Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Whitney Memory

I return to haunt this ancient house prematurely.
I say prematurely because I am not yet dead.
As I am clearly visible, I cannot qualify as a ghost.
Though my association here of approximately
Four generations (eighty years) ought to qualify.

It was seventy-nine or eighty years ago
That my mother, to rid herself of a precocious
Child, sent me off for a few hours making
"House calls" with my father. As a City Physician
He made calls on the sick poor or poor sick,

Whichever they were. The anxious looks of people
Waiting outside for the doctor spoke volumes of
Their fears and anxiety. Daily he stopped at the
David Whitney House, which was gifted to
Wayne County Medical Society as its headquarters.

Here he registered infectious diseases and gathered
Quarantine placards to warn away visitors.
There was no question, the society helped my father
Practice medicine. That house, after I finished
School myself, helped me learn to drink in moderation.

Free meals at various society meetings were
Preceded by a groaning board filled with
Crudities, and surrounded on one side by
Martinis and the other by Manhattans. It is easy, yet
To conjure up that image as I climbed the stairs tonight.

Later still, after it did a stint as the home of the VNA
It became the home of the very fine Whitney
restaurant in which incarnation it exists today.
Can you imagine? I still see myself as a toddler
Looking at those stained windows for the first time.

It was mid morning. The daylight illuminated the
Cherubs from behind and lit the dining room.
We ate a tuna sandwich and followed it with
Home made apple pie. For years that pie
Was brought in daily by one of the cooks.

Those pies sustained me through childhood, internship,
Residency, fellowship and early practice.
Perhaps I shall even order a slice tonight.
Though at eighty-three I have generally
Foresworn dessert. But I remember and miss it!!
Ned I. Chalat M.D.

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