On this day in 1972, my father turned 45 years old. This was the year he’d been promoted to an executive position at the pharmaceutical company where he worked, and the year he moved his family of seven from a small and crowded house to a much larger house on a quiet avenue in North Buffalo.
Was it also the year he began to suffer a midlife crisis? Or was he simply expressing himself?
Like many men of the “greatest generation,” my father was a buttoned-up guy who didn’t broadcast his feelings and emotions. For him, actions spoke louder than words.
What about some of those actions? He began listening to Carol King’s Tapestry album. He bought a 1969 pearl-white Ford Mustang. He got into tennis. He gave up his Monday night bowling league and instead took an art class.
I was thirteen and oblivious to what might be going on with him. I’d never heard the term midlife crisis. What I remember most about this era is that Bob Klein started making his own neckties. What an unusual interest! I have this image of my father bent over the dining room table pinning the thin-papered patterns onto the fabric and then cutting out the shapes and commandeering my mom’s sewing machine.
These were no ordinary ties, with staid stripes or traditional paisley patterns. Think: flower power! Think: psychedelics! Crazy colors and bold patterns—and he wore these ties to work! I wore them, too. Every day I’d pick one of the more outrageous ones (he must have made dozens) and wore it to school, which allowed me to adhere to the dress code (Catholic school, tie required) while making an individual statement. I got a lot of comments about those ties.
I wish I still had some of those ties. I don’t know what happened to them. I wish I had a photo of him wearing one of those ties, or standing in front of his cool Mustang, which he sold shortly before I became old enough to drive (Coincidence? I don’t think so). I really wish I had a photo of the expression on my mother’s face as her husband was navigating this period of his life.
And of course, I wish I could talk to my father about what was going on with him. Followers of Sigmund Freud believed that during middle age everyone’s thoughts were driven by the fear of impending death. Carl Jung held that midlife is key to individuation, a process of self-actualization that contains many potential paradoxes. But research hasn’t turned up much evidence that the midlife crisis exists. It’s more like people of all ages must deal with crises, and there is great variation in how we handle or don’t handle those situations.
As for me, I think I had my midlife crisis when I was about thirty years old and wandering a bit in terms of direction and desire and not finding early success as a writer. I didn’t buy a cool car or sew my own neckties, but I did break up with my girlfriend and camp out at my desk trying to write another novel while the California sun shined outside my window.
Happy birthday, Bob Klein.
Companion Posts About My Parents: