« Modern Love

When You Think You Know Your Parents

2022-03-02 | 🔗

Ariel Sabar was visiting his parents in his childhood home in California, when he awoke one morning to high-pitched giggles coming from his parents’ room. He opened the door to a Norman Rockwell-type image: his father, 70, riding his stationary bike in his pajamas; and his 6-year-old son perched on its frame, cheerleading for his grandfather.

Ariel was stunned: “As a boy, I’d seen this house as a battlefield, a place where children and parents less often joshed than jousted,” he wrote in his 2009 Modern Love essay. Was his relationship with his father as turbulent as he remembered, or had he blinded himself to happier times?

In today’s episode, Ariel starts to see his father in a new light, as his son brings them closer together. Then, we hear a Tiny Love Story about a woman who took a DNA test that led to a life-changing discovery (fun fact: coincidentally, she is a geneticist).

Join Modern Love for a virtual event on March 9 (RSVP at nytimes.com/morningatnight). And if you’re an undergraduate at an American college or university, submit your story to our college essay contest. Visit nytimes.com/essaycontest for details. 

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Love now and podcast A story is about the love between a apparent child and what happens when that child grows up to be a parent. It's called a time to put aside the armor written by Ariel Sabre in Red. I edoardo Ballerini on a recent cross country visit. My parents in California I came
and for my own childhood bedroom, still bleary with jet lag, I was startled by the sound of a boy's laughter from my parents, I tiptoe to the door and heard my father's low voice and more of those high pitched chaos. When I was a boy, this house was a battlefield I clashed most often with my fee, growing up in LOS Angeles in the nineteen eighty, I wanted to be one of those postcard, perfect California, boys. but the golden hair, the spray of freckles, surfers unflappable cool, but certain facts of ancestry had made that impossible My father was an olive skinned. Man born in the mountains of Iraq, a fish out of water immigrant.
Mutilated English and couldn't get as close to match. I felt embarrassed when kids from school sauce together at one point I even stopped calling him abba or dad the sound we most often exchanged with silence, but when I opened the door on that recent visit. I saw a dark haired boy, my six year old Son Seth laughing with my father. There they were, and a kind of Norman Rockwell pose my father. Seventy riding a stationary bike in his pajamas part of his low intensity morning, exercise regimen Seth, also in Pomum perched on the bikes frame and clasping. My father, shoulder Verbalance South, was counting allowed as his Sabah peddled toward the days calorie burning go tracked on the bikes handlebar display three more calories to go
Sabah Set said beaming safe. You are a real inspiration. My father said I sat down to watch their banter. I father with his soft accent saith with his bright all America voice. Why hadn't? I noticed sooner how close they were. The last time we seen my Father on our turf and Washington. I'd heard glowing reports about the hours he sat spent ambling around Capitol Hill Raven, just watching tv in my parents, hotel room, but I took these accounts, as I might have babysitters as blandishments was shore parents. Their children were in good hands. Are ten days in California, however, were different there for the first time
the evidence of my own eyes. I had evidence that is far harder to ignore. When Seth woke up each morning, he crept into my parents bedroom to see if his Saba was awake my Father, greeted him with a booming good morning, America and spent afternoons teaching him knuckle bones a marble game. My father had played as a boy in the river banks of Kurdistan, but that seem to translate well enough to wall to wall. Carpet determine Beat his grandfather side Seth insinuated himself into routines I'd long ago, written off as unbending every night before bed, my father, it's a great fruit at a cluttered trade table, barely big enough for one now, Seth was hustling a chair up to the other side and helping my father carve.
and eat his bedtime snack on Saturday mornings. Seth went with my father to synagogue, touching the Torah scrolls with a borrowed prey or shawl and sitting through services with a patient's I could never muster in my father's eyes. Seth walked on water, where my wife and I saw a bull headedness, my father, so resolve where we heard shrieks. My father heard a clear, beautiful voice and double standards or a new one. anyway. Abounded when I was young, my father prickles at the mere mention of restaurants. He told me they were money pits when we could eat my mother's left over meatballs in the fridge and the fact that there were no restaurants himself who Iraq
was a boy, but as soon as safe hinted at a hankering for say, pizza and brownies. At a certain restaurant, my father was making plans for lunch on the town. Yea, Sabah Seth would cry out in that clear, beautiful voice. I look My dad and saw a man enjoying a kind of second chance at fatherhood. Here was a young boy who adored him. Why were they such a pair when my father- and I at least in my memory, were such a mismatch? The two of them were separated by an even greater gulf of years and culture, but they coasted. Where we stumbled at first. I wrote it off to the simpler protocols of grandparents, but it's premium and uncomplicated gestures of generosity and love. It was true to that after
for decades in America. My father changed. My american born mother had brought a passing acceptability to his wardrobe. His English had improved. He is now a long tenured, professor at U Cla and enough time has passed since his impoverished childhood that he allows himself occasional meals at restaurants, even if he still double checks the bill. But something about this explanation seemed too easy. In a book I'd written about my father's life, I focused on our conflicts on the post. Modern LOS Angeles boy being raised by the pre modern Kurd had I, in the heat of storytelling, become too invested
in a certain narrative of my childhood, had I blinded myself to other happier moments after all, away with children is not something a person suddenly acquires in his early seventies if Seth craved. My father's time might I once have to since that visit a few childhood memories of pectic me come on it's quiet and I'm alone, when the defence is built up over a lifetime lower just enough to letting a hazy light. The summer mornings, at the silly pool, when my father taught me hold my breath underwater the two of us smiling at each other through goggles and blue water, the nights he lifted. My floppy bones from the car after some colleagues Dinner Party who carried me to bear,
Both of us fully aware that I was only feigning sleep, the after. on Bridge Yosemite National Park when he held my hand, and we leapt together like those older boys, into that big River. My father assured me recently that there were more times like those many of them. He told me that when I was set sage, we played and laughed just as the two of them do now. I want to believe particularly now with my son, drawing the three of us closer, but the memories of conflict of rebellion, of trying to define myself against who he was at all throws off so much glare that I can make out little else. There is no doubt
sang to tee to a child's relationship with his grandparents, but I suspect that another reason for my son's easy adoration of my father is that South is young. His love of family, untested by peer pressure by stabbing self awareness by the world. He is at an age where even I, the Father, who probably yells too much with tighter than absolutely necessary with chocolate chip, cookies and tv, I can do no wrong. He recently asked my wife to buy him a button down shirt and tie, so he could look just like daddy. He races to me with his box of magnets when I come home from work tugging at my sleeves for help with a science project. We recently unbolted the training wheels from his bike and most afternoons. He calls me outside to see some new trick. I save
Those moments but worry now that Seth will scarcely remember them Apps memories of early years were never really meant for sons, growing up requires a kind of forgetting. Perhaps they are really for fathers to wrap ourselves in When our sons begin that long slow fade into adulthood, watching my father with Seth has let me roll back time It has shown me aversion, at least of whom my dad was before I turned away from him, but it has done something else to the other evening. On a long weekend when my wife and daughter out of town, sir. Then I went to the second floor bedroom to look out the window at people milling at a metro, stop across the street. The sun was sinking behind the row: houses
shadows, lent the scene and air of mystery. I said, let's pretend were detectives. I said impulsively I routed through drawer for an old pair of binoculars. And handed them to my son. We were both now lying across the bedspread on our stomachs, like cops on a rooftop stake out what you think those people over there up to, I said, taking the binoculars back. Tell me daddy well, I said were too far away to hear what they're saying, but what can we tell about them? the clause from the things they're carrying from whether they're walking alone or in a group we uncovered vast criminal, conspiracies, forbidden, romance and two or three good
and then I realized that it was nearly two hours past sets bedtime on a school night. Can we play detective tomorrow to Daddy said, set eyes wide, as I tucked him in that was kind of fun. I said as much to myself. I realized, as to him alone, downstairs later that night. I felt surprised at how easily I'd given myself over to Seth's world, I'm usually too preoccupied with work. With the notifications on my phone with all the loose ends that seem to demand tying. I'm usually full of excuses, but tonight was different. Seth was the only thing in the world that mattered I knew that for reasons ancient and new, I owed it to my father.
the We come back a tiny love story about a woman who takes a dna test. it's a huge discovery about her family. I love felling. My boyfriend and I often play stalling me together by together I mean sitting next to each other playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee, I see that you have completed a few words on your own. I feel a little betrayed in ferry. It may have happened again today. 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 time together and I was out. I think I got to see it.
J, a c k, p o t. yeah yeah nice, I'm the same as the sky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try spelling bee and all our games at n, one times dot com, slash games. I am Ricky Lewis, and this is my tiny love story. I'm a geneticist at a conference where I was presenting I ice into Two for one of those dna tests are now all the craze. How fitting but surprising, to discover, not one. it's six half siblings. I grew up with one full sister, our parents now deceased, never mentioned a sperm donor. I suppose that's how
quietly managed infertility in the 1950s half a century ago an anonymous man from Brooklyn gave us the gift of life and years later, each other. Hey Ricky, how are you it's great to talk to you gray, nice to meet you? I have so many questions, your story. I think we should start by going. In time a little bit so you take this dna test at a conference and then you go home, were you anxiously awaiting your results? No, unlike most people, I forgot that I even took the test, because, when you granted around an exhibition, you just trying to get free chocolate and t shirts, and things like that. I didn't even think about the fact that They took my dna, so no, I forgot all about it. How did come back on your radar again took me two years to
even remember that I'd taken the tests- and that was when my half sister contacted me and when she wrote was ancestry. Dna says we're close family may be first cousins. My maiden name is blank. I don't want to say her name sound familiar. I grew up in Brooklyn. She initiated this this back and forth and eye contact. ancestry DNA right away and told them. I was a geneticist, so they they sent me all the technical papers and I was right or I'm sitting now and I literally fell off the seat, because when I saw the data- and I get chills even telling you this one I saw the data, I knew we weren't cousins. I knew we were half siblings and was this half sibling the one who emailed you and sort of kicked this whole thing off only half sibling that you found Oh no, that was the beginning. The next one fell out of the sky on January. Twenty fourth I guess that was twenty nineteen
and I immediately looked her up on Facebook and I burst into tears because it was like looking in the mirror to see the second half sister and she felt the same way, an instant connection, and I think I stopped counting after seven, because I couldn't take it anymore, wow, seven guess what else did the results tell you? I knew it came through my father's side and it was just staggering. I was so confused because this My father didn't have an affair. That was never never even a question, so we started thinking. We started thinking up all these crazy things like maybe our fathers were identical, twins separated at birth, and it was the second half sister who still had an elderly relative's, a woman in her mid nineties, who remembered that there was an artificial insemination involved. So that was the fact that we had so if my half sister number two
She was from a sperm donor and half or dna matches mine or quarter Virginia matches mine. Then you know we were the products of the sperm donor, It feels process that news. I don't even have the words to describe how you feel when you find something out like this. it? Changes who you are? It changes your picture of who you were. It turned on me that it was a sperm donor. I was just stunned who would think this would happen to a genetic tests. You know it's crazy. You know all of these revelations, Easter governor is: does this change? How you View, your parents, I knew my mother had a couple of miscarriages and course I wasn't aware of any infertility, but clearly in retrospect they had a fertility problem and I don't
I think my mother or my father even knew that this happened because I was very close to my mother and we both knew. I was going to be a scientist when I was four years old and when I became a geneticist I think she's certainly would have said something to me and she didn't. Shocking to me that that would occur without the sense of a couple blown away by that I've. created a narrative that I can live with and that is that my parents didn't know. Because being a woman and having had many gynecological exams when you'd spread your legs and they put the sheet over you and they put that works from a call. A lobster thing up you you don't know what they're doing, how hard it would be to take a little pie patent, just scored someone sperm up.
and then bingo a month later, my mother would have been pregnant women. Now we say it's paternalism and its shocking and horrible. But in the context of the times it made. Wasn't that bad? I wouldn't be here if they hadn't done that how? How does it make you feel that this Sperm donation was was likely hidden from your parents. I'm ok with it I mean I'd I'd. Rather, they didn't know, tell me more about that, while its paternalistic of me, but I think it would have really upset them, particularly my father. On the other hand, I have to first cousins, through my father. I love them dearly and I grew up with them and you know I
I hope there not hurt by any of this. I do worry about that in our finding out that we're not blood cousins. What does that even mean? It means nothing, because if anything, I've learned from this is that your loved ones are our who you're raised with Doesn't matter where or when or how they were conceived? Is it it is a saying that genes don't matter. That's right! That's exactly what I am. They don't matter it's the person who you are that matters, Ricky. Thank you. So much furred sharing your story with me today are european. who is produced by Julia Boat, Terrell and HANS Peter, its edited by Sarah Saracens. This episode was mixed by Elizabeth Ii Tube
Dan Powell created our modern Levine music. The original music in this episode is by Marian Lozano Digital production by making much of Lonnie and death an especial special thanks to Ryan Wagner at autumn model. Love was founded by Dan Jones, merely The editor of modern love projects, modern love, has a virtual event. Coming up on March, ninth at seven p dot m. We hope you'll join us for the morning at night, a livestream event in the New York Times Daily newsletter. The morning get it in the morning at night will share love stories written by readers and read by Oscar Nominee, Ariana Debose. It will be a ton of fun. You can rsvp for free at Nytimes dot com morning. At night, I'm Anna Martin, thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-19.