Michael’s world had been changed for the better over the last year. He had become emeritus at the University of Cornell surgical department ,and had greatly reduced his teaching schedule. Still on the board of directors at two no profits ,he felt that the next phase of his career was unfolding smoothly.Long term residents of New York he and Arlene had no intention of leaving their home, but they began to make significant plans for travel ,and longed for the opportunity to spend time away from the Northeast during the winter season.Wednesday which was almost a religious date for many of his surgeon friends regarding golf was the opposite for Michael.For years this was a day that he spent away from the stresses of medicine ,and was devoted solely to his family. Ever since their empty nest it was a weekly ritual when he and Arlene invariably left the city during the fall months, and traveled to Spring Lake for lunch and a walk on the beach.
The Jersey shore was part and parcel of their youth, and for many summers the family had spent weeks at a clip on Long Beach Island. Michael could not afford extended times away from his surgical practice, but arranged his schedule so that he had more than an occasional three day weekend during the summer months.The last few years had been really fulfilling as he had the opportunity to spend time with his children and grandchildren at the beach.The only member of the clan that never seemed to show up was Michael Jr who lived in San Francisco, and had never had a close relationship with his father.It bothered Michael, but over the years he had accepted the distance and understood that despite the lack of closeness, his son was firmly loved and accepted by his wife and other siblings.
Driving over the George Washington Bridge he and Arlene were struck by the physical beauty of the city on this majestic fall day. The sun was glistening off the construction site of the new World Trade Center, and the sky was literally without a cloud.Traffic was unusually light, and they chatted about a host of hopes and dreams on their way to Spring Lake. Arriving at their destination they were greeted by Antoine who graciously ushered them to their favorite table overlooking the ocean. The Golden Lantern was close to the beach, and their custom was to have lunch and then kick off their shoes and walk for miles along the coast.
Scanning the menu Arlene jokingly noted”I don’t even know why I look I always get the crab sandwich and the clam chowder.”As they ordered Arlene appeared to have a hacking coughing attack but waved It off as “something went down the wrong pipe.” The rest of the meal was uneventful, and they chided each other as they scanned the dessert menu.Arlene ever the chocolate maven decided on the seven layer cake, and though he teased her Micheal was thrilled because he would have the opportunity to share this marvelous dessert. As the cake appeared with two cups of decaf Michael held Arlene’s hand and said “Hope you have the generosity of spirit to leave me a few bites”Arlene laughed and passed a fork to Michael. She began to gingerly address the delicacy when out of the blue she turned ashen.She gripped her side and felt excruciating pain. She attempted to stand but almost fell as she pushed her chair away from the table. Michael was stunned by this immediate turn of events.”Arlene what is happening?” The pain had somewhat lessened and she sat back down.” I don’t know Michael but I had a severe pain in my side.” Are you ok now? He inquired?” Yes I am fine” and trying to make light of the situation offered”I was more frightened that you would eat the entire cake while I had discomfort.”
Ever the physician Michael pressed for information about the pain, and surmised that Arlene was experiencing a form of a kidney stone attack. The rest of the meal was without incident, and yet Arlene suggested that they pass on their traditional post lunch walk-on the beach. Michael agreed but strongly suggested that she make an appointment to see their internist and his best friend Dr Vic DeFino.”It is probably nothing but you haven’t had a physical in a while, and I would feel better if Vic examined you.
The ride home was different than the ride to the shore, and though Michael tried to make light of what happened at lunch he had an uneasy feeling about what had occurred. When they arrived back in Manhattan he excused himself with the pretense that he was going downstairs to see if any packages had arrived. In reality he wanted to call his colleague Vic De Fino and get an immediate consultation. The phone rang twice and a voice said” Michael what a pleasant surprise.Are you in Spring lake?””No I am back in Manhattan ,and I know that you have a tough teaching schedule on Friday but could you find some time to see Arlene? “There was a pause on the line and Vic asked.Is she alright?.”” It is probably nothing but something happened at lunch that alarmed me. I just want to check it out”.Vic scanned his cell phone for Friday’s schedule and said” I could see her at my office around four thirty. “Michael paused” I will be teaching Is there any other time?” Vic teased Michael and said’It would be best if I saw her alone the first time. I will call you after “. Ok this may be much ado about nothing but I want to stay on top of this “. Vic said you are probably right but I don’t think I have seen her for over nine months. It is reasonable to do a complete physical , I will call you after I see her.”” Thanks Vic talk to you on Friday.”