In 2009, Frank Tempone was severely depressed. He had what he calls a midlife crisis, and left his wife and three kids in Massachusetts to live on his own in Chicago.
But after two years apart, Frank came back. The entire family moved to Chicago, and Frank brought his oldest son, Jack, to StoryCorps because he wanted to apologize.
“Do you remember that time?” Frank asks Jack.
“Yeah, I was like the dad in the house,” says Jack, now 13. “I took care of [younger brothers] Dave and Ben sometimes. And it was one of the hardest times in my life because I was without my best friend.”
“I knew I was hurting you, but I felt like I had to get myself straightened out first before I could be your dad again,” Frank says. “And I also want to tell you that I’m sorry that I caused you that pain when I left. That was a tough time.
“But probably the proudest moment we ever had together was when I came back to watch you play that really important baseball game” — the last game of the season, Frank continues.
“You must have gotten three hits, and I remember thinking, ‘We did that together.’ You know, we practiced, and that’s why you did so well,” Frank recalls. “It made me realize I was ready to make sure that I was going to be as good a father as I could possibly be. And that was the impetus that got us back together.”
“I felt like I was in paradise again because, like, I just feel I relate to you so much — and, like, I regained part of my life,” Jack says.
“I wanted to tell you, my father used to say to me I was his closest buddy. We did everything together, and he said I stopped being his buddy when I turned 13,” Frank says. “And you turn 13 in three-and-a-half months, and so I want you to tell me you’re gonna keep being my buddy past 13.”
“I’m gonna be your best friend until I die,” Jack responds. “If I didn’t have you, I’d be broken. How does it feel when, like, when you know that you come home to such a great family?”
“It feels great,” Frank says. “You know, when I was a boy dreaming about what it would be like to have a wife and a house, I was gonna name my oldest son Frank, because that would have been the fourth Frank. But, I didn’t name you after me because I knew you were gonna be better. And the way you deal with people with your heart is — is something that I’ve learned a lot from.
“So Jack, I just want to tell you how proud of you that I am. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. And we’ll always find a way to come back together.”
“Yeah,” Jack says. “We’ll get through it as a family.”
Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher.