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Never Tell Our Business To Strangers | With Ruth Wilson

2019-12-04 | 🔗

"Never tell our business to strangers." That's what Jennifer Mascia was told growing up. But it wasn't until she was an adult that she learned the reason why. Ruth Wilson (HBO's "His Dark Materials") reads Jennifer's essay about discovering a dark family secret.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Modern love the pad cast supported by produced by the island at W B war, Boston. From the New York Times and w you are Boston. This is Modern love stories of love, loss and redemption, the host Meghna Chakrabarti, the tell our business to strangers. That's what Jennifer Masa was told growing up. It wasn't until she was an adult that she learned. The reason why Jennifer's essay is add by Ruth Wilson Ruth has starred in the affair and Luther
You can see her now in his dark materials, on H, B, o nine years ago, when my mother suffered a minor heart attack. My father and I learned that for more than two decades she had been lying about her age. She was actually three years older than my father, not two years younger as she had always. That apparently sensing that her real age might be relevant to a treatment she had given the nurse her actual birth date and My father and I saw it scrawled and her plastic hospital bracelet. That my mother had maintained this deception. For so long shouldn't have surprised me, my parents were all about deception on a grand scale, false identities, hidden pasts.
AIDS as an only child. I was mostly isolated with my parents throughout my childhood, as we criss crossed the country went bankrupt three times. Anne had run ends with a law. It was not a normal childhood. But then what did I know of normal, my parents, let my whole world and I loved them. I was especially devoted to my father, who showered me with attention sneaking candy under my pillow that my mother had forbidden me to eat it wasn't until I was an adult and discovered just how dark their past was that my love and loyalty were severely tested and I'm still not sure what to make of the scattered truths and fictions that define who I am today for me, our story began when I was five years old,
and the F b I came from my father. We were living in Irvine, California, where he had a small carpet cleaning business. My older cousin happened to be visiting from Florida, and my mother told her to keep me in my bedroom. As the agents arrested, my father, it was a harrowing ordeal distraught. I rushed my bedroom door time and again trying to get to my father, as my cousin restrain me What had he done? My mother first told me they had mistaken him for someone with the same name and there is in fact an organized crime figure with his name after his arrest led to his detention. However, my mother conceded that he had done something wrong, but she wouldn't tell me what, regardless our lives were turned,
but I doubt the F b I took my father to New York and my mother followed, arrange for his defence. While I was sent to live with my aunt in North Miami Beach, a parade of character, witnesses testifying to my father's honest work as a carpet cleaning finally led to his release. A year later, I didn't learn of his release into my parents, showed up in Florida on my aunt doorstep, which was the best a prize I have ever seen and remains my fondest memory of my parents. I was six years old. We stayed in Florida for a few months until my father, who had gotten a job as a line cook, could save enough money to take us back to California. When we returned we kept on the move, living over the years and Garden Grove, El Toro Lake Forest Mission, Viejo Laguna Hills
Ellie Soviet HO and Laguna girl. The nature of our current, like existence, led me to trust only my parents to look only to them to tell me who I was and to feel fearful and disloyal for seeking outside comfort. My parents mantra drilled into me, was never tell our business to strangers and I didn't, but I wasn't even sure who we were or what are business was until I was five I knew our last name to be cease. But then my parents told me a real last name was monsieur Cassim with a surname of a prison buddy of my father's. I knew my father both as John his real name Anne Frank, his father's and, during our brief time in Houston, had apparently gone by Nicholas the day after I graduate
from high school. We packed our belongings into a Yahoo and moved to New York, where my father had friends who could get him work. He joined a painting crew earning one hundred dollars a day leaving my mother and me with nothing to do for the sum of drive around long island than a car that was soon to be repossess talking after one of these drives, I broke down in tears, recording the anguish of the day my father was arrested. I deserve to know what happened. I told her at my insistence she finally opened up should become for telling me the real story of how she and my father met, which was not through friends as had been their story, but at the fish killed no facility in New York, where my father had been incarcerated for racketeering. My mother was a high school teacher with a humanitarian bent who visited prisons,
to write a book about the prison reform movement. My father was among the inmates she interviewed interviews gave way to animal attraction and when my father was paroled months later they started dating, within a year they married. from New York to Miami so could escape from his previous life of crime. But after I was born, he went back to his old partners and their sources of income, bulk marijuana and cocaine sales in the port of Miami When I was a year old, my father was arrested on cocaine possession charges the authority. didn't yet know he had violated his parole to mistakenly, let him out on bail and the second, my parents.
stepped outside. My father said to my mother. If we stay here, I'm going to end up dead or in jail, I'm running you coming. Of course she answered. It would prove to be the defining moment of her life and mine, So, as she explained, it was that act skipping out on bail and then crossing state lines that led to my father's being arrested by the F B, I in California, five years later, which was the truth, but not as it turned out the whole truth, a year after my mother- and I had this conversation when I was in college, I would a newspaper article
about a woman who had searched and on line database for criminals who had been shuffled through the New York State Corrections Department. One afternoon I found the site and type my father's last name into the search field. His record appeared, and I was able to verify that it was the right John Monsieur the birth date matched. I scroll down the page, pass silent, vocation number to a table, listing crimes of conviction and there it was the real act that both the three of us together, murder. I sat silently, as my centre seem to drop through the floor by then my father was dying of lung cancer.
and in his remaining time I never told him what I had learned so my whole life he had tried to protect me from his dog is secrets, and I didn't feel able to approach it with him. Now it took me days to confront my mother, who mostly react to with concern that my father is awful. Paused was available to anyone with a modem.
a year later, my father died at the memorial service. I stood an eulogized him declaring my parents, and I assume its. We are caught from the same cloth and nothing not even death can change what we mean to each other, the type of bond we have transcends death. It exists even today, even in this very room, I meant it, but what I didn't fully appreciate, then, was that my parents were the trousseau mates bound by ugly crimes as a child. I had always felt that united front against the world and sometimes me, but I didn't know why until last winter mother had a stroke and was close to dying herself.
When she emerged from her hey, she somehow felt compelled to tell me the rest. Your father did some bad things after he got out of jail. Jenny know was it possible? He had repeated the crime that put him away in the nineteen sixties and seventies. Tell me, I said: was it she nodded? How many four maybe five she said, sheepishly I was reeling. It was after you were born. She continued. It was part of that law.
He was doing a job and one of the byproducts of that job was to do what he did. She went on to explain that his victims were fellow drug dealers as if that made it more palatable, no matter the horror of my father's legacy was too much to bear. I fled sobbing. Nineteen days later, my mother suffered a heart attack and died. I never reported my mother's rambling deathbed confession to anyone. I knew so little. Crimes. If true, when more than twenty five years old, my parents and I wanted their past buried with them, or so I told myself. I have since marveled at my mother's choice to stay with my father and defend him, though, of course I loved him.
who, albeit in ignorance here my mother, what what I had I know my mother was deceitful and overbearing. She was also my best friend if I didn't tell her about something it felt as if it hadn't happened. In her final days after the heart attack had sat at her strength and merely left her brain dead, I talked into a bathroom in the intensive care unit saw myself in the mirror and that's when I felt it not a crack but a slow tearing of the fiber that connected us. I stood in the unforgiving fluorescent glow and I saw that for the first time I was standing alone. I was twenty eight. and I could no longer look to my parents, tell me who I was I had out their past and
now it was up to me to create a new future. The bad was still with me, of course, but so was the good a few days, to my mother's death, I was snooping on a computer and found three unknown to rise. Wills languishing among various emo messages and letters she had saved in each. She gave me. To instructions on how to extract cash advances from her credit cards betraying. lastly, streak to the end after those instructions, to my utter surprise, was this their journey. I love you very much.
I was astonished that at my age I could have had such a lovely funny beautiful child, your father and I both loved you very much. I hope you know this that, in spite of imagined, Well, real hurts and all the times we were separated or fought with you or each other that we showed you that love. We three were a family, a real one that sat down to dinner together and explored and traveled together. Even if we didn't go to the- an canyon, wherever I am, even though I am a believer. I know that part.
Me will belong to this earth somewhere and thus part of the earth will always remember and love you. Ruth Wilson, reading Jennifer Massey as essay, never Tell our business to strangers will catch up with Jennifer after the break. I love falling by fraud and I often play falling, be together by together. I mean setting facts to each other of playing, intimate
Billy 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. I know you did it again. I have one friend who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I always get nervous that I sent it to my parents or something like that was my bad. It was like the best party together, and I wish that I think I got to see it J, a c K. We hit. The jackpot. 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 when talk to Jennifer Mercier. She said
Her love for her father always ran deep. My father and I were extremely close. He'd, be the one to drive me to school cause. He had to go clean carpets in the morning, so we'd make up silly songs on the way, and you know he tell me stories about his crazy adventures. You know as a kid in Coney Island leaving out a lot. He was really the guiding force, in my younger life, which is why, when the FBI and the police came for him, when I was five, it was devastating. It was like a light went out after. Her essay was published in two thousand and seven Jennifer decided to keep investigating her father. She eventually wrote a book about what she discovered in a way. It's like there's two John Massey is you know, there's the father that I grew up with and then there's the father. I've come to know through all of my investigating
and in a way, I'm glad that they never fused together, because it's extremely difficult. Knowing that someone you love, who gave you life was responsible for ending lives, something that I couldn't even imagine in a self defense scenario. It's hard to reconcile being related to a murderer, and somebody who I found out even after I published the book Was more of a murderer than I thought? Jennifer learned that disturbing fact, several years ago, when she went to brunch with the son of one of her father's former accomplices, he said
I know some people who are in that life with your father were kind of disappointed at your portrayal of him and I'm like. Oh no, you mean, because I did the one thing you're not supposed to do. I talked about the things he did. You know he said no, it's because you didn't portray him as brutally as he was unreal. Wife- and I said what do you mean and as I'm sitting here eating my brunch, he tells me that my father was rather brazen. He was responsible for a number of broad daylight hits. That was a a soul rattling day. You know everybody wants to quantify these horrific experiences and I said how many people did my father kill and he said
well. Judging by my father's body count and your father's body count is probably in the you know, dozens and yeah. What do you even say to that Jennifer? Never. To her father about his criminal past, but she's imagined conversations with him about it. By mostly the conversations are I have now are my mom told me later. My father came to believe that every life was precious. and then he had nightmares over what he did. I don't I don't know. If that's true, that's the part I'd want to discuss with him. Jennifer is forty one. Now her parents died more
in the decade ago, but she says they were the defining relationship of her life. I haven't been married. I don't have children of my own, so that was my family. That was the family. I got, and I still see myself as one of a unit of three. I live a very, very different life than they did. Though I'm responsible, I pay my taxes. You know I nothing's off the box, but maybe because you know when people start to lose their parents, they typically have their own families already and because I don't, my identity is very much still wrapped up with theirs. Today, Jennifer is a journalist writing about gun violence. She started on that beat when she worked alongside,
Miss Jonas Sarah, on a project that recorded daily incidents of gun violence in America about six months into the project. He comes out one day and he says you know it's interesting because your father perpetrated gun violence. So do you feel, like you know, you're kind of making up for what he did, and I sat there with my jaw on the floor because you know, as journalists were taught to always look outward. I had not even put it together that this fields, this beats could be a way to try to atone for what my father did. My father put gun violence out into the world quite a bit, and by covering it, maybe just maybe it could contribute
to a possible solution. Whatever that solution is Jennifer's, father isn't the only one who still has a large presence in her life. Her mother does too, and that's one of the reasons why she wanted to include her mother's note in her modern love essay. Her words, in that will that I found were more beautiful than anything that I had written before. That. That was the most beautiful thing. I'd ever read. She didn't really believe in an afterlife or the you Christian Story of what happens to us after we die and the fact that she put it in those terms, wherever I go, you know like. Even if you scatter my ashes, I'm still going to be part of the earth, so know that somewhere someone as loving and remembering you I mean it, gives me chills even now, That's Jennifer Mascia, journalist working for the trace a
that news organization that covers gun violence, the books you wrote Her father is also called, never tell our business to strangers more Ruth Wilson and Daniel Jones after the break. I love spelling and my boyfriend, and I often play spelling bee 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 may have happened: I know you did it again. I have one friend who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I always get nervous that I sent it to my parents or something like that was my bad. It was the first party together, and I wish that I think I got to see it J, a c k
jack jackpot 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, Ruth Wilson, says that Jennifer's story resonated with her own family story. I found out fifteen years ago that there's lots of dark secrets, dot of than family and my grandfather himself grandfather was a bigamist four times over and also in trouble with trouble nor in and out of jail and a spy and all sorts of many things that completely turned my life and my father's life. Certainly my father's life upside down,
I booty, resonate with the idea of you- know: identity and family history and legacy kind of filling mysteries and holes in later life. So that's why I chose the story to tell thanks to Ruth for reading this week's piece. You can see her. Now, in his dark materials on H, She made a many serious about her grandparents story. It's called MRS Wilson here, And Jones editor of the modern love column for the New York Times. I don't think of Jennifer's story ass, the tip I kind of love story even within the wide range of love stories that we published in the column, but it's just such a full bodied story. It just has so much in it and I love the sort of structure
of her wanting to sort of distance herself from her parents and when she's looking in the mirror at the end and actually feeling like she's her own person. Finally, so it it was just such a good and brave portrait of being able to recount. You know what you grew up in, and you know for any kid like what you grow up in assertive: that's, what's normal and her coming into understanding and wanting to pull away, but not allowing yourself to put away completely because that wouldn't have been the truth. Modern love is the production of the New York Times and W B. You are Boston, NPR station, its produced, directed and edited by Caitlin O Keefe original scoring and sound design by Matt Reed additional help this week from MIKE Mosquito
iris outlaws. Our executive producer did. Jones is the editor of modern love for the New York Times and adviser to the show the aid for the modern love. Podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin, special What's a Julia Simon, an Australian and MIA Lee at the New York Times, additional courtesy of eight p m. I magna trucker body and by the way, my other Job is hosting an NPR show called on point check it out in your podcast feed. See you next week.
Transcript generated on 2022-04-15.