Seventeen

Seventeen. That’s what the nurse said.

My husband had just narrowly avoided a serious heart attack, forestalled by an addition to the collection of metal in his chest. This was his fifth or sixth stent. (I’ve lost count. Fortunately, his cardiologist hadn’t.)

The food service at the hospital was excellent. Dan was allowed to choose from a menu that included restaurant-quality meals, including salmon stir-fry. Each was carefully marked with nutrition information – sodium, fats, carbs, etc. When Dan went over the limit on his restrictions, the kitchen would let him know and suggest he try a different salad dressing, for example. Once he even saved enough points on his meal that he was able to select a teensy sliver of low-fat cheesecake. It was nearly invisible, but enough to satisfy a longing.

Because my husband also has diabetes, on his discharge day an R.N. appeared to talk to him about his diet. The nurse was incredibly knowledgeable. My husband is fairly knowledgeable, too. He knows that fruits contain a fair amount of sugar, but he loves fruit and thought they would be a better choice for snacks and desserts than, say, ice cream or pecan turtles.

The nurse’s spiel was enlightening. He told Dan how much of each fruit he could safely consume. One quarter cup of watermelon. A small apple or orange (he illustrated the size with his hands), and so on.

I knew that one of Dan’s favorite snacks was grapes, the big red seedless kind. So I asked.

“Grapes?” I inquired.

“Seventeen,” said the nurse. No hesitation. Not a moment’s thought. No consulting a chart or a diet list. This man had memorized all the information about all the fruits, apparently, and had it on the tip of his tongue (so to speak).

I goggled. “Seventeen?” I echoed.

“Seventeen grapes,” he said. “That’s the proper serving size.”

Who was I to argue?

On his next trip to the store, Dan indeed brought home a bag of those wonderful red grapes. Shortly, he was sitting on the sofa eating them while watching TV, popping them in his mouth like popcorn.

I counted. “One,” I said.

“One,” he repeated.

“Two,” I said.

“Two.”

“Three.”

“Three.”

“Four.”

“Three.”

“That’s not three! You’ve already eaten three,” I exclaimed.

He popped another grape in his mouth. “Five,” I said.

“Three,” he replied.

It went on like this for a while. “Six.” “Three.” “Seven.” “Three.”

Once I even tried skipping nine and going straight to ten to see if he would protest.

He didn’t.  “Three,” he replied calmly.

When Dan’s in this mood (entranced by grapes), there’s no arguing with him. He’s stubborn, and fully capable of repeating “three” while I count up to 286. (I think that was all the grapes in the bag.) He actually did stop eating the grapes right around 17, though, with a smug look on his face.

Just before he came home I had bought a watermelon – a small one – knowing how much he loved them – perhaps even more than grapes. I have no doubt that he’s hidden the measuring cups so I can’t monitor his watermelon intake, too.

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