On the podcast Family Secrets, people from all over the world get a sympathetic ear from host and bestselling author Dani Shapiro to reveal secret lives, secret careers, secret journals, and other secrets that they’ve been hiding for years - maybe a lifetime. On this episode, she sits down with Frank Gold, a man who discovered that his father had been living a double life for decades. It was a shock, but it did explain a lot about Frank’s childhood. He tells Dani, and us, all about his mother, his siblings, when he started to suspect that all was not as it seemed, and the life-changing phone call he received when the truth finally came out.
Frank’s parents married young, he tells Dani, and they moved around New York and the Tri-State area throughout Frank’s childhood, which meant he was constantly starting at new schools, meeting new neighbors, and generally feeling somewhat isolated. Finally, his father started working at a job that was making him a lot of money, but things at home only got worse. Frank’s father had a long commute, and he spent a lot of late nights at work. Frank was around 15 or 16, his siblings years younger, when his mother started pacing by the front door and looking out the windows until his father came home. “There were just these arguments night after night after night, and then yelling, and name calling. It was horrible. You know, it's really abusive to have nine year olds and twelve year olds...listening to this.” At one point, his mother was upset, and he couldn’t help but confront her. “I said, ‘What’s going on?’ She said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ I said, ‘How the h**l do I know what’s going on? I’m just listening to you idiots fight all night. Enough already!’ She goes, ‘Well, there’s another woman.’” Frank pauses. “I didn’t know where to go with that.”
Finally, Frank escaped, going to college 1,500 miles away. But when he came home to visit, he discovered that nothing has changed. “He goes to work. It turns dark. She's standing at the door, pacing, upset. Everyone's in their bed. He comes home, and the same two-person play plays out from 10:00 to midnight like it was the first day, like I'd never left.” An odd incident occurred with his father, as well; when Frank asked to borrow his video camera, and his father was showing him how to use it, Frank saw a few seconds of a video. “All I remember was a kid, like a young boy, playing on a lawn. I saw it for maybe five or ten seconds. He got completely flustered.”
Frank got married and had kids of his own before he realized the significance of the tape and the revelation from his mother. “The phone rings and it’s my sister...she’s like, ‘I got a call from our half brother...it wasn’t just an affair. It blossomed into another family.’ I said, ‘And there’s a son?’ She says, ‘No. There are two.’” Frank said he actually laughed, because it was so unbelievable. But his feelings quickly turned to anger and betrayal. “I'm telling you, your reality changes in an instant. It's very disorienting to think you know the world today and receive a phone call, and find out that humans exist that don't fit with your story.” But there’s a sense of relief, as well. “You said before…’I’m glad I know.' Why are you glad you know?” Dani asks. Frank replies, “Well, because it’s reality.”
Join Dani and Frank to find out more about Frank’s father’s double life, the other family, and the aftermath of the secret coming out - including his father calling him by the wrong son’s name - on this episode of Family Secrets.
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