the link: Good Morning - Flu season recalls memories of 'miracle cure'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thankfully you followed in your Fathers footsteps, and we have another fine Dr. Sivak in this world because of him and your Mother.
Keep up the Good Work Dr. Joseph Sivak.
I appreciate your blog for it's honesty and insights!

Talking about the book with the Lake Superior wind....... a calm day