Bub's American Life

By Bub 

Like most of the One Year In Texas community, I am a huge This American Life fan. I had an experience in life that, years after it happened, I thought would have been a good story on This American Life. Since I couldn't go back to record conversations I'd had, I wrote this in the style of a TAL segment instead (make sure you play the music where it appears [you don't have to listen to the whole songs though]):

Scene: Monologue

Me: I was ten years old the first time I saw my father. My mother got pregnant as a junior in high school. He was two years younger than her. She dropped out, had me, and we didn’t really ever talk about him. Until one day after school my mom asked me if I’d like to see my dad.

I said “Yea.”

He took me to the Comic book store and bought me some Marvel trading cards. I think I got a Hobgoblin rookie. I was supposed to meet with him again the next weekend for another visit. I got ready the next Saturday, sat in my room put on my favorite cassette tape, Pearl Jam's "Ten", and waited. I let the tape play through, both sides, then I flipped it over and let it play again. I must have played it a dozen times. He never showed up. And I didn’t see him again for fourteen years.

I grew up thinking my dad was some kind of monster. How could he do that to a little kid? For years I would sit in my bedroom, listen to that tape, and cry. I mean, it would’ve been fine to just not have ever seen me, but it felt like – he saw me, didn’t like what he saw, and decided that he was better off without me. It felt like I must have been a really terrible person for my own father to have the choice and then to choose not to see me. I was only ten.

Fourteen years later I was getting married and I decided to invite my father. I had kept in contact with his mother, my grandmother, growing up and I knew she could get me the address. I figured that, I was getting married, I was almost done with college, and I wasn’t a nerdy little fat kid; It would be a lot harder to not find anything to see in me this time. So I did it. I invited him. He lived in Alabama, which was a world away from western Illinois where both he and I had grown up.

Scene: Outside of my apartment talking on my cell phone.

Me: Ok. My dad just called, he left a message saying he got the invitation. I’m calling him back.

Phone ringing.

Dad: Hello?

Me: Hello! It’s Bub.

Dad: (In a heavy southern drawl) Well, hi Bub, it’s Tom… yer father.

Me: Hi Tom, so you got the invitation to the wedding, do you think you can come?

Dad: Well, yes. I’d love to come. As long as it wouldn’t interfere with the ceremony or anything with my being there I mean.

Me: Oh no. I’d love to have you there.

Dad: Alright!

Me: So that was the first time I talked to my dad in fourteen years, and I did not expect him to sound like Lynard Skynard. But he says he’s coming. We’ll see. This is exciting.

Scene: Car, driving

Me: Well my dad made it to the wedding. He was a lot taller and younger-looking and more handsome than I had expected. And now I am going to my grandmother’s house to visit with him and my six year old brother for the first time.

Scene: Grandma’s House Back-porch

Me: Hey!

Dad: Well, it’s the Married Man! I’ll be. It’s good to see you, son. Jack, say hi to your big brother.

Brother: Hi.

Me: Hey Jack! Don’t let me keep you from that Playstation.

Brother: Ok.

Dad: Sit down. Your momma told me all about you. Now I’m sure you have some questions for me. Let me have them.

Me: Sure, tell me about yourself.

Dad: Well when your mom had you, I was only fifteen. I had a rough time there in high school because the other kids would always beat me up and say I was a deadbeat father and that kind of stuff. I was good at basketball so I played that and got to fit in that way. But it was hard and as soon as I was done with school I left the area. I got real bad into drugs and struggled for awhile. I met my first wife and got a job driving a truck. I did that for about ten years until her and I split up. In the meantime I had moved down to Alabama so we could be close to her family. When we split up I got a job at a steel mill in Alabama so I could stay close to Jack there. I don’t have any real close friends down there. I never really had any close friends anywhere to speak of. So now I work in the steel mill and try my best to get by.

Listen, I know you’re probably real angry with me, and you have every right to be. You can say what you want to say to me now. I’m just glad to be a part of your life.


Me: I was angry with him. I had practiced being angry with him for over a decade. But when this moment that I had dreamed about finally came, the moment where I get to tell him exactly how I felt, exactly how he hurt me, I didn’t feel like doing it anymore. It seemed so petty now. All those years I had spent feeling sorry for how hurt I was I never once considered how much it must have hurt him. And it hurt him a lot. He had paid for the damage he caused a thousand times over in quiet moments of sorrow throughout his life. I realized that instead of feeling like telling him off, I felt like I forgiving him. So I did.

Scene: Back-porch, end of conversation

Me: Well, you know I am really glad to see you too. And I know you’ve made mistakes, but that is in the past. I guess, I’d feel better if you just never let the thought of me hurting from your mistakes hurt you again, because I’m okay. I turned out fine. And I’d like to see you turn out alright too.

Our program today was produced by the One Year in Texas team, the blogging software Blogger and myself, with special help from our friends at Marvel Comics and the State of Alabama. Music was provided from the Pearl Jam album 'Ten' by YouTube. Bub's American Life is distributed by the internet. OYIT Management and Oversight for our show was provided by our boss, Mr. Torey 'Southside' Malatia, who just claimed responsibility for the failed Times Square car bomb:

Listen, I know you’re probably real angry with me, and you have every right to be.

I’m Bub, back next week with more stories of Bub's American Life


  1. Bub. Every single second of this brought a smile to my face, except the moments where I pictured a heartbroken little boy sitting in his room crying to Pearl Jam. But what I mean is, this is the most perfect TAL segment I've ever read on a blog and you hit absolutely every detail down to the boss shout out. Can we please e-mail this to Ira and request the rights to do Bub's American Life every single week? I'll throw in a 20.

  2. This was really great. I've never listened to This American Life, but I have read nearly all of David Sedaris' books (I don't know if that counts for anything). I love that you're going a different way with the GM and this one and the Hooded Stranger one are two of my favorite posts on OYIT.

  3. This is a good follow up to our conversation the other night. However, I'm afraid I will never understand Pearl Jam.

  4. That's ok some people never do, but I thought given the context of what you're reading you should be able to appreciate it.

  5. This should be on the real TAL. I knew most of these details already but it's so wonderful to have them put into this context. I played each of the songs as I read!

  6. This is amazing! It taps directly into my subconscious, which also features a Pearl Jam soundtrack. Glenn knows.

  7. bub i read this yesterday morning on my phone and it made my day. now i just read it again on a computer, listening to the music in the correct spots, and made my night. more please!!

  8. Still great. Thank you for writing this Brandon.