When Rand Richards Cooper was in his 40s, he was faced with a question: How late is too late to first become a dad? He writes about it in his essay, which is read by Stanley Tucci ("A Private War").
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Oh, the from the New York Times and w you are Boston. This is modern. The stories of love loss and redemption. I'm your host Meghna Chakrabarti, the when Rand Richards Cooper was in his forties. He was faced with the question. Late is too late to first become a dad is, as is called fatherhood. I now learn is a young man's game, it's red by state, To achieve who start in movies such as the devil, where's, Prada, the lovely bones and Julie, and Julia his new movie, is a private war
the first time in my life I had unprotected sex one August night three summers ago I was forty five no pill or condom no diaphragm or indeed, none of the sundry devices deployed to keep me careering childless. Through a quarter century of romance with women. I had lusted after and sometimes loved this time the woman was my wife Molly, and we had decided to have a Molly was nine years younger than I, and we ve been together eight years we agonized about children for a long time, then we agonized about agony
the deciding in midlife to become a father unfolds in a series of trenchant recognitions. A friend at a college reunion says: okay, you've lived one of your two lives now. What do you want to do with the one that's left or someone falls ill or dies.
several months before Molly's brother had been given a diagnosis of lung cancer, and my mother was experiencing a spate of mysterious symptoms. That would turn out to be the same terrible disease much more acutely than I would have a twenty five or even thirty five. I felt the presence of ultimate things. The prospect of life and death in the balance brings a metaphysical dimension to when I began calling late onset fatherhood one day at the gym I showered next to a guy, busily shampooing his four year old son, not on my forehead. The boy cried. Why not his father asked and before the boy answered, I knew exactly what he was going to say. It gets in my eyes with perfect clarity.
I recall the outrage that stinging discomfort and my own father saying exactly as this father now said, then close them. I thought about how having a child extends you through time genetically into the future, but also into the past, reconnecting you to perceptions and experiences you have all but forgotten. I felt tired of living. Only in the present the physical side of life, and said fatherhood was less thrilling. There's a keen in congruity in trying to open up this huge new dimension in your life, even Life announces its intention of closing you down, starting with your physical prowess,.
I was already feeling pretty creaky the consequence of a nasty basketball habit. I couldn't kick ankle, sprains back spasms and finally, the mother of all sports injuries, a torn acl. Now you can either alter your lifestyle to fit your knee or alter your need to fit your lifestyle. The surgeon said the belated father faces. A daunting gamble. Will a baby indeed keep you young, open up, some replenishing new vitality, or will it do just the opposite? When I have the energy to be an older father, the patients, the knees and the uncertainty, metal terms of evolution, my psychology would becoming a father, prolong my peak and delay my plummet or as a middle aged and playing a young man's game. Was I merely setting myself up for an even bigger fall.
That autumn as Molly and I were helping friends drop their daughter off at college. I saw a geezer father amid the throng of parents hobbling alongside his son you're. Looking at me, I said to Molly. I did the math, even if we got pregnant tomorrow, I'd be pushing seventy when our child graduated from college and we weren't getting pregnant tomorrow nature, was playing its cruel trick on those who wait for years. You wouldn't, and now it seems you can't six months went by a year, nothing, nothing but the prey. it's a test case with its dreaded thin blue line that kept telling us no not yet try again,
after eighteen months. We handed ourselves over to the fertility industry for modeling ultrasounds. For me, semen analysis. I have become obsessed with doubt about my forty six year old All those decades I spent fourteen biology, wasn't there bound to be pay back in adversity. You fall back into primitive thinking. Full of self reproach in Europe bodily metaphor, my stream diverted and ground fetid. My once robust vintage now, sadly, corked turned to mold. Waiting for the doctor's office to call with my results. I made the mistake of consulting
Simon analysis website with its nightmare list of abnormalities. He muttered sperm here blood in seamen asked than others permian poor mortality and previously well niekro spare me and when the phone rang, I was gaping at drawings of sperm, with shriveled heads or two tails, a gallery of misshapen monsters, but nothing like that showed up and eventually came a one spring morning when Molly rose early after a restless night from the back from came the sound of trickle trickle. I followed her in the little pregnancy test. One sat on the side of the tub. We appeared at it. Oh my god, Molly So much still awaited us, but at least we were waiting for the waiting and I found myself eager to
goodbye to life, as I knew it that same day, while leaving the gym driving out of the parking lot in my convertible top down tunes blasting from the car stereo, I passed a guy loading, two kids into him, Yvan. He was a few years younger than I and, as I went by, he looked my way with a big rueful smile, gesturing back and forth. You take mine, he was saying and I'll take yours, meaning the kids, the car life. I knew how I appeared to him a man emerging from fatherhood into the sunlit freedoms of midlife. He was thinking he couldn't wait to be me. Little did he know. I was smiling like a crazy fool because I was about to become
Fast forward, nine months passed the fathomless sorrow of the death of Molly S brother past, the thrill of our first shadowy ultra sound and the comedy of parenting classes were. I would berber plastic doll alongside fellow fathers to be some of them closer and age to their impending babies than to me to a sunny afternoon in January. That was one our daughter, Larkin Fair Cooper uttered. Her first squawk in six forty six of the appropriately named bliss building at Hartford Hospital. The maternity word practice the roaming in concept, whereby the husband formerly that awkward auxiliary figure drinking coffee in the hallway can now be in on the action. Our room came with a cart and I spent at first night dozing divan, Morrison Larkin on my chest. Make,
endless little jerking movements filing her tiny fingernails, with an Emory Board sharing a pizza ass. She slept alongside my way and I felt the sweet intensity of being new parents, cocoon with the baby time stops the world with its news and duties receives and the three of you experience and static. Ferocious tenderness had takes familiar old emotions and mixes them in powerful new concoctions. I feel like were being reprogrammed, I said, and yet I was still the same old person as events. All too soon reminded me of a very first day home from the hospital fetching Molly, a glass abuse in the kitchen I bent over
take an ice trade from the freezer. When, when somebody kept a dagger to boot into my lower back, I went down. I stress, flying these with the same back spasms. I failed me on the basketball court. A year ago I couldn't get up, couldn't even set up. The pain was too intense. Not now I thought not when Molly still had a stitches in and needed to be resting with our baby, not one. I intended to wait on the tour. hand and foot, I wanted to be the do everything guy and now I was going to be the do nothing guy bed bound for the next three days and invalid, whose wife would have to bring him his medicine and carry his urine to the toilet in a bucket lying there. I arrived in the misery that verged on despair
for seventy two hours, life had been serving up, sweet, joy and exploitation, but right now all I could think about was my failure. As a farmer, I recalled years of boyhood sports fun with my own father, epic battles of one on one basketball marathon tennis matches on hot summer days, followed by a race to the beach and leap into the water, my child. I was convinced, would never have that with me. Larkin would know me as a fragile gray, grandfatherly presence. As for her actual grandparents, she would experience them barely or I had known my grandparents well when I was a kid too.
Had seen me into adulthood. Larkin would miss out on all that, and it was my fault all of it. I had waited too long. I'd selfishly hoarded the vigor of my life and used it up on myself, Molly found me lying on the kitchen floor, weeping tears of rage. She held my head in her lap. I wanted to do everything I said, and now I'm useless. It's ok. She said I love you so much. I knew she did and thank God for that. But will it be enough? I pictured Larkin asleep in the basket upstairs she was so tiny. I felt so old. There was such a long way to go. Our house has a first
floor, guest room just beyond the dining room and down a short hallway with a queen size futon. I saw my journey there as if from an answer, I view looking up the legs of the dining room table, the handholds on baseboards and door frames, Perhaps tears came the sound of a brand new baby screaming to be nursed, go I said Molly, but first I need you to get me the vacant in and the flexible. She did and so began the great adventure into late onset fatherhood, as I got the painkillers and crawled whimpering across the kitchen. The
that Stanley Tucci getting Rand, Richards Coopers essay, a fatherhood, I now learn. Is a young man's game will catch up with Rand break before the work messages begin to pour in gift ourselves a good morning, a good morning as a moment to pause and ease into the day. It's a moment to run and chase the sunrise or its gently settle into your
in a good morning as a moment to be present, to find clarity and be grounded for the day had good days start with good mornings and good mornings start with Yogi T Yogi T tease me to do more than just tastes good. I love felling. My boyfriend and I often play falling me together by together I mean sitting next to each other playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in sorry. That may have happened again I have one friend I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I was getting nervous. I sent it to my parents, or something like that. me and my dad. We like to play fun together and I wish the out I forgot to see it. J a c k, P, o t Jack
Yeah yeah now run nice, I'm same as Earth'S- the digital puzzles editor for the New York Times, you can try spelling bee and all our games at N times, dot com, slash games. When we talked to Rand Richards Cooper, he told us more. But the moment when he was crawling across the kitchen floor, and it just so happens at that moment, and I didn't write about this in the basement, my mother in law, walked in and choose western with a very laconic sense of humor and it was dim in the kitchen and she looked down and she said is that you down there and I said it is it is, but go on. Molly needs you upstairs carefully stepped over me and I think I was simultaneously laughing in and crying. At the same time that wasn't the only time when tears and laughter went hand in hand and the early days of working life, her birth, The time when the family was hit with more illness
Rand's mother was fighting cancer and a few months after she was born. Rand was also diagnosed with cancer, We had the almost surreal moment of bringing my five month old. Baby, too the nursing home where my mother was dying and I had just been diagnosed with a quite serious, no Noma. So we sat there with this beautiful, baby laughing and playing my mother within weeks of death, and self facing a potentially pretty grave illness. so the intensity of this life moment with darkest and scariest things and the brightest and most vividly loveliest things jostling with each other struck me something that I had to had to try to give language to though Rand recovered his mother died. When Larkin was six months old and ransom it feels the pain not only losing her, but also
of losing the relationship that might have existed between Larkin and her grandmother, I wait As long as I did to have children in part, because I was doing things with my life that were Intensely rewarding to- and I traveled and I wrote books and- and I love that life, but I truly truly regret. that. Larkin hasn't gotten to know my mother other than through our stories. When and was about to be born. My mother took a copy of one of my favorite books, liberty, plants and my mother just wrote a note saying to whoever you are. I love you. Larkin is twelve now and ran, told us a little bit about the person. She's become she's always always wanted a sibling, but we told her look. We barely eat you out there being siblings, so she has managed to use a certain amount of guilt that is associated with it.
Refusal to give her a sibling in order to extort from us the maximum number, who kind of pets so love and care of animals is just huge with Larkin and so is reading. She loves jokes and we kid around a lot. It's a lovely relationship and one that is warning to me every day, that's Rand Richards confer he's a fiction, writer critic and essayist living in Connecticut with his family. His book include the last to go and biggest life. We ve got more
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Learn what Accenture is discovered about how businesses can rise to these challenges and fine success subscribed to bill for change now, so you don't miss in episode. I love following my boyfriend and I often play falling, be together by together. I mean sitting next to each other of playing into. really and not cheating. Sometimes, when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own- I feel a little betrayed in ferry may have happened again. I have one friend I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words and I was getting nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that me and my dad. We like to play fun together and I wish the out I forgot to see it. J, a c k, p o t jack Yeah yeah now run nice
I'm same as earth's sky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games here, Stanley Tucci, who at age fifty eight has a lot in common with Rand Richards Cooper as an older father. It is exactly everything you think I raised step children when I was younger, then children with my first wife who passed away and now a I have two younger children, so everyone I've raised reserve ranges from like three thousand four hundred and thirty three summit to seven months and so reading. This has exactly
six. Actually what you feel thanks again to Stanley Tucci for reading this. His new movie is a private war in theaters. Now your dental Jones, editor of the modern love column for the New York Times, really common Oh, I see in submissions to modern love and some of what we publish is this idea of trying to perfectly time, your life and to game it out in a way that's optimal. so often when that has to do with having children? There's this sweet spot of having children where people have established that careers and they're comfortable with themselves. Done the travel they want to do and all of that, and then they turn to having children and can't or they have a child and they feel like. to all than they have. They worry that they're going to be as Randall.
He's going to be seventy. When is when his child is like heading off to college and can see in they were going to be times when his wife was going to be not know which person was needier him or the child and it's such a set of perfect image encapsulate at the end. When he's like on pay killers and dragging himself across the floor to try to be helpful next week. Finn, wit, rock the thing about the physical side is that I can talk all they want about what I've been through, what it felt like to grow up with chronic illness and to know nothing else with the science and the diagnoses and the dates and everything that can be measured, but the faded cuts and holes and lines that speckle my body or the closest. I can get to proof
Eventually, scars will fade, but you can't uncut skin. Modern love is the production of the New York Times and W B you are Boston, NPR station, its produced, directed and edited by Jessica, Albert Caitlin, O Keefe and John Parity. Scoring and sound design by Matt the here for the modern love podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin. Additives are executive. Producer. Daniel Jones is the editor of modern love for the New York Times and adviser to the show music for the past, courtesy of a pm If you love listening to the show, leave us a rating or a review on Apple podcast, it helps new listeners, find us
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Transcript generated on 2022-04-16.