Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Thief and A Liar

That’s how the headline showed up in Google Search: A Thief and A Liar.

I’d seen the story a million times since the economy tanked back in 2001, about a million different hedge fund managers who’d misreported earnings, lied to investors, lived high on the hog and crashed and burned on the fires of the SEC.

My mother called me today at work. She was crying.

When I first picked up the phone and heard her voice, I thought it would be about Lonnie, my uncle. He’s elderly and has been on dialysis for five years. His internal defibrillator gets his heart restarted two or three times a year. He’s in a nursing home and on oxygen. I expect it to be him most of the time.

But it wasn’t. Lonnie is fine. It’s his youngest son.

He is my cousin. He’s the closest to me in age, nine years older than me. I am not sure what else to say about him. He’s a good guy, a fun guy. Girls like him. He likes softball, cookouts, the Cubs. He always brings the beer. He’s divorced. He’s a great dad. He’s got four kids.

He’s a thief and a liar.

When I saw that website headline and the story was about how he misreported earnings on his hedge fund, lied to his investors, lived high on the hog, and Monday was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, I wanted to send an immediate email to the writer of the article. Please don’t call him that, it would say. He’s not those things. He’s a great dad. He’s my cousin, but he’s more like my brother. I never had a brother.

My mother went to court with him on Monday for the sentencing. I am named after his mother, who died before I was born, and my mother has always been like a mother to him. She is devastated by what’s happened, sick that she can’t do more to help, terrified of what the aftermath of all of this will be.

I want to tell people who read about the Thief and the Liar that he isn’t like that. He didn’t live high on the hog—he never traveled except for work, gave his ex-wife their car when they split up so that she could get a job and he used his father’s instead of buying a new one. He fought for custody of their kids when he didn’t think his ex-wife was responsible enough with them. He wanted them to have a soft place to land, a real home, something stable. He ran for city council; he loved the town where they lived and wanted to make it better, wanted it to be the ideal place that he remembered from growing up there. He lost the election.

He hurt people, I know. He made bad investments and lied about it, tried to cover his mistakes. What he did is terrible. But he's my family. He's like my brother. His mother died when he was a kid, and his oldest brother was the family golden boy, everything was easy for him. His middle brother died unexpectedly at 18 of a heart condition. I don't think he's ever felt successful, like he was living up to the potential that he saw in himself.

When I looked at him, all my life, I saw the fun guy. I saw the nice guy who liked softball and cookouts, who had cute guy friends right at the age when I was appreciating cute guy friends. I saw the good dad. I saw the good guy.

I am so sad for him, because I'm scared that he is looking at himself and seeing A Thief and A Liar. And I hope that he knows that to us, to the people who love him, to his family and his kids, the people who know him, he is and always will be so much more than that.

The tone around here has been a little serious lately. Sorry. I will shake this funk I'm in, get out of this Bad Place. I promise.


merseydotes said...

Oh, Molly, that's so sad for everyone involved.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I'm really sorry.