My father tells me my grandmother had a specific and peculiar way of describing hotter-than-usual weather. She would say "it's as hot as the summer Joel (my father) was born." Similarly, when he wants to describe a person's look of confusion, shock or genuine disbelief, he says that the person looked "like Joel (me) when he saw Mike on the roof." This is the story behind that saying.
When I was in high school Pa bought a pitching machine for my brother and me. Mike and I wanted this particular machine because unlike traditional pitching machines that can only throw fastballs with those dimpled, yellow rubber balls, this machine threw soft foam balls and could be adjusted to throw curve balls. The beauty of the soft foam balls was that they maintained the same flight as a real baseball for pitching purposes, but they wouldn't carry like a real baseball after you hit them. This made the machine ideal for practice in our front yard. (As a side note, I was a much better curve ball than fastball hitter in high school, and each of my home runs--which were so few that I can still remember them all--was off a curve. I'm sure this pitching machine had something to do with it.)
And so, one day as Pa, Mike and I were out in the front yard hitting curve balls, Mike learned the hard way that the soft foam balls still hurt if they hit you just right. Mike got jammed with a curve that didn't quite break enough, and the ball hit him right on the tip of his thumb. Much like stubbing your big toe, jamming or hitting your thumb can be quite painful. Mike's thumbnail quickly turned black and he ran inside, obviously in pain.
Pa and I knew Mike was done for the day, but we stayed out in the yard and continued to hit. A few minutes later, Pa stopped the machine and pointed to the top of the house. When I turned around, I saw my brother, mi hermano, my best friend, my partner in crime, standing on the roof with his thumb stretched high towards the heavens. I'm not sure which of us asked Mike what in the world he was doing, but his answer is what drew a look from me that is now the standard for befuddlement. "Mama said my thumb wouldn't throb so bad if I held it above my heart, so I figured I'd try and put it as high in the air as possible."
Confusion. Shock. Genuine disbelief. "Like Joel when he saw Mike on the roof."