RRBC 30-DAY BLOGGING CHALLENGE – DAY 15

I will now share my most significant find: pictures of my mother when she was young. Since she left Poland before Hitler invaded, these photos must be of her early life in the United States. After my father passed away, I cleaned out their apartment and unearthed a few old photo albums. You can’t imagine how much stuff my father stored in a two-bedroom apartment with only four closets. I must search for his box of memorabilia from WWII; he saved every pay stub from the Merchant Marines.

The first picture boggles my mind since I’ve never seen my mother wearing anything but skirts or dresses. She didn’t go to the beach, so no bathing suits. But here she’s wearing shorts. It must be when she first arrived in the U.S. since after she married, she lived in an apartment with my father in Williamsburg. She told me she lived with cousins, but where I had no idea.

My mother arrived when she was 16, so this must be her as a teenager before she began to lose her vision. She looks happier than I remember her. She wore a bow in her hair, and my daughters loved wearing bows when they were small.

I wonder who this woman is with my mother. She might be Rabbi Lamm’s mother, who was her first cousin. They remained close after my mother married, and I walked with her to Peppy’s house on the Sabbath. Or she could be a close friend, a cheerful-looking friend.

And who is this? My mother’s friends or relatives appear friendly and fun.

More unknown people.

And look what I found: a baby picture of my brother. If you haven’t noticed by now, I always mention my brother whenever I speak of my family.

This is the last picture. My mother appears younger in this one. I don’t know if she brought any photos with her from Poland. No one expected The Holocaust, except for Hitler himself.

I’m relieved my mother had happier times than her experiences later in life.

RRBC 30-DAY BLOGGING CHALLENGE – DAY 13

My earliest memory is trying to reach the window sill in the living room and saying that one day I’ll be tall enough. My next memory is when I was a few years old, maybe 3 or 4, and playing with my Barbie doll, using the radiator as her house. I always wanted a Ken doll, so Barbie had a friend, but my parents never bought me a second doll. I assumed it was too much money and better spent on clothing for my brother and me. I Googled old heating radiators but couldn’t find one with a door on the front, and I used the door as the door to Barbie’s house.

I remember my parents taking me to Marine Park, near Kings Plaza Shopping Center, where I later loved to shop with my friends. My mother sat on her folding chair at the park while I played with my father. I don’t remember what I did, but I loved my egg carton where I placed my little toys. Yes, a regular egg carton after we used the eggs. I’ve included a picture of Marine Park from 1965 since I found a few small albums in my drawer today.

I found a picture of my mother and me standing by the water in Sheepshead Bay. And yes, I had to wear those funny glasses for a few years to correct my left eye from drifting sideways. Thankfully, the eyeglasses were off by the time I began kindergarten.

I have few memories of my brother, who was 11 years older than me, but I remember loving him and hanging out with him in our apartment. If I couldn’t finish my food, he would take my leftovers. Since the apartment had two bedrooms, Neil slept in the foyer and gave me his bedroom after I was born. Later, I would paint this bedroom pink to match the dark pink carpeting. Now I know why pink isn’t my favorite color.

Below is a picture of Neil at the bay in 1966. He was a great photographer but not the person who had taken the picture.

The following picture is of me in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

My mother standing in front of our apartment building.

This photo shows my mother in front of the two-family house used for our temple and a glimpse of the next picture in the album of me in the living room.

I have one picture of my father munching on his breakfast.

The last picture is my grandfather, who had deserted my mother when he came to the U.S. I was afraid of him, and he still looks a bit scary.

Thank you for joining me on my journey down memory lane. These pictures were in a tiny album, and I hope to remember more after opening the other albums.

RRBC 30-DAY BLOGGING CHALLENGE – DAY 9

For my last article about my family, I will write about the person who was my role model, my hero. He 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 not his height drew people but his dynamic personality. Sparkling gray eyes mirrored his great intellect and future capacity for greatness. When my father wasn’t home but working long days and nights driving a taxi, my brother cared for my blind mother and helped raise me. Neil protected me from life and responsibilities, shouldering those burdens himself.

After college, Neil traded on the Commodity Exchange until he acquired enough money to take over a Fortune 500 company, becoming the majority stockholder in American Bakeries. Taystee Bread was never going to be the same. The picture above shows Neil with Mayor Koch as they negotiated for a factory in Queens. Neil had taken me along on his ride to stardom. I’d worked for him during my summer vacations from college, first in his Madison Avenue, Manhattan office, and then later on the Exchange. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. Life was perfect until the phone rang in the middle of the night.

The lights went out for me, trapping me in darkness as dark and deep as the one where my mother lived. Neil had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. Even though he was a great driver with quick reflexes, his Porsche hydroplaned on the wet roads, and he drove the car off the highway 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. His brutal ending wasn’t appropriate for the great man he was. He will always live in memories, and when I need comfort, I picture myself wrapped in his arms.

Neil Leist

Neil Leist

 

Yesterday, I met a famous photographer, Tony Vaccaro, who had photographed my brother in 1981. It was a year before my brother’s car accident. After two years in a coma, Neil passed. I’m more determined than ever to write a book on my brother’s life. Tony took photos of Presidents Kennedy, Obama, and Nixon. Famous stars like Sophia Lauren. Artists like Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe. And my brother, Neil Leist. Neil had just become the CEO and President of American Bakeries. He made his fortune in the commodities markets and was on his way to the top. The accident ended his dreams and mine.

This isn’t the photo taken by Tony Vaccaro. This photograph is the last one I have of my brother. 

CAN I EVER LET GO?

A fellow author is compiling poetry from authors on her WordPress site. The topic is letting go. I sat down and wrote this poem about my brother. As tears fell from my eyes, I felt sad and happy at the same time. Sad that I will never see him again, and happy that I can share my love with others.

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Can I ever let go?

Can I ever let go of your touch?
At night, I dream of your fingers.
I can’t believe I miss you so much.
Your strokes through my hair still linger.

Can I ever let go of your eyes?
With great pride, you watched me grow.
I dearly pray for one last surprise.
You to return to me, I know.

I know my prayers won’t be answered.
My wishes never come true.
But I still have hopes to be answered.
And one day to see you too.

Can I ever let go of your humor?
Your wit and jokes had lightened my days.
I know this is much more than a rumor
That I’ll never have you brighten my days.

Days keep on passing.
But life must go on.
My heart is fasting
Each day it beats on.

Can I ever let go of you?
To my dearest, older brother,
My answer is a ‘no’ to you.
You weren’t only my brother.

You helped my mother to raise me.
You provided light for her blind eyes.
You’ll always be the best of me.
Until the day, I close my own eyes.

HIS DEAR FACE

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In my heart, I know he is there.
Waiting for me, I have no fear.

Lost him so many years ago.
Tears have finally stopped to flow.

One day I will see his dear face,
But I cannot keep up this pace.

Living day to day without his love.
His warmth had fit me like a glove.

I must accept the sad fact
That he’s never coming back.

He will not be alone anymore.
My parents have now walked through that door.

I can feel him circling from above,
Reassuring me when I need love.

WHAT I CHERISH MOST

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What I Cherish The Most

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.

Why am I an author?
The answer lies with my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was a person who lit up a room when he entered. He was 6 feet 2 inches, but it wasn’t his height that drew peoples’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality. Those grey eyes mirrored his brilliant intellect and capacity for greatness. Neil took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help. He helped raise me when my father wasn’t home but working interminable days and nights driving a taxi.
Flourishing in the business world, Neil traded on the Commodity Exchange until he earned enough money to own a majority stake in a Fortune 500 company. He became the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of American Bakeries. Neil took me along on his ride to stardom as I worked for him on the Commodities Exchange and in his offices on Madison Avenue, New York. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. For the first time, life was good.
In the middle of the night, a phone call turned my world dark. Dark as the one in which my mother lived. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a skilled driver with quick reflexes; he drove the car off the highway and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him that night. The Porsche crashed beneath a truck parked in its path. His brain injury left him in a coma, and he died two years later.
I continued my education and received an M.B.A. in Finance, but high finance lost its appeal. I worked at various investment companies, but I didn’t want to trade or analyze stocks and commodities. My brother and my parents had passed. My daughters were beginning their own lives. Without a focus in my life, I began to write. As an avid reader, I had many stories racing through my mind.
In my first book, The Dead Game, I combine mystery and paranormal. Two guests disappear from a party at a deserted house, leaving the others to fend for their lives from wild animals and traps. Since I end the book with a cliffhanger, I had to write the second book in the series, Prey for The Dead. The residents of the coastal town of Oasis in northern Florida face vampires and hybrids once again. This time, the action takes them to Disney World, where vampires hide at an exclusive club. Yes, I based my story on an actual club at Disney created by Walt Disney. Next week, I will release the third book in the series, The Dead At Heart. Is the series finished? I don’t know yet. I now live my life as a big question mark: no periods or final thoughts, only possibilities.
My life has taken unexpected twists and turns. Memories of my brother follow me across every speed bump. I don’t have him any longer, but I have Neil stored in a special place in my heart. He’s given me the strength and the drive to pursue my dreams. After what he’s accomplished in his brief life, I yearn to create a fraction of the positive memories he’s left for me and those whose lives he has touched.

WHAT I CHERISH MOST — THE CHERISHED BLOGFEST

005

What I Cherish The Most

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.

Why am I an author?

The answer lies with my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was a person who lit up a room when he entered. He was 6 feet 2 inches, but it wasn’t his height that drew peoples’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality. Those grey eyes mirrored his brilliant intellect and capacity for greatness. Neil took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help. He helped raise me when my father wasn’t home but working interminable days and nights driving a taxi.
Flourishing in the business world, Neil traded on the Commodity Exchange until he earned enough money to own a majority stake in a Fortune 500 company. He became the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of American Bakeries. Neil took me along on his ride to stardom as I worked for him on the Commodities Exchange and in his offices on Madison Avenue, New York. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. For the first time, life was good.
In the middle of the night, a phone call turned my world dark. Dark as the one in which my mother lived. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a skilled driver with quick reflexes; he drove the car off the highway and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him that night. The Porsche crashed beneath a truck parked in its path. His brain injury left him in a coma, and he died two years later.
I continued my education and received an M.B.A. in Finance, but high finance lost its appeal. I worked at various investment companies, but I didn’t want to trade or analyze stocks and commodities. My brother and my parents had passed. My daughters were beginning their own lives. Without a focus in my life, I began to write. As an avid reader, I had many stories racing through my mind.
In my first book, The Dead Game, I combine mystery and paranormal. Two guests disappear from a party at a deserted house, leaving the others to fend for their lives from wild animals and traps. Since I end the book with a cliffhanger, I had to write the second book in the series, Prey for The Dead. The residents of the coastal town of Oasis in northern Florida face vampires and hybrids once again. This time, the action takes them to Disney World, where vampires hide at an exclusive club. Yes, I based my story on an actual club at Disney created by Walt Disney. Next week, I will release the third book in the series, The Dead At Heart. Is the series finished? I don’t know yet. I now live my life as a big question mark: no periods or final thoughts, only possibilities.
My life has taken unexpected twists and turns. Memories of my brother follow me across every speed bump. I don’t have him any longer, but I have Neil stored in a special place in my heart. He’s given me the strength and the drive to pursue my dreams. After what he’s accomplished in his brief life, I yearn to create a fraction of the positive memories he’s left for me and those whose lives he has touched.