Look Like a Yost

(this post was adapted from a journal entry written during the summer of 2012)

My father’s father, Herbert Yost, had a notorious short temper (sadly, he died last May, but not because of his temper). My grandfather passed his temper on to my father, and as the first-born child, I acquired it from my dad. Whether nature or nurture is to blame, I’m not sure. Probably a little of both. I do know that the degree to which each individual has been afflicted with a short temper has lessened with each generation, much to my husband’s delight, I’m sure.

Some things that are sure to set off the Yost temper: being stuck in traffic, following in front of or behind bad drivers, hearing the advice of some well meaning person trying to tell you to do something other than the way you want and intend to do it, and not being able to find something you’re looking for.

My mother, ever the patient partner, has learned over the years how to soothe my father’s moods and defuse his rage. Mostly she’s tried to do this using humor. She has invented a phrase to make light of a situation in which my father or one of his children cannot find something for which they are looking. This phrase is: You look like a Yost. Keep in mind here the verb look means “to use one’s eyes to search for and find something,” not “to resemble someone or something else.”

When one looks like a Yost—and yes, you’ll recognize you’ve done it at some point in your life—one does not really look very hard, or well for that matter.  To look like a Yost means to take a swift, very superficial glance, and then give up and start getting real crabby about it. In fact, I might even argue that when looking like a Yost one has every intention of encouraging someone else to do the looking for him (or her!). In our family’s case, it’s usually my poor mom who ends up doing the looking.

Last night I was over at my parents’ house for a 4th of July cookout. I had cut up some limes early in the day for the Coronas we’d be drinking later in the afternoon. When it came time to get the limes, I opened the refrigerator door, took a 0.2 second look around, closed the door, and yelled to my mom, “Where’d ya put the limes?”

She sighed. Then, calmly she asked, “Did you look like a Yost?”

I shrugged. I most certainly did, but I’m not admitting that to you.

She replied without looking, “Bottom left, in the front.”

I opened the door again. Sure enough, right there they were. I had looked like a Yost. Of course I had.


Just last week my father had been looking around my parents’ home for his checkbook to pay the bills, a chore he normally does at the office. By the time he came to my mom he had already been searching furiously for ten minutes, in his world, an impossible, infinite amount of time. He came to my mother uttering oaths under his breath, “I can’t find the goddamn checkbook anywhere. How the hell am I supposed to pay the goddamn bills?”

Again, I heard my mother calmly ask, “Did you check your desk? Your computer bag? The dining room table?”

He had, he admitted, twice, and still couldn’t find the damn thing.

My mom thought for a moment and said, “What about your briefcase that you bring back and forth to the office?” My dad had left it at the office instead of bringing it home like he usually does, but he swore he checked in there before he left for work that day. My mom then thought to add with a smile, “Yes, but did you look like a Yost?” My father was not amused.

I watched as my mom continued to help my father do a more thorough search, but the checkbook would not be found.

The following day my mom was sitting at her desk in her office when she got a one-line e-mail from my dad. She later told me it read: Found the checkbook. She sent him a one-word response back: Where? And then again, his turn: In the briefcase. True to form, he had looked like a Yost. My mom stifled the urge to write a reply back: Told you so. Instead, she shared a small laugh with me later. She had recognized my dad’s electronic communications as a way of sort of light-heartedly, half-humorously apologizing for his short-tempered behavior the day before.

The first time my husband heard the phrase look like a Yost he was understandably confused. However, over the years, he has come to understand it, accept it, and even use it on occasion. Mostly it’s still me who’s doing the poor, superficial searching for objects and then blowing up in anger when I can’t find them. But occasionally, I will hear him admit, under his breath, when I find something for which he’s been looking and looking with no success, “I looked like a Yost.”

And this is my grandfather’s legacy. Well, one of his legacies, to be sure (there are others, many of which are endearing and positive in nature).


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