Transcript

291:

Reunited (And It Feels So Good)
Transcript

Originally aired 07.01.2005

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Prologue.

Ira Glass

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass.

There have been five Peaches in the duo Peaches and Herb over the years, but it was Peaches number three, her real name's Linda Greene, and their biggest hit ever, singing the duet with Herb.

Peaches And Herb

[SINGING] I was a fool to ever leave your side. Me minus you is such a lonely ride.

Ira Glass

We live in a country where three million people have purchased copies of this song. And Peaches number three tells this story. She was on tour and she visited this elementary school back in the day. And she asked these little kids, first and second and third graders, what their favorite song was and they all shouted, "Reunited." And what they said was, that song was played when my mommy and daddy got back together.

And you know what that speaks to? There are not many songs for people who split up and get back together again. The reunited couple is a completely underserved market, right? There's "Love's More Comfortable the Second Time Around." There's "Break Up to Make Up." And there's "Reunited." That's pretty much it. Oh, wait a second. Here's the chorus.

Peaches And Herb

[SINGING] Reunited and it feels so good. Reunited cause we understood.

Ira Glass

Who is singing the song for the reunited people? Who is writing their stories? Well, today our radio show, we try to re-dress this grievous, grievous oversight and tell three stories of reunions. In each case, very unlikely reunions that were gotten to through very unusual means. Act one's a man reunited with a woman. Act two is a man reunited with an animal. Act three, a man reunited with a nation. Sarah Vowell tells that last story. And let's just get right to it, huh?

Act One. Not Your Parents' Parent Trap.

Ira Glass

Act one, "Not Your Parents' Parent Trap."

This is the story of two marriages, one unhappy, the other happy. One's an arranged marriage, the other's by their own choice. One's a big formal wedding, the other's in city hall. One's in Iran, the other's in America. The only thing they have in common is the bride and groom, who also are the parents of Nazanin Rafsanjani, who tells our story.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

From the day my parents met to the day they were married, it took three weeks. Which wasn't so out of the ordinary in Iran in 1973. Back then, people didn't get to date. It just wasn't done. They had to leave it to their families to choose a spouse for them. They got married and hoped for the best.

Now that I know how my parents' marriage began and ended, I can hear hints of how the next 30 years would go for them in the different ways they described their feelings at the very beginning. This is my mom, Mina.

Mina

I thought, he asked me and he's serious. And I thought I'd fall in love with him. And I thought, well, I have to get married and he was right there.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

So wait. He was right there or you were in love with him?

Mina

He was right there and I liked him a lot. Then I thought I liked him a lot. I loved him I guess then. Yeah, I think. I was only 19 for God's sake.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Were you in love with Mina?

Abbas

Yeah.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Tell me how you felt.

Abbas

Well, love is love. I don't know how to explain about love. When you love somebody, you want to do everything for her.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

This is my dad, Abbas. It was always less complicated for my dad. From the beginning, he loved my mom. And from the beginning, my mom didn't know what it meant to love him.

My mom borrowed her wedding dress from a cousin. They were married in a large hall in downtown Tehran, with lots of food and dancing. It was all new and fun for my mom until that night. There was this business of proving my mother's virginity, which meant my grandmother, my dad's mom, sat outside their room and waited for a piece of white cloth that would prove my mom was pure.

My grandmother carried it downstairs and displayed it for my dad's entire family, who were there waiting. For my mom, a 19 year old girl who had never held hands with a boy before, this was traumatic, and she didn't want to talk about it on tape. This is the beginning of her marriage and her sex life.

My mom has a saying, I've heard it over and over growing up. An Iranian marriage is like going to the grocery store and buying a watermelon. You don't know what you've got until it's too late.

By the time my mom realized she wasn't happy with her watermelon, my parents were already parents. The main issue was my father's temper. He could erupt at any time. My mother tiptoed around it. She started to shut down. She expected my dad to throw a fit about everything. She has lots of stories, like the time she went to get her driver's license.

In Tehran at that time, everybody failed the driver's test. So to practice, people took it several times. One day my dad decided my mom should get some practice, so he drove her to Tehran's DMV and sent her inside, expecting to wait 10 minutes. But miraculously, she passed. And then was shuffled into another line to take the driving test, which she also passed.

In the end, what should have been a 10 minute failure ended up taking 2 hours. Finally, my mom emerged ecstatic with her brand new license.

Mina

So I just walked out and I showed him. You know, I passed, I passed. And he start to yell at me. I told you 10 minutes. Why are you so late? You're so stupid. I had a meeting. So if you had all those things, why did you want me to go and take the test?

Nazanin Rafsanjani

And then after that, it's like I always remember he would calm down and then he would just forget that it ever happened.

Mina

Yeah. Nothing happened. Every time that I wanted to bring it up, tell him, you know, you embarrassed me and you embarrassed yourself. Did you realize 10 people were looking at you. Your kids were looking at you. He said, you're making too big of a deal. Nothing happened. Everybody gets angry.

Nilofar

Yeah, it was kind of like living with an alcoholic.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

This is my sister, Nilofar.

Nilofar

Because you never knew, like one second we'd go out for a picnic and it would be sunny and everything would be great. And like, literally, the camera wouldn't work and he'd freak out and the rest of the day would be like shot to hell.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

When people asked me about my parents, I'd say, my mom doesn't love my dad, my dad loves my mom, and they're not very happy. And the only one who probably didn't see it that way was my dad. Nobody ever complained to him about his temper. And even now, he has a hard time remembering the moments that upset the rest of us.

Abbas

I thought it was OK. If asking somebody, your life is OK? Your marriage is OK? Yeah, I said it was OK because I said, I don't know. Maybe as an Iranian man I didn't see anything wrong.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

My dad wasn't just being clueless. By Iranian standards, there was nothing wrong with this marriage. Most of my mother's friends put up with a lot worse. And my mom is the first one to say that if they'd stayed in Iran, and an entire society that thought about marriage the way her Iranian friends did, my mother wouldn't have hit a breaking point.

It happened when she was 40 years old. And because of complications from a medical procedure long ago in Iran, she'd had to get an emergency hysterectomy.

Mina

My sex desire just gone down through the drain. And I talked to him. I said, just I really can compromise with you. You're a healthy guy. You have highly sex drive, and I worked with it. But you need to work with me too.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Work with me meant she'd still have sex with him, but a lot less than he wanted. He said no.

Mina

And he said, you know what? I'm [UNINTELLIGIBLE] and this is my desire. If you wanted me not to get angry, be happy, be good husband, take it or leave it. And that night I thought, OK, I'm all yours. Until my kids get out of the house, then I did my plan.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

When they had this conversation, I was in eighth grade, and we'd been in the US for almost nine years. I never knew this was a turning point, but my mother tells me it was the moment she started plotting her divorce. This was a huge step for her. My family has lived in Tehran since the 1880s and in that time, no one, not one couple has divorced.

In 125 years, everyone on both sides of my parents' families has stayed married. And that's not because there were so many happy marriages.

My mom plotted the divorce for six years. She waited until I left home and went to college before she told my dad she wanted out. He was shocked. He'd had no idea this was coming. And then, as if they wanted to make things as uncomfortable as possible, they continued to live together for six more months. My mom had no other place to go. She filed the official divorce papers without telling my father, while they were living in the same house. It was a pretty grim time.

Abbas

I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. And from very small period of time, I start drinking and I thought, OK, this is not good. And then I went to see the doctor, and he put myself on medication, like Prozac or something. And that one helped me a little bit. But still, I was very, very-- I thought, my life is done.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

I was constantly worried about my father. I had no idea how he'd manage living by himself. I was still in college working as a secretary when I got a phone call one day. It was my dad sobbing.

I had seen him cry once before when his father died, and that time he cried quietly, and I could tell he didn't want me to be any part of it. On the phone that day at work, I had no idea what to do. I was in a crowded office, trying to sound like I was having a casual conversation. People kept walking by, and I was trying to make my voice sound calm. Other calls kept coming in, but I couldn't put my dad on hold when he kept repeating, I can't do this, over and over again. I felt the same way talking to him. I can't do this.

But for the first time in my life, I started spending time with him anyway because I was scared for him. He'd come and visit me at school. I always made sure it was for breakfast. I remember thinking that nobody gets too hysterical over breakfast.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Do you remember talking to me about Mina and the stuff during that time?

Abbas

Yeah, for the first year I remember I talked to you about Mina. And then after one year I tried to not talk about anything at all. Because I beg her, I ask her, OK, back together? But when she said no, I said OK. This is never happen. It's going to be never happen. Why should I bother her? Somehow I want to a little bit forget about Mina.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

While I was worried about my dad, I was excited for my mother. For 27 years, she thought my dad was the one thing holding her back. And my sister and I thought what she thought. We had this glorious, liberated woman vision for her. I pictured her coming home, relaxing with a glass of wine. I pictured her dating. Throwing her head back in laughter at sophisticated jokes told by handsome men her age. I thought she'd divorce and turn into a completely different person. A much happier person.

For a very short time, I was right.

Mina

There was a lot of relief. Looked like somebody took a big, heavy weight off my shoulder, so I don't have to call a person every two hours and tell them where am I. I don't have to cook all the time. I don't have to clean all the time. So it was me and me and me.

So went to coffee shop and sit there and read the newspaper, and it was such a good feeling. I never had it because I went from my parents' house to my husband's house.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

She read the newspaper at a coffee shop exactly three times. She never dated, not once. And things started getting harder. My mom called me all the time in tears. She'd talk about how much she hated my dad. Then she'd tell me how lonely she was. She had all of this energy, and nobody to direct it to now that my dad was gone.

My mom had always seemed so independent, but that was when she was surrounded by people who depended on her.

Mina

I was so isolated. My family weren't around. My kids were so busy, and my friends were very kind, very nice. But in two years divorce, I never ever had the experience that they invited with a bunch of friends. They invited me like I'm a drug dealer and nobody have to see me. And they feed me one night and kick me out of the door.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Meanwhile, my dad was reluctantly turning into an American bachelor. He joined a gym. He had no food in his refrigerator. He was always at work at his dry cleaning business. And if he did have any free time, he spent it reading that most American of genres.

Abbas

Actually, I read a lot of books about relationship between man and woman. And that has give me good information. Men's from Mars and Women from Venus.

I want to give myself more knowledge what I did wrong. If I want to go to have a relationship with other lady, I don't have to do something like that.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus changed my father's life.

It's hard to imagine my dad sitting in his little apartment, struggling with chapter titles like, "Women are Like Waves" and "Healing the Resentment Flu." But I can see why this book helped him. There's a thing in the beginning about how many marriages this book has saved, and how everyone, at any age, is capable of change. And that's exactly what my dad needed, someone to give him a chance.

The book offered simple advice like, "As a man learns to listen and interpret a woman's feelings, communication becomes easier. If he becomes very frustrated while listening, he should not try to continue. Instead, the respectful thing to say is, I really want to hear what you are saying, but right now it is very difficult for me to listen."

In this passage, the word "listen" appears eight times. For my dad, who had never been exposed to the idea that wives needed to be listened to, this was revolutionary.

Abbas

You know, I thought, I'm right. Because I am right, everybody is not--

Mina

Everybody else has to put up with it.

Abbas

Yeah, because of that. And some chapter of this book, it give me, OK, no, you wasn't right. You have to relax and then listen.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

My dad started dating, but the book didn't teach him not to talk about his ex-wife on his dates, so nothing was working out. But he was determined not to be alone, so he had relatives in Iran introduce him to a woman and he got engaged.

By this time, about two and a half years after their divorce, I was more concerned about my mother than my father. It was my father, who of the two of them, was seeming more liberated. My mother just seemed stuck. Every time I went to her house there were three maps of San Jose covering her kitchen table. She'd get home from work and just sit and stare at them, tracing out new and better routes she could take to her office. All of her will power had been used up just getting herself free. I remember being so disappointed in my mom. She'd come this far and then sort of just stopped. There was nothing left in her to find someone new.

Mina

In one point I was in an airplane one day and I saw a old couple and I thought, oh my God. I wish I was them. I wish I had my 30 years husband beside me. And I was sitting behind them and she started to explain to the guy that this is her friends and this is that. And I thought, oh, they're dating. They are not husband and wife. And I thought, in age 50, I don't want to explain to somebody my every single detail of my life. I want somebody to know me. And yes, he gets angry. Yes, he's short tempered. Yes, he's that. But I got old with him.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Not long after that came the day my mom did the second most surprising thing she would ever do in her life. It was two days after her 49th birthday. She called my sister to get together and celebrate, but my sister was busy.

Mina

She said, no, we celebrated your birthday. I mean, a week after we are going somewhere. And why don't you get a boyfriend? She said, if you're lonely, you have to get a boyfriend and your problem is going to be solved. You know, we have a life. And that day I thought, this is not working. I need to fix this. This is not working. I have to leave these kids alone. I have to get somewhere that I don't need her that much.

I thought, let me try that old man again.

Abbas

One day I remember Sunday afternoon telephone is ringing. And I pick up the phone, after I think one year it's Mina.

Mina

I called him, and he got so surprised. He said, what's going on? Are you OK? I said, yeah, I'm OK. I was wondering when is your wedding day. He said, well, two months from now, and I'm flying two weeks from now. I thought, well, congratulations.

Abbas

I told you I am going to get married with this lady. I told you everything. Do you want to come back? Still, I want to come back to you.

Mina

You know, I said, you're getting married for God's sake.

He said, well, yeah. But actually, you are my wife.

Abbas

Suddenly, she started crying very bad. I was worried about her. I was very, very upset again. I didn't know what should I do now.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

My dad was two weeks away from going to collect his new bride. He felt awful about standing her up, but he'd never stopped loving my mom, even though he'd spent the last two years trying to forget about her. And so he didn't really have a choice. My dad promised my mom that he'd changed, but she didn't want to move too fast. So my parents, for the first time in their lives, ever, started dating. Well, sort of.

On their first date, they didn't leave the house.

Mina

He came to my house and we talked. And in fact, I cried all throughout. When I look back, whole thing was a sad event. He said, well, I did tons of mistake, but you were with me with all those mistake because you should have be firmer. You should have let me know that how much you hate me. You never told me that you hate me. You never told me that you were that much upset. You always said, yes, yes, yes, yes. And he listened. I told him everything, and he never got upset or never got offended, or never got red and blue. So I told him everything that I was upset about, and I never had got to tell him.

And he listened and he said, you're absolutely right. I lost you. You were the most precious thing that I ever got. And so I want to fix that if you let me.

Abbas

It was kind of relief. Yeah. We had a lot of information we have to release for 25 years marriage, what part we did wrong and what part it was OK.

Mina

After our conversation and after he wanted to leave, he hugged me and he said, let's try one more time and let's see how it's going to go. And he hugged me and I thought, oh my God. Feels good. I thought I fall into a shoulder that I can rely.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

The second courtship took six months instead of three weeks. They got married at city hall. Everyone they knew was overjoyed, except for my sister and me. We boycotted the wedding. It seemed ridiculous to us.

After three years of worrying about them and holding their hands, they were heading straight back into the misery they'd worked so hard to leave behind. But it turns out, we were wrong. They traded their unhappy Iranian marriage for a happy American one.

When you think about American relationships, you think about the divorces, the self-help books, the constant talking about feelings. And even though all of that seems undignified and laughable, it's all working for my parents.

Now I can see my dad struggling to keep his temper in check. He thinks about hurting my mom now, about embarrassing her in a way he never did before. I see them laugh with each other and talk to each other. I used to be so nervous around them because the atmosphere was so tense. Now they actually seem to like each other.

And for a long time, I attributed everything to my father's change. He learned to control his temper, and now they're happy. But that's not the way they see it.

Abbas

Divorce, I think, has changed Mina more than me also. A lot.

Mina

Basically, I had a lot of problem in my life that he wasn't the cause of it. When two years I sat down and I always thought, he's not here. I still have this problem. I don't socialize not because of-- it's not him. It's me.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

Living on her own allowed my mother to see my father the way he'd always seen her, as a choice she wanted to make. And now she says she loves him for the first time in her life.

Everybody agrees that if they'd stayed in Iran, none of this would have happened. Not the heartbreak, not the new-found compatibility. This is my sister, Nilofar.

Nilofar

The West did break them up, and then they had the freedom to get back together again.

I always felt like we had this, such a weirdly and kind of-- such an American experience like all of a sudden in the middle. And I don't know what even that means except that my parents got divorced, and then they talked about their feelings and they both went to therapy. And my dad read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. We talked to my dad about relationships and he started dating. I feel like we had this family, like the crazy family on the block who doesn't put up Christmas lights, like the non-American crazy family--

Nazanin Rafsanjani

With the bad lawn.

Nilofar

--with the bad lawn all of our lives. And then all of a sudden, my parents turned all American and had this American experience. And now we're like this little happy family and it kind of grosses me out too, because I'm like this is not where we fit. This is not our family. You know what I mean?

Nazanin Rafsanjani

I love it.

Nilofar

I think it's great. I love it. It feels really normal and good now.

Nazanin Rafsanjani

I'm still struggling with normal and good. When you've thought about your life as some slightly depressing, slightly boring novel lying on the bargain book shelf, it's weird to have it end up on the bestseller rack in the self-help section.

Ira Glass

Nazanin Rafsanjani. She's a producer at NPR's show On The Media from WNYC Radio in New York. Coming up, a reunion that attempts to defy the most powerful force on earth. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International when our program continues.

Act Two. If By Chance We Meet Again.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our program, we choose some theme, bring you a variety of different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's program, "Reunited (And it Feels So Good)." the stories of unlikely reunions achieved through the most difficult paths possible. We've arrived at act two of our program. Act two, "And If By Chance We Meet Again."

There's an old story about a reunion that goes like this. There was Orpheus and there was Eurydice. They were young, they were in love. And just after they married, she died an untimely death. And his love was so great that he went to the gates of the underworld, tried things nobody had ever done, to try to bring her back to life. And for a little while, just a little while, it seemed like he had succeeded. This next story is just like that, except it's about a bull.

Ralph Fisher

He's just like a big bundle of just loving, whatever, if you've ever had a favorite dog that you can think of as a child or some other animal. And he'd lick your face. Yes, he was cuddly.

Ira Glass

Cuddly's not usually the word you use to describe a full-grown Brahman bull. They're white, regal, ancient looking, with huge horns and a blackened hump the size of a bowling ball that rises between the shoulders.

Ralph Fisher

That muscle right there's the one that throws all the bull riders off. When they flex that muscle, the rope just pops right out of their hand and they are long gone.

Yes, you're a great boy. Yeah.

Ira Glass

Bulls usually don't even want you near them. Ralph Fisher had been around bulls and steer all his life. He'd worked the rodeo as a young man. He trained animals as an adult. When he found Chance at an auction, he'd never seen a bull so tame.

His kids would climb all over Chance. Chance would nuzzle up to Ralph's wife, Sandra, and lean his head.

Sandra Fisher

It really is like having a pet dog or a pet cat, except the size.

Ira Glass

But they seem so much less demonstrative.

Sandra Fisher

Wrong. That's wrong.

Ira Glass

I don't know if Ralph and Sandra would agree with this, but I think everything that went bad, all the trouble that eventually unfolded, it all came because they were blinded by their feelings.

Announcer

With the world's largest herd of saddle broke, tame, Texas longhorns and Brahmans, Ralph Fisher's photo animals are sure to be a crowd pleaser at your corporate gathering, convention, sales meeting, or even at your own private party.

Ira Glass

Ralph and Sandra have a family business taking pictures of people standing next to, or on top of, animals. At barbecues, parties, the occasional presidential inaugural ball. And Chance was the star. This is their promotional video, which had dozens of shots of people sitting on Chance, one after another.

Announcer

With one million dollars liability insurance, beautiful tame animals and state of the art photo equipment, we furnish your clients and guests with the lasting memory of your Texas event.

Ira Glass

Because of the business, Chance is possibly the most photographed bull who's ever lived. Chance met Ashley Judd and Roger Clemens, Mother Teresa and Sonny Bono. Those are separate meetings. Hitman Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Dan Rather. Chance did The Letterman Show.

David Letterman

You know, this animal, certain parts of this animal, looks like he's shoplifting sporting goods.

Ira Glass

Chance was in a movie with Vince Vaughn.

Man 1

That sure is a handsome bull.

Man 2

Yes, sir, that's about the handsomest bull I've seen in all my days of cattle ranching.

Ira Glass

In the movie, Jeremy Davies plays a guy who doesn't talk to people, but does talk to Chance, which all builds to this climactic scene where for reasons that are not exactly clear, Kate Capshaw castrates Chance in the middle of the night in a driving rainstorm just to prove a point.

Woman

And you watch this, because I'm only going to show you once.

Ira Glass

So Sandra and Ralph had this really sweet situation. They got to work side by side with all these animals, which they loved. Chance was so tame that he was allowed out of the pasture. He even had a favorite spot in the front yard under the trees. Sandra would watch him from the kitchen window. Which was a really nice feeling to be doing the dishes, you look out and there's your tame pet bull, like Ferdinand, laying on the grass.

Then, a rainy day in September, Chance didn't come in from the pastor to eat. Sandra went looking for him, and finally Ralph headed out to pasture and found him dead. He was 19, which is really old for a bull.

Ralph Fisher

It was really a sad day. I took the camera out and I was going to take some pictures. And then I said, well, he deserves more than that. So I skinned him. I skinned his whole body. It took me all day. It was raining. So it was a really sad time. I'd skin a while, then cry a while. I was just like a baby. Just crying like a baby out there with my knife skinning him. I'm going, well, somebody has to do this and I'd have to toughen up and regroup. And this lasted all day long. And I guess I was a complete wreck by the time it was all over with.

Ira Glass

Ralph says he had no choice. He had to skin him in the first 24 hours because he wanted to get him taxidermied. Turn him into a full size Brahman statue, have him around forever. And people could still have their picture taken with them. Chance could stay in the family business.

Ralph Fisher

So I was so emotional, everything was really emotional. And all the family had a good cry too. All my kids and the people who knew him so long. They all just hated that.

Ira Glass

OK, rewind. Three months before all that happened, Ralph heard about this way that he might be able to cheat death with Chance, and keep him around as more than taxidermy. But it was a real long shot.

Ralph Fisher

Someone called me and said we've read an article in the paper that A&M is going to clone an animal.

What do you mean clone?

They said, you know, clone. Make one from another one.

I said, no, it can't be.

Ira Glass

A&M is Texas A&M, the world famous veterinary school and animal hospital that just happens to be an hour and a half drive from Ralph's house. It was Chance's regular hospital.

Ralph Fisher

And so we called up and said, you're going to clone an animal, right? They said, yes, we'd take tissue. And we said, well, why don't you use Chance? And so other folks would call, some friends would call and talk to him. And they finally just-- I think we bothered them so much they gave up and said, OK, well, we'll do it.

Ira Glass

In the end, the scientists decided to clone Chance for a simple reason. He was old. There were some things they thought they might find out by cloning an older animal. And Chance was there anyway, getting a mole biopsied for disease. A scientist could use the DNA from the mole to do their cloning.

Reporter

In Texas tonight, a man, his wife, and their bull have been reunited.

Ralph Fisher

I guess he's been reincarnated.

Ira Glass

10 months and 18 days after Chance died, the long shot paid off. A clone was born. The first cloned bull. It was huge news. And it was Ralph who figured out what to call Chance's clone.

Ralph Fisher

Second Chance. And he was just the prettiest little white Brahman calf you ever saw. And spindly and barely able to stand.

I thought it was the same animal. I would say, we got him back. That's the first headline I think in the news clippings when they interviewed me. We got him back.

Sandra Fisher

The vets at A&M had asked us, or kidded with us, about whether the calf was going to recognize his own stall in the barn when we got him home. But we sort of blew that off.

Ralph Fisher

Well, the first day we brought him home, we turned him loose over here in the yard. He went over and laid down in the same spot. It still kind of chokes me up. He laid down in the same spot that Chance laid in. That's not reasonable.

Sandra Fisher

That was spooky. That was spooky.

Ira Glass

The other thing they noticed right away with Second Chance is that he has Chance's same mannerisms when he eats. Unusual mannerisms. Instead of putting his head into a feed bucket and holding it down there and chewing until there is no more food, both Chance and Second Chance raise their heads, close their eyes, and chew.

Ralph Fisher

I've never seen another animal do that. I've never seen another animal do that.

Ira Glass

And there's something else about Second Chance, something harder to quantify.

Sandra Fisher

I just feel like he always recognized Ralph Fisher. And Ralph would lay down on the ground and Second Chance would lick him and lick his boots. And Second Chance would lope across the pasture and come to us. And we watched other people-- vets would crawl in there and he wouldn't come across the pasture to them. He just always seemed to recognize Ralph.

Ira Glass

And what did you think? Did you think somehow his memory got transferred?

Sandra Fisher

Well, no. I still don't think that. I think that he just has the same instincts, the same-- that he's going to make the same choices. Why would the eating thing be the same?

Dr. Mark Westhusin

A clone is akin to a genetically identical twin. It's not the same animal. It's not Chance.

Ira Glass

Dr. Mark Westhusin is one of the scientists who runs the reproductive sciences lab at Texas A&M, the lab that cloned Second Chance. And he says that because a clone is just a twin, nothing more and nothing less, it may not even look the same as the original. And just like twins, clones don't necessarily act like the originals either. But Dr. Westhusin understands how Ralph or Sandra might not see it that way.

Dr. Mark Westhusin

Well, people get attached to their animals and they want to sometimes see more than is there. And they do see more than is maybe really there. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Ira Glass

That's love right there.

Dr. Mark Westhusin

Yeah, that's love. That's not necessarily a bad thing. And it was interesting for me to listen to Ralph tell, oh, he lays under the same tree, and he eats his food just the same as the old Chance did. And I'm like, oh, that's really cool Ralph. But how's his blood glucose today? I'm interested in that.

Ralph Fisher

Dr. Westhusin reminded me several times, this is not the same animal, don't expect a pet, the same attitude from a pet. And I didn't believe him, because everything looked the same. When I see him, especially at a distance, he looks so much like Chance. And every day as he gets older and older, so much.

Ira Glass

On his fourth birthday, all the family and friends and neighbors came to the front yard, posed for pictures with Second Chance.

Ralph Fisher

We had his birthday cake, which is a big feed tub with candles on top. And we blew the candles out, and then I said, it's about dark, so I think I'll lead him back to the barn.

I put one finger in his nose ring, which is a common thing. It gives you close contact, and if they make any aggression, you can immediately feel it and respond. Anyway, I was walking him. We just did a few steps out of the yard and I had the lead rope in the other hand. We just took a few steps and then boom. Caught me with his horn and slammed me down. And that's when he dislocated my shoulder. Hit me in the back. He picked me up and slammed me down, you see. And then he proceeded to get on top of me with mostly his head, his forehead, and his horns.

We found three deep, deep holes, six or eight inches in the yard the next day where he had missed me. He was really attacking. It was like on purpose.

Oh no, I said. Oh no, this can't be. This can't be happening. Because we had had so much faith in him. At that time all I was thinking about was, why are you doing this? Why? I was just so disappointed, the whole time. I remember when I was kicking him in the face I'm just going, how could you be doing this to me? You know, quit it.

I think my feelings-- he actually hurt my pride.

Ira Glass

Since the attack, Ralph acknowledges Second Chance is not the same animal as Chance. And he believes it. He definitely believes it. When you love, you see what you want to see. Everybody knows that. And part of him still holds out hope. Hope that even if Second Chance is not Chance right now, he'll turn into Chance. They'll still get their reunion.

Ralph Fisher

Well, the hope is involving his age. Since I did not have Chance until he was almost seven years old, I don't really know how Second Chance is supposed to act.

Ira Glass

Oh, you don't know if Chance was just like this back in the day?

Ralph Fisher

Right. So he might just have to go through a little stage and settle down. I know horses settle down. My Texas longhorns settle down.

Ira Glass

Now, here's one of the things I've been really wondering about your situation. Is I wonder if having Second Chance around all the time, is it ever painful for you because it reminds you that you don't have Chance? It's like here you have this ghost of your favorite animal walking the property who isn't exactly Chance, and if it just kind of breaks your heart a little bit?

Ralph Fisher

No, sir, it's just the opposite. You're just exactly as wrong as you can be. So far, right now, I feel like we've gotten about 95% of him back. I mean, the same qualities, the same fun. That satisfies me. That's better than zero.

When he was laying out in that pasture out there dead, he was a zero. I mean, we would never have any enjoyment out of him anymore. And there's a tremendous difference between zero and 95%.

Dr. Mark Westhusin

People want to believe it is resurrection sometimes. And it is, in fact, not resurrection. It's just reproduction.

Ira Glass

This is bad news Dr. Westhusin has had to deliver to a lot of people over the years. It was his lab at Texas A&M that cloned the first house pet. They cloned a cat named CC. It was international news. And for a while this lab got a lot of money from investors who wanted to start a business cloning people's pets, which they've gotten away from now. But for a while, the scientists were deluged with calls from pet owners, people who wanted what Ralph and Sandra wanted. They wanted their animals back.

Dr. Mark Westhusin

Some were like, I have hair in the jewelry box that I've kept for 10 years. Will that work? No. I had several calls where the animals had already been buried and they were-- you know, I didn't think about this until after I'd buried him. Do you think there'd be any possibility we could go out in the yard and dig it up and get some tissues to clone this animal back? And I'm just like, well, no, I don't think so. It's going to be pretty rank and full of bacteria, and we probably will not be able to get the tissue. And they'd say, well, it's cold up here, you know. And it was frozen when we did it, so I'm sure the carcass is still frozen and it hasn't deteriorated too much. You know, what do you think?

Ira Glass

When I visited Ralph's ranch to interview him and Sandra, it had been about a year and a half since the birthday party where Second Chance attacked Ralph. There were a bunch of us on this trip, including a film crew.

And one night while we were taping up by the house, we heard a scream and one of the crew came running up from the barn where Ralph and Second Chance were.

Woman

Guys.

Man

What?

Woman

You guys.

Man

What?

Woman

The bull attacked him.

Ira Glass

Oh my God.

Man

Who?

Woman

The bull attacked him. What's the address here?

Ira Glass

We threw Ralph into a car, rushed him into town to the nearest hospital. He was banged up pretty badly. Finally, Sandra came out from the emergency room to tell us that he'd be getting 80 stitches where Second Chance gored him.

Sandra Fisher

The doctor is examining him right now.

Ira Glass

He gored him like in his crotch?

Sandra Fisher

It's his left scrotum is ripped and his testicle's hanging out. Oh God.

Ira Glass

One of the producers of This American Life, Jane Feltes, was in the barn and she saw the attack. She said Ralph was bringing Second Chance some feed, trying to back him into a pen, when Second Chance just tossed Ralph.

Jane Feltes

I screamed, and I didn't want to look at it, because I thought he was going to kill him, you know?

Ira Glass

What did you see?

Jane Feltes

I just saw him fly up in the air. It was loud. It seemed really loud, because it was at the corner of the fence. So he threw him up in the air and he landed on the corner of the fences, and he's ramming him in the ground into the fence. So the fences are all shaking and the bull's making all the noises. And it seems like the bull's going to break through the fences after he's done killing him. You know what I mean? It just was very, very loud-- very, very fast.

Ira Glass

It's almost like Second Chance was trying to tell Ralph that he's not Chance, using the only language he has. And of course, he's not Chance.

In movies and books when somebody tries to bring back a loved one from the dead, whether it's a pet, or it's a person, it never works out well. It's one of the all-time ranking bad ideas. Right up there with deciding to give robots and computers human feelings. Or going back in time to change just one little thing in the past.

The next day we are finally allowed to see Ralph in his hospital room.

Ira Glass

So Ralph, how you feeling?

Ralph Fisher

I feel good. They had me up walking this morning first thing. I've walked the block in the hospital about four times now. And the last two without any help.

Ira Glass

There was a scar on his nose. His lip and chin were busted. His spine we found out later, had a hairline fracture.

Ira Glass

So you were saying when we talked before that you felt like with Second Chance, what you've got is 95% of what Chance was, and I wonder if after this incident you might downgrade him to just 80% or 70%?

Ralph Fisher

No because this is exactly the same kind of-- the same type incident as when he butted me 18 months ago, year and a half ago.

Ira Glass

Come on, you think really, 95% after that?

Ralph Fisher

I'm just thinking that we just have to have a lot of faith in things to work out. So I forgive him. I just shouldn't have been that close.

Ira Glass

What would Second Chance have to do to convince you he's never going to be like Chance? Like how many times would he have to attack you?

Ralph Fisher

After he's seven, then he has to attack me. Then the lines will be drawn in the sand like we were discussing.

Ira Glass

Yeah. You still have hope?

Ralph Fisher

Oh yeah, surely, yeah. I've been having fun here. Sandra, hand me that horse, would you?

Ira Glass

Sandra hands him this little toy horse that one of their friends brought Ralph.

Ralph Fisher

How does it work?

[HORSE NOISES]

Ralph Fisher

That's how I feel right now. I'm going to walk out of here tomorrow or the next day, and I'll go right back out there and give him another bucket of feed. That's what you have to do. If it was easy there'd be a bunch of kids out there taking care of Brahman bulls.

Ira Glass

Well, all that happened back in 2005, which is when we first broadcast this story. Ralph was right, as Second Chane got older, he did become tamer and more trustworthy. Though, never as docile as Chance was. Sandra and Ralph always had to be careful with him.

And in March of 2008, eight years old, Second Chance died. The muscles that moved food through his four stomachs stopped working properly, which killed him. It wasn't clear if this was related to the fact that he was a clone. In an email she sent out to friends and acquaintances the day he died, Sandra wrote, "To think that this huge animal who has put Ralph in the hospital twice will be so missed. We have given God the glory for getting Chance back all these eight plus years. But it never occurred to us that by having a clone, that we would lose him twice."

Act Three. French Kiss.

Ira Glass

Act three, "French Kiss." We end our program today with this story from Sarah Vowell of a man reunited with a country. People lined the roads to see him wherever he traveled. Newspaper accounts called it "a delirium of feeling." Here's Sarah.

Sarah Vowell

On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or rather, to welcome him back.

It had been 30 years since the Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved, so universally revered, that the frenzy, the ardor of his reception, has yet to be matched.

80,000 people showed up to cheer for Lafayette. 80,000. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.

When Lafayette first got here in 1777, he was only 19 years old. A wealthy, orphaned, aristocrat, he charmed his way into a commission in George Washington's Continental Army as an unpaid volunteer. He was a relentless soldier, almost freakishly brave, disciplined, and oozing panache all at once. He rode a white horse, was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine, led the liberation of Virginia, and suffered through a winter at Valley Forge living among his fellow soldiers in a crummy hut, though he could have easily afforded to wait for spring in a mansion the size of Newark. His troops adored him. George Washington considered him his adopted son. Alexander Hamilton wrote him letters that read like mash notes.

Invited by his old friend, President Monroe, to be the nation's guest on the eve of the 50th anniversary of American independence, Lafayette's trip here amounted to a euphoric 13 month victory lap around the country, in which he visited all of the then 24 states.

Everywhere Lafayette went, he was serenaded by music composed in his honor. "Hail Lafayette," "Lafayette's March," "The Lafayette Waltz," "The Lafayette Rondo." And in decreasing geographical order, the song's "Lafayette's Welcome to North America," "Lafayette's Welcome to the United States," "Lafayette's Welcome to New York," and "Lafayette's Welcome to Philadelphia."

Meanwhile, the souvenir trade cranked out an unprecedented pile of Lafayette themed knickknacks from ladies gloves to dishes. How many times must he have reached for a cookie and seen his own eyes staring back at him from a commemorative plate?

In Brooklyn, Lafayette was invited to lay the cornerstone of a new children's library. At the ceremony, he picked up and kissed a neighborhood kid, the five-year-old Walt Whitman.

In Philadelphia, the French chef in charge of preparing the-- count them-- 60 courses for Lafayette's banquet dropped dead in his kitchen that very morning, felled by overwork and the steaming heat of simmering sauces.

And speaking of Philadelphia, if you have visited what came to be called Independence Hall, you have Lafayette to thank.

The building where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed was decrepit and abandoned. It was only when Philadelphians needed a symbolically appropriate place for Lafayette's reception, did they remember the old hall and sweep up.

When Lafayette waded through the crowd of 20,000 locals there to greet him and crossed the, to him, hallowed threshold, he preached, "Within these sacred walls, by a council of wise and devoted patriots, was boldly declared the independence of these vast United States, which has begun, for the civilized world, the era of a new and of the only true social order founded on the unalienable rights of man."

Notice the melancholy in that word "only" when he hails American government as the only true social order founded on the unalienable rights of man.

After the French Revolution of 1789, Lafayette not only watched his hopes for American style civil liberties in his homeland get chopped into thousands of guillotined pieces during the Reign of Terror, he subsequently spent five years in a Royal Austrian prison and lived through the restoration of the French king, the dictatorship of Napoleon, and the restoration of yet another French king. So Lafayette, more than anyone, was aware of the uniqueness and the importance of the American republic.

At that point, American democracy had descended from its early idealism into the kind of messy partisan back-biting we're familiar with today. Lafayette's arrival in 1824 coincides with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history, with no clear electoral college winner between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. With Adams assuming the presidency under suspicions some labeled "the corrupt bargain."

Meanwhile, Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, the fight that led to the Missouri Compromise, the fight that would soon enough lead to the Civil War.

But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans, it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing singular past.

On New Year's Day 1825, Congress threw him yet another of his nightly banquets, and speaker of the house, Henry Clay, toasted Lafayette as, "A great apostle of liberty." In reply, Lafayette toasted back with a prophecy. "To the perpetual union of the United States. It has always served us in times of storm. One day it will save the world."

And he was right. Every so often America has saved the world. Of course, we muck it up every now and then as well. But in 1917, after American expeditionary forces crossed the Atlantic to aid France in World War I, General Pershing marched his troops to Lafayette's Paris grave, where the old soldier had been buried under dirt from Bunker Hill. They placed an American flag into that American dirt. "Lafayette," one of them said. "We are here."

Ira Glass

Sarah Vowell. Her latest book is The Wordy Shipmates.

Credits.

Ira Glass

This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International.

[FUNDING CREDITS]

WBEZ management oversight for our program by our boss, Mr. Torey Malatia, who waved around a big knife and told me my very first day on the job.

Woman

And you watch this, because I'm only going to show you once.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

PRI, Public Radio International.