Family Matters

Family Matters

The Unassignables: What Really Gets Handed Down in a Family?

By Roberta Israeloff

September/October 2016

After his third or fourth date with her, my son said to me during a phone conversation, “I don’t know, I just like this girl.” He sounded perplexed—as if this realization were a large rock he’d tried to get around but couldn’t, and was surprised that he didn’t really want to.

I snapped to attention, remembering the same mixture of bewilderment and delight in my own voice many years ago when I began dating the man who’d become my husband. Compared to the stormy relationship I’d just left, this new one unfolded effortlessly, as if I were sinking into the world’s most comfortable armchair—a feeling I found hard to trust. “I mean, I love him,” I remember telling my closest friend, “but I’m not sure I’m in love.”

“Oh you’re in love,” she said. And she was right. We soon got engaged during a walk in Riverside Park. No ring, no photos; we just decided. We were 23.

Now our son was 30, the new girlfriend just a few years younger. Ticktock. They continued to date. They invited us to meet them for dinner. She was funny and smart, loved food (a prerequisite), and seemed completely comfortable in her own skin (a quality I greatly admired). They moved in together. They bought a couch. He turned 32, then 33. They vacationed in Costa Rica. One day, driving him to the train station after a brief visit home, he said, “I’m saving up for a down payment on an apartment.”

“Good,” I said. “This apartment, are you planning on buying it alone?”

“No,” he…

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