The Watchful Eye of the Cardiologist


I had a heart attack in 2008, so naturally I have a cardiologist I see for annual checkups. On one of my first visits to my cardiologist, he assured me, to my great relief, that moderate drinking is permissible for me. For a man, moderate drinking is defined as two drinks at any one drinking episode. For my purposes, a drink is 1.5 ounces of good bourbon. I assumed that celebratory socializing would constitute an exception to the rule. There is so much in life to celebrate.

The cardiologist also told me that sweets are pretty much out. I could, he said, have a piece of pie or cake “once in a blue moon.” Obviously, the idiom means “very rarely,” but just out of curiosity I looked it up and found this:

“This term is something of a misnomer, because an actual blue moon-that is, the appearance of a second full moon in the same calendar month-occurs every 32 months or so. Further, the moon can appear blue in color at any time, depending on weather conditions.”

In any case, there are clearly occasions that would justify breaking this rule. If one is invited to dinner, and the hosts have gone to the trouble to buy or make a delicious dessert, it would be impolite to refuse. I started being nicer than usual to friends who might issue dinner invitations. For the most part, though, I tried to suppress my sweet tooth. After all, I had the bourbon to look forward to.

A couple of weeks after the visit to the cardiologist, there was a bar mitzvah at the synagogue I attend. The bar mitzvah boy’s Italian relatives had flown in from Milan for the occasion. As I passed through the social hall on the way to services, I noticed a table laden with Italian pastries. “The moon has never been bluer,” I thought.

The services dragged on at a slower pace than usual. The bar Mitzvah boy gave an interminably long commentary on the Torah reading and a speech thanking all his family members down to second cousins once removed.  The proud parents gave their speeches acknowledging some of the same relatives.  The rabbi went on praising the kid way longer than seemed reasonable. During the painfully slow chanting of the final prayers, I started to form a blatantly idolatrous  image of God as a plate of cannoli.

When the services finally ended, and the Kiddush over the wine and bread had been intoned much too slowly by the bar mitzvah boy’s father, I headed straight for the dessert table.

Unbelievably, standing by the dessert table was the bloody cardiologist. “Christ!” I muttered inappropriately. Our eyes met.

“Oh, Hi,” he said. “Are you a friend of the family?”

“No, I’m just a member of the congregation.”

“I’ve known the family for years. Very impressive young man, isn’t he”

“Indeed. I loved his speech.”

“It’s wonderful that the family from Italy can be here. This is quite a spread.”

“It certainly is. Well, I guess I’ll head for those great looking salads.”

I hung around, hoping he would get an emergency call and have to leave. No such luck. The good doctor was quite the bar mitzvah party boy. He stayed to the very end.

On the way home I bought a Snickers bar.

4 thoughts on “The Watchful Eye of the Cardiologist

    1. Thanks, Pat. As Christopher Hitchens said, everybody does have a book inside them, and in most cases that’s where it should stay. I’m afraid that’s the case with me.


  1. There’s something to be said about deep pockets. Not the fact that bar mitzvahs often involve a drain on the bank account, but the fact that you should have deeper pockets in your sports jacket to conceal some of those forbidden fruit tarts…


  2. Alan, surely you didn’t give up those fabulous sweets because your cardiologist was there? He may have “ordered” you not to eat sweets, but he ain’t no 5-star general! And like you say, “the moon has never been bluer”!

    And then you buy a Snickers bar on the way home?????

    Give me a break!! …. At least it could have been a Lindt or Suchard bar!

    Next time I come to visit you I’m gonna bring 3 pastries …. Two will be eaten by Rendene and me, and the other will sit there for a bit, out of your reach. As you move to get it, I’ll grab it and declare, “Oh well, Rendene, it looks as if Alan doesn’t want his pastry, so let’s you and I share it.” ….It will serve you right, my friend!


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