When Ezra Tull, in Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, discovers a lump on his thigh, “The word cancer came on its own, as if someone had whispered it into his ear, but what caused his shocked expression was the thought that flew in after it All right Let it happen. I'll go ahead and die. He shook that away, of course. He was 46 years old, a calm and sensible man, and later he would make an appointment with Dr. Vincent…It wasn't that he really wanted to die. Naturally not. He was only giving in to a passing mood, he decided…,this summer hadn't been going well. His mother, whose vision had been failing since 1975 was now (in 1979) almost totally blind, but she did not admit it which made it all the harder to care for her…His restaurant was floundering even more than usual; his finest cook had quit because her horoscope advised it; and a heat wave seemed to be stupefying the entire city…” Ezra's situation aptly illustrates three major lifetasks of middle‐age: accepting the loss of youth (and the changing physical conditions of aging), coping with new family relationships, and handling work‐related problems. This column focuses on the loss of youth and coping with family relationships.
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