A Midlife Crisis

My Father Changes His Personality


My father thought there was a curse on the men in his family because they all got get sick or died young.

When he was in his forties he started to keep his weight controlled by eating a slice of toast for breakfast, yogurt for lunch, and a light dinner accompanied by several glasses of wine. Remarkably, this avant-garde behavior started in the 1950s when yogurt was sour, plain, unflavored, and without fruit. It was also at a time when no one was consumed with health fads, much less interested in a low fat or Mediterranean type diet. We all made fun of him behind his back; calling him ”Yogurt Man.” But the last laugh is currently being enjoyed by a 100 year old who walked 14 golf holes until just last year.

He drank two glasses of wine daily, and the more it tasted like cheap Italian homemade fermented grape juice or vinegar the better he liked it. If a bad tasting bottle was opened, as long as it was red, or especially if it was home made he would still drink it because if it was homemade or it was made by an Italian “it was good.” To this day if I open a bottle of wine which does not suit my taste, I bring it over to his house knowing that he will not at all be insulted and it will never go to waste.

He was temperate in his drinking, only drank with dinner, and I never saw him drunk. But the alcohol did seem to have an anesthetic effect that would put him to sleep shortly after he ate. My mother said that one reason she stopped entertaining at home was because of his penchant to fall asleep in front of his company. He countered by saying that he had narcolepsy and actually had to use amphetamines while he was studying for exams in dental school. He did finish school in three years so perhaps he was only making up for the lost sleep that occurred during his “speed” accelerated education.

When his sister Kay became morbidly and chronically depressed he arbitrarily decided that the etiology of this devastating medical condition was only because she did not have a sense of humor; when more likely it was related to Uncle Jimmy’s incessant browbeating. Simultaneously he became obsessed with the idea that depression might also run in the entire family to the point that one day; out of nowhere he came home and announced to my mother that he was going to change his personality. From then on, he said, he was going to become the “Life of the Party,” then set out to memorize as many jokes as he possibly could.

However, his timing was bad, the circumstances for telling the jokes were inappropriate or forced, his delivery was poor and he either told the punch line first or could not remember it correctly when it was time to deliver it.

He never did become depressed, but everyone else did when he decided to tell one of these jokes that were usually insipid, overly retold or worn out to begin with. Fortunately but only after a long period of time and for reasons known only to himself, he stopped. Perhaps it was due to the lack of positive audience feedback. No applause. Not even a chuckle. Just skeptical blank stares.

Horse face


“Hey, did you hear the one about the horse with a long face?”

(Dad’s version)

A  horse walked into a bar. The bartender said: “So why the long face?”

(The real joke)

Horse photo: © 2004 Oast Farms



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