This American Life is on NPR (WHYY in Philadelphia) every Sunday at noon. Every week Ira Glass narrates the life story or stories of rather ordinary Americans – people few others would be interested in except for the complicated themes that highlight their lives in ways no one would have previously expected.
“Go Ask Your Father”, a broadcast about a man and his father and a big “what if…?” What if we could choose our parents? What is truly wonderful about This American Life is that you can palpably feel the characters’ emotions in these stories in ways that tend to make me physically uncomfortable, upset, anxious, or undeniably optimistic and hopeful. This is a lost art – storytelling. This week there is confusion and anger, sadness and suspense, capped off by a DNA test where the man opens an envelope while tape recording himself. The paper crinkles audibly on the tape, the man tentatively reads the results, and, then, there is nothing but static-y radio silence when the news hits him like an atom bomb. I can sense the outward ripples of his emotions as they come over him, one by one, in waves.
If I could have chosen my father, I would have chosen someone who wouldn’t have died when I was 24 years old. It sounds cruel, but it’s one of many truths regarding how I feel about my father. I would have chosen someone exactly like my father, but a younger version of him – someone who would still be around to give me advice, tousle my curls, and call me by secret nicknames even when I am 40.