Last weekend, I traveled home to Birmingham as part of a makeup for the trip I had scheduled last month, which was postponed by a freakish yet light snowstorm that pretty much crippled the Southern states. After spending most of last Saturday with my darling niece, living out our best moments as 4-year-olds at the McWane Science Center, I stopped through the Fourth Avenue Historic District to grab my usual 5-piece all-the-way wings meal from Green Acres Café. Despite it being a Saturday in January, parking down there was still a chore. I ended up parking on the corner of 5th Avenue North & 17th Street, adjacent to Kelly Ingram Park. As I was walking back to my rental vehicle from the wing spot, I noticed the medical office of Robert W. Smith on the corner. I was immediately tickled on two fronts: first, that he was still alive after all of these years and second, that he was actually still practicing out of that same spot. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: Dr. Robert Smith.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across Dr. Smith in my childhood. I’m fairly certain that he is on record as my pediatrician from birth up until I left Birmingham for greener pastures in 2003. I’d probably need to check with my mother to be sure. From personal recollection, I remember him from Age 5 up until my last visit in his office, which occurred when I was 17. For as long as I can remember, he’s always been in that office on the corner of 5th & 17th, across from Kelly Ingram Park. He was the pediatrician for myself, both of my sisters, and my brother. None of us died or suffered from any afflictions as a result of his medical care so I’ll deduce that he was pretty good at keeping us healthy.
What it meant to me then? The visits to Dr. Smith’s office usually meant severe boredom. They literally ate up half a day. My mother typically scheduled for all 4 of us to see him on the same day and Dr. Smith was a one-man team back then…just him and maybe two nurses. And his office was always packed. For the life of me, I never understood why my mother just didn’t schedule for the first 4 appointments of the day so that we could get in and out. His space was just like any normal independent medical practice. It had a waiting area with a limited selection of toys. I remember playing with all of them through my age progression. I don’t recall any bad experiences at Dr. Smith’s office. It was mostly good visits that ended with a Dum Dums lollipop from the jar on his desk and a McDonald’s Happy Meal from the old location on 4th & 20th.
What it means to me now? Today, Dr. Smith is a thing of my past. Obviously, I’ve long moved on from Birmingham and even though I’ll be a father myself in about three months’ time, it’s unlikely that my kid will ever see him. The sight of Dr. Smith’s office still going strong nearly 20 years since I was last in his office is remarkable. That dude has to be in his late 60s or early 70s by now. Hell, he may be even older. When I talked to my sister about this, she looked at me as if I was crazy before revealing that he’s the pediatrician for my niece. Even more, she said he still remembers me. Talk about bringing everything to full circle. If it lines up with one of my future visits home, I’ll tag along with my sister to one of my niece’s appointments with him. I’ll have to see for myself if he remembers me.