Joseph Natale with his son Greg at StoryCorps in Buffalo, N.Y.
When his wife, Dorothy, died more than 30 years ago, Joseph Natale was left to raise three children on his own. Recently, he spoke with his son Greg about the years following his wife's death.
"I spent a couple years overcompensating as a father," Natale tells his son. For instance, he was terribly afraid of running low on milk.
"I'd open the refrigerator door and see two gallons of milk, and have to run to the store because we were running short of milk, buy three more gallons," he says. "I was so afraid of not being a good parent" — and of not filling in for his children's mother well enough.
Over time, Natale got past that fear.
"I realized that I had to start to do something for myself," he says, "as well as my kids."
He became active in local theater, and that was where he met a woman who would become Kelli Bocock Natale.
Natale told his son that he was seeing someone and that it was getting serious.
"The amazing thing was, no way was I longing to get married. But it just seemed so natural," he says. "By the time we got married, we were deeply in love."
"Through your example, you prepared me for life," Greg Natale says, referring to his father's ability to cope with losing the love of his life. "You made me able to deal with my own ups and downs."
"I wasn't trying to be an example," Natale responds.
"That's the best kind of example," his son says. "I just wanted to say thanks."
Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo and Katie Simon.