289: Go Ask Your Father
May 13, 2005
In this show, sons and daughters get to find out the one thing they've always wanted to know about their father. The answers aren't always what they hope for.
- When Aric Knuth was a little kid, his dad would leave for six months at a time. He was a merchant marine. And Aric would record cassettes of himself and send them. He'd leave one side blank, for his father to record a response. But he never did, even though Aric asked him to on every tape. Aric talks to host Ira Glass about what it was like to finally ask his dad why. (7 minutes)
- Lennard Davis grew up hearing from his parents that he should, at all costs, avoid being like his good-for-nothing Uncle Abie. Later, after his father died, that very same uncle told him that his father was not, in fact, his father. Instead, he said, Lenny was a product of artificial insemination, and he, Uncle Abie, was the sperm donor. At first, the evidence points to the possible truth of Abie's story, then more evidence seems to indicate he was lying. It takes Lenny more than 20 years to sort out whether it was true, and he finds out the answer—definitively—as tape is rolling. (31 minutes)
- Paul Tough's father was a mild-mannered professor. And then one day he left his family and went on a quest. In this story, for the first time, Paul joins him on that quest: To make contact with extraterrestrial life. Paul asks his father the questions he's always wanted answered about his alien pursuits. Paul Tough is one of the original contributing editors to This American Life. He is the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey's Canada's Quest to Change Harlem in America. His next book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, will be published in September. He first read a version of his story at the Little Gray Books lecture series in New York. (18 minutes)