What I cherish the most isn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who;’ the person who I had looked up to and then had lost too early in life. This was my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was the type of person who lit up a room when he entered it. He was 6’2”, but it wasn’t his height that drew others’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality and his intelligence. Those grey eyes mirrored his great intellect and capacity for greatness. He acted as my father when my father wasn’t home but working long days and nights driving a taxi. He took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help out. He sheltered me as much as he could from life and responsibilities. He shouldered these burdens himself.
He did well in college but he flourished in the business world. He traded on the Commodity Exchange until he had enough money to take over a Fortune 500 company. With a majority share in its stock, he took over American Bakeries. Taystee Bread was never going to be the same. He took me along on his ride to stardom. I worked for him on the Exchange and in his offices on Madison Avenue, New York. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. All was going well for once in my life and in my brother’s life. My parents were proud. He helped them out. All was perfect until that awful phone call in the middle of the night.
My lights went out. All the light in the world was gone for me. I was stuck in darkness as dark and deep as the one my mother lived in. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His fancy, red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a great driver with quick reflexes. He drove the car off the road and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him. A truck was parked in his path and the Porsche crashed beneath it.
Neil was in a coma for two years before he passed away. Meanwhile, his so-called friends at American Bakeries were undermining his position at the company causing the stock price to drastically plummet. We had to sell off his investment in one big chunk at a big loss. Most of his money was tied up with this company. It took me eight years to settle his estate.
I got an M.B.A. in Finance but high finance soon lost its appeal to me. I worked at different investment companies. Then I made the big decision to become a full-time mom for my two beautiful daughters. I devoted myself to them. I took on part-time jobs in the financial field, but I was always available if they needed me.
The big 50 was approaching and I was beginning to feel that I had lost out on life. My brother and then both my parents had passed away. My daughters were beginning their own lives. I needed a focus, a reason for my life. My book, The Dead Game, took me ten years to write.
My life had taken many unexpected twists and turns. Memories of my brother followed me across every speed bump; thoughts of what Neil would have done in each situation kept me company. I don’t have my brother any longer but I have his memories. I also have a cherished picture of him standing alongside Mayor Ed Koch when they had met to discuss the possibility of moving the American Bakeries’ factory to New York City. It’s proudly displayed in my house and now for everyone on my blog to see.