Many of you have been following me since the beginning of this journey. You know somewhere in the middle I took a break – especially from social media. I never explained the absence and everyone respected my privacy.
In the fall of 2011 my father, Larry Opelt, started having pain in his abdomen. On December 31 of the same year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which we later found out was inoperable. He went through chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. On September 9, 2013 he passed away from complications of the disease.
My father worked for over 30 years as the Finance Director for the City of Adrian in Michigan. In his spare time he kept the books and advised the owner of a gas station – taking the business from in the red, to in the black and then creating a fund so the owner could retire. He was asked to be on the finance committee of every organization he joined.
After retiring himself, he took a side job doing tax work for “fun”. My dad also sat on the board of the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System for the State of Michigan for ten years. Once he left his full time job, they asked him to be Chairman of the Board. He also held the role of CFO for Alesya Bags, although I don’t think that ever made it on his official resume.
There is a misnomer that accountants like money. Not so. The good ones like numbers. My father could look at a balance sheet and tell you something was off. A restaurant check would come and he’d instinctively know what to tip at his normal 18% rate. He knew if you’d added your golf score incorrectly in seconds. It was a natural gift.
As soon as I started Alesya LLC I asked my father to be my business accountant. It was, and will always be, the easiest hire I’ll ever make. It was a gig he could handle in his sleep. But more than that we had fun. Dorky business fun – but that made it all the better. It was our favorite kind.
Here we were – me in my 30′s and my dad in his 60′s – and he was still teaching me things. We’d go through each line of my bank statements and make sure each expense was accounted for. He’d add up what I was spending with one business and ask if I knew how much I was paying them. His pencil would slam down on the table after I questioned his judgement, “You marketers never want to say it’s a marketing expense! But it’s ALWAYS a marketing expense!” He was right.
The morning after he was officially diagnosed, we were trying to figure out this new life around the breakfast table. In an effort to be helpful my mom suggested, “Didn’t you both say you needed to do the Alesya Bags books?”
My father and I couldn’t look at each other. We just hung our heads and cried. This wasn’t a CPA and a business owner. It was a father and a daughter. And we’d wanted that relationship to go on forever.
In the final months of his life my dad all but begged me to send our records to my new accountant. I didn’t want to because I knew when I did that meant the end was near. Once I finally did it my account said they’d take a look and let me know what kind of shape we were in.
A few days later the call came through. “Well, Alesya, for most people we charge a fee to get your accounting cleaned up. But these are the best records we’ve ever seen. Your books are in perfect order and there will be no fee.” When I called my parents with the news we had the briefest moment of happiness. Somewhere in this horrific mess something was it exactly as it should be. For a second there was calm.
From the time I started earning money, my father talked about saving money. We often created budgets for my college education and at the end of each one he made me add in a line for something he labeled Mad Money. “You know, when you want a pizza or you have to go out and buy pantyhose? Women are always buying pantyhose.” I’d roll my eyes and add the extra amount.
My paternal grandparents gave me and my sister a $100 savings bonds for each birthday and Christmas until we were 18. We both used the money for college. Mostly books and any costs coming outside tuition, room and board. I’d held on to a few and used them to start this business. (Oh how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
One day while my father was ill I picked up the phone and there was a broker on the line. The broker told me my father was on the call and he wanted to open accounts my girls who were then four and one. There had been no discussion, but I knew immediately what was happening.
My father was setting up funds as if he was there for each one of my daughter’s birthdays and Christmases and able to give them those same savings bonds. Later he told me, “Tell them to use it for Mad Money in college. To buy pantyhose. And to have fun! You know? FUN. And tell them its from their Grandpa.”
Crazy as it sounds, when the statements come in the mail it’s like a note from my dad. Watching him file his own documents every month for years on end I won’t ever be able to look at any statement without thinking of him. And in the strangest way, filing away these statements is a comforting feeling. You might call it a gift from heaven. But I know my dad would say it’s the magic of compounding interest. Either way – I’m grateful. Not for the money, but simply for the numbers on the page.
Thank you for infinite understanding and support during what have been the most challenging of times. There were many, many days when emails and calls didn’t get returned in a timely manner. This blog stopped and I gave you little reason to continue following me on social media.
But yet, you did. And you never questioned what was going on or asked me for details. You just understood that there are some things in life more important than business. I can’t fully express how wonderful that feels, but it really does.
Will there be other bumps in the road? Mountains to climb? Bridges to rebuild? Undoubtedly. For now, we move forward. And it’s so amazing to know I have all of you right there with me. Perhaps my father is with us too. Rooting us forward, watching the bottom line and of course, making sure all the books are in order.