“Coming to McClendon makes me whole. To be an inspiration to my peers… to come here and take the saddest person at the table and make them laugh and smile, that’s what I want. I’m always going to make you laugh. That’s just me. I’ve got to keep laughing in here [pointing to his heart].”
You can’t miss Frank during our Friday morning Day Program showcases – he’s the one getting clients out of their seats and up on their feet to join in the dancing. And if he can’t them to join in, he’ll at least get them to smile and clap along. That’s Frank. He helps clients come out of their shells, he represents them by being a member of the Client Advisory Board, he speaks up and voices his opinions to make change happen. Earlier this year, Frank was interviewed for McClendon Center’s first video and when praised for his role, his demeanor became solemn. “When I did that interview, I had a responsibility to represent 850 people. That’s an honor; that’s a privilege.”
Frank grew up the second oldest of seven children. His hyperactivity and affinity toward climbing up unspeakable heights (like the water tower behind his aunt’s house) and jumping off rooftops alarmed his mother so much that she took to see a psychiatrist when he was around 7 or 8. Luckily, despite his need to “always try and get to the top” of things and what he describes as “suicidal things” in his life, Frank managed never to break a bone or seriously hurt himself. When he was 12, he said his father stopped being a father. “He was abusive to my mother and, in turn, he was abusive to me because I looked like her.” Many times his father would lose the rent money at racetrack and Frank was often the one left on the street, fighting people off from stealing their belongings and enduring the jeers of friends because they had been put out again. Other little pieces of his story reveal that he had been molested by his babysitter; he felt hurt and abandoned by his sister who left home without explanation; burdened with the responsibility of looking out for the rest of his siblings; and that drugs had made its way into family life.
At some time or another, he and his brothers all spent time in jail. Frank, however, spent the most time in and out of the system. It was after his final time in jail that left him with a heavy sense of guilt. Mirroring his own childhood, his 8-year old son was left behind with the responsibility of being the man of the house. By the time Frank was released, his son was 16 and headed in a downward spiral that eventually landed him in jail with a 25-year sentence. “I missed out on being a father to him. And you can’t get that time back. I felt it was my fault because I wasn’t there to teach him how to be a proper man.” But, at the same time, Frank feels that it was blessing. “Because of who he [his son] was running with, his friends were getting killed almost every week. If my son had been on the street, he would have been killed too.”
But the past is the past. Today, Frank is the father of five (including his son who will be released in 2017) and a grandfather. After surviving a major heart attack, he believes that God has a purpose for him. That his life has meaning. He wants to people to know that McClendon Center is a big part of that purpose. He wants clients, who may be just beginning their journey toward recovery, to know that McClendon Center is their family and that they won’t be judged for being different or a little rough around the edges. He wants the public to be kind and compassionate — “I want them to know that a person can walk around for a long time without even knowing thy have a mental illness. A lot of times it takes something tragic to trigger it. And that’s the saddest thing.” And he wants everyone to know that after doing things for everyone else, he is doing this [coming to McClendon Center] for himself.