G. Gordon Liddy, the man who never would say he was sorry for his planning and supervisory role in the 1972 Watergate break-in, was freed on parole yesterday after more than 52 months in federal prison.
Still the tight-lipped mystery man, when a reporter stationed outside the prison in Danbury, Conn., asked him where he was heading. Liddy replied tartly: "East of the sun and west of the moon."
Indeed, he was not expected yesterday at his modest home in an Oxon Hill subdivision where Liddy's sons Jim, 16 and Tom, 15, were in charge of a mildly disheveled household. Their mother, Frances, had gone to Danbury with a recently-purchased second-hand Pinto to pick up their father.
The boys kept their father's destination a secret, but at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Southwest Washington two rooms were reserved in the name of G. Gordon Liddy and two men were seen carrying a sign saying "Welcome Gordon" through the lobby into an elevator.
By early evening Liddy had not appeared at the hotel, and his whereabouts remained unknown.
At the house in Oxon Hill, the color television was on yesterday and a sound tape recorder was nearby so the boys could capture any reports concerning their father's release. Two dogs relaxed on the living room couch. Outside, the family's 15 or 20 cats minded their own business.
"You can see our mother's been away for a while," said Jim Liddy, one of the couple's five children. Frances Liddy had missed the start of classes at Langdon Elementary School in Northeast Washington, where she teaches sixth grade, in order to pick up her husband.
It is a week of Watergate echoses: Liddy's release: the first installment of "Washington: Behind Closed Doors," the TV movie based on the John Ehrichman novel; the final segment of Richard Nixon's taped television interviews with David Frost.
Jim and Tom Liddy said they had watched the end of the first episode of "Washington Behind Closed Doors." They sid they are not angry at Nixon for referring, in the Frost interview, to those involved in the Watergate operation as "nuts."
"I don't blame him for anything. He's gone through so much," said Tom.
The boys expressed little interest in the growing library of Watergate-spawned books, although Jim said, "Our mother has all the Watergate books upstaris. She always reads them."
He ticked off some of the titles: "The Company," "Reborn," "Blind Ambition," "All the President's Men."
Had any of the authors who got caught up in the Watergate scandal kept in touch? "Charles Colson called mother once to see if he could help," said Jim. "He's 'the Reborn.'"
It has not been an easy time for the family, they said. But neighbors in the largely military area near Andrew Air Force Base and other supporters have been wonderful, they said.
The family visited Liddy regularly in prison, the boys said, each of the five childnre seeing him once or twice a month when they accompanied their mother to, first Allenwood, in Pennsylvania, then to Danbury, where Liddy was transferred after reportedly becoming a leader in a prison protest.
The family also kept in touch by letter and telephone. "He calls every once in a while," said Tom, speaking as if his father were still in prison. "If we're lucky, we answer the phone before giving it to Mom. He has a limited time, only two or three minutes, to talk."
Throughout his imprisonment, they said, their father continued to show an interest in their schoolwork and athletic achievements, clipping articles for them about swimming, physical fitness and cars.
Liddy ran in prison to stay in shape, they said. "He ran the mile in 5:30 and he's 46," Jim said proudly.
Their mother, Tom Liddy said, is "having it harder than we are . . ." "Holding the place together financially," Jim said, finishing his brother's sentence. "There were ups and downs and she went through them all."
Sandy, 18, the oldest Liddy child, is putting herself through the University of Maryland where she is studying nursing. Tom has a scholarship to attend St. Alban's School in Northwest Washington, where he will live. He attributes the scholarship to his grades, swimming ability and presidency last year of the Oxon Hill Junior High School student government.
Jim attends Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville.
When their faterh went to prison on Jan. 30, 1973, there were only 15 family sports trophies in the living room cabinet. Now there are more than 50 and at least that many medals.
"When he comes home, it will be the first time he sees them," said Tom, whose long-term ambition is to study law (his father, once a prosecutor in upstate New York, is now barred from practicing law) and enter politics.
"It's just the way I've been brought up," he said. "I like the country a lot. I'll help it any way I can."