Last week I spent a day with my father in the neighborhood where I grew up. It was a day of reminiscing and temporary goodbyes — as he was moving out West in a few days — but it was also bittersweet, knowing that we’ll never be together again in our old neighborhood.
Like a lot of father and son relationships, ours had its ups and downs. But there were times when he was there for me.
He flew to Florida in 2010 where I was living at the time, and when he arrived, I briefed him on my case and plea bargain which was about to become public. I was naturally worried about my children, and they adored him, so I knew if he was there when I shared the news with them of my crimes, undercover cooperation and upcoming guilty plea, that his presence would be reassuring and bring them some comfort.
When I appeared in front of Judge Richard Leon in Washington, DC to enter my guilty plea, my kids were there in the courtroom, and so was my dad.
Years later, before I was to self-surrender to the Federal Prison Camp at Lewisburg PA, I was disappointed that we didn’t spend more time together before I started serving my 14-month sentence. A distance had grown between us, and he wanted to reconcile while I was in prison. But prison isn’t the place to work out emotional issues, so I waited until I got home, and we restored the trust between us.
My dad sort of knows what I do. He knows I travel a lot, and he has a vague understanding that I use what happened to me to help other people stay on the right side of the FCPA. But mostly he admires how I cope with the jet lag (he’s not a big fan of flying).
As we were sitting in the yard, looking at a house filled with packed boxes, I played him a video on my phone. It was a clip of me talking at a conference I’d just returned from in Argentina. His reaction is something I’ll never forget. He was transfixed watching the clip. When it was over, he said he’d never really known about the depth of what I talked about with people and how I’d taken responsibility for my mistakes. We then talked more about ethics and compliance, in a way that we hadn’t discussed before. I was deeply touched by his interest and the kindness he showed me with such thoughtful questions.
We ate at one of Long Island’s great diners, and I drove him back home. We embraced and I wished him good luck on his next chapter out West. As I was pulling out of the driveway and saw him walking back towards the house, I stopped the car, got out, embraced him again, and told him how much I loved him.
During my ten years as an international sales executive, when I was chasing success and making big mistakes, I spoke very little to my father, mother, or any other family members and friends. Now, fifteen years later, I know it’s never too late to be there for those we love, and to find those opportunities to say “I love you.”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. And thank you.