Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This is a story about Joe, not Joe the plumber, who has already faded into obscurity, but Joe, my cousin. He was about 40 at the time of this story–single, a musician and a great favorite in the family. He played the piano at all our parties and never seemed to get tired at meeting requests for our favorite songs.

One day we heard that Joe had been taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital, suffering from stomach pains. My father decided to visit him there. When he entered Joe’s hospital room, Grace, Joe’s sister, was there, glad to see a member of the family.

As a physician, my father was permitted to read a patient’s medical chart, which was attached to the bed, where Joe lay, pale and nervous in a hospital gown.

After reading the chart for some time, my father put it down and said to Joe in a gentle but firm voice –

"Joe, I want you to get dressed. You’re leaving the hospital with me." Joe looked at my father with astonishment.

"Uncle Louis, I love you and respect you, but what are you talking about! My surgery is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I have one of the best surgeons in the city and the chief of surgery here."

"Joe," my father responded, "if you don’t get dressed, you’re leaving in your hospital gown!
And that is how the story goes ... My father led the parade, Joe followed him in his gown, his sister after him, carrying a beautiful plant she had brought as a gift. As she told it later, "so it wouldn’t be a total loss."

The three of them marched out of hospital. No one noticed them; no one stopped them.

Shortly after, Joe moved to California. He got a job at MGM, a major Hollywood studio, as a musician. He lived in California until his death at the age of 81. He never had abdominal surgery, nor did he suffer any abdominal pain after his march through Mt. Sinai Hospital in his hospital gown.

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