Missing Persons: A Life of Unexpected Influences

Missing Persons: A Life of Unexpected Influences

by Bruce Piasecki

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757054129
Publisher: Square One Publishers
Publication date: 02/09/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Bruce Piasecki, PhD is the president and founder of AHC Group, Inc., a top management consulting firm specializing in energy, materials, and environmental corporate matters, whose clients include Suncor Energy, the Warren Buffett firm Shaw Industries, to Toyota, and other international companies. In addition to his bestseller Doing More with Less, Dr. Piasecki is the author of nine other books on business strategy, valuation, and corporate change, including the Nature Society’s book of the year, In Search of Environmental Excellence: Moving Beyond Blame, as well as his recent bestseller Doing More With Less. Since 1981, he has advised companies on the critical areas of corporate governance, energy, environmental strategy, product innovation, and sustainability strategy. A highly sought after speaker and educator, Dr. Piasecki gives lectures, workshops, and seminars throughout North America and the world.

See more at: http://www.brucepiasecki.com/bio#sthash.5cIlxUhQ.dpuf

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments xiii

Foreword by Jay Parini xvii

Preface xxi



The Discovery of Colette

Vignettes of Innocence and Youth

Uncle Zigmund

Edwin Torres and

Suie Ying Chang

Mary Beth and Trespass

An Angry Young Man

Encounters with Al Oerter and Marcus Aurelius

With Lefty at the University of Maryland

Hurricane Sandy

The Blind Alley of Birth

Lillian Ann Piasecki

A Second Mother

Stories by Lillian That Last

A Funeral Message

Coastal Bliss

Walking with Varlissima

A Maddening Couple

Pregnant and Unchanging

Frida and His Fly

Another Visionary

The Discovery of Colette

Colette at Night the First Four Years

The First Obsession

Attic Bliss

Meeting Jay

His Neighborhood After Meeting Jay

Moby Dick After

Meeting Jay

Appreciating Varlissima


The Sensual Middle

Vignettes of Experience and Middle Age

The Art of Being a Dog

Extending a Life

The Sensual Certainty of Youth

His Father Glimpsed in Istanbul

Divine Compensation

Surprise Is Never an Isolated Event

Granting Himself


Forgiveness Is a Journey

What He Found Next

Meeting Darlene

Adding Vermont Stones to Stone Church Road

Woman with Many Tongues

Choosing the Right Pond

A Mother’s Death

A Father’s Death

We Flower Under Stress

Frankly Torn

Freedom and Fate and William Hogarth

All Ice Is Dangerous

Venture Understanding

Regression Is Progression

The Second Obsession

Varlissima in Wonderland

An Afterlife


At Old Stone Church

Vignettes of the Magic in Old Age

A Drunken Hercules

The Push of Humanity at His Door

Colette at Night Again

Sacred Memory

The Dragon Arum

Mr. Plumer His Teacher

Old Age at the Lotos Club

Norah Jones Faith

and the Fabulous

Success at Home

The Last Obsession

His Mistress

The Wind in His Backyard

Further Reading About the World

Karl Marx and His Nurse

Seldom Seen in Saratoga

Titillating the Amygdala

The Beach Where He

Was Born

The Incredible Rightness

of Resolve

His Succession Plans


He Imagined His Readers

Colette Discovers This Memoir

Homes Hope and the Hidden

Memory Is the Accomplishment

Around Here Everyone Talks Like Lions


About the Author


Good Reading Becomes Introduction

“I count myself in nothing else so happy

As in a soul remembering my good friends.”

—William Shakespeare, Richard II

My name is Bruce Piasecki.

            I know that’s a long name, and an odd one. It has proven difficult for many Americans to pronounce and even to remember. Once, when I had rented a home situated high above the fog of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, the landlord eyed me sideways, refusing to turn over the key until I had verified that I was, in fact, the strange fellow with the small family he was expecting. I pronounced and spelled my name slowly, making sure he heard. But when I got to the “a” and then the “s” followed by the “e” then the “c”—he interrupted with, “Wait a minute now, son! Letters can’t fit together that way in Tennessee!” When I persisted, he handed over the keys, saying “Well, I suppose you speak pretty good American, for a Polack.”

            I start with my Polish name because I can still remember the out-of-body sensation of watching myself as my grandmother—my Bapci—tried to teach me to say it: “Pi-a-sec-ki, Pi-a-sec-ki.” This was the beginning of my ability to see myself in the third ­person, which is how I have written my story. You can blame

my name.

            My Bapci, who spoke only Polish, held dominion over my early attention like an exotic queen. Her attempts to teach me to say my name that day persisted for nearly an hour. Later that same day, she and I played an amazing game of catch. Many years afterward, my mother, Lillian, would say, “There is no way you could have played catch with Bapci, Bruce. She was already totally blind by then.”

            My mother may have insisted it wasn’t possible, but I can still remember the wind swirling around my grandmother that day, the bandana in her hair, the Eastern European patterns on her blouse, her aged fingertips, and how proud she was that I could catch what she had thrown my way. And I do remember that catch, vividly—even as I prepare to turn sixty within a few short months. I also remember her catching the ball, many times. I remember the ball bouncing around near her breasts, and her arthritic fingers groping for it in this new world. And I remember her insisting that I pronounce my name the correct Polish way. That, I’m afraid, I never got right.

            My grandmother died a few years later. Her death was not my first major loss: that would have been the death of my father, Walter, when I was three. There would be other losses to follow—not necessarily deaths, but endings or disappearances. This book traces my encounters—some real, some imagined—with the “missing persons” who have shaped my life.

            During the past seventeen years, as I wrote Missing Persons, I came to see that telling stories about my life continued to actively shape my identity—the sense of who I was, and who I had been. I felt that the crucial relationship between memory and identity was best captured in a cinematic vision of personal history—complete with close-ups, tracking shots, flashbacks, and the occasional lurch of the handheld camera. I hope to have captured these moments, these magical memories, in a series of vignettes that are housed in the three parts of this book.

            The vignettes that make up Part One explore what it felt like to grow up poor, to make it as a basketball player, and to find myself in the early 1970s on full scholarship at Cornell University. I was raised near the railroad tracks of West Islip, Long Island, by a widowed mother who took in foster children from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Even through high school, most of my teachers didn’t believe that the Chinese or Puerto Rican kids they saw me hugging in the hallways during school or after basketball games were my brothers and sisters. My youth was magical, but leaving home and moving on to college was even more so. It was like manna from heaven—except that the manna was actually chocolate-coated bread and full of the nutrition (and poppy seeds) I had desperately needed on the courts and in the alleys of West Islip.

            It was at Cornell that I met my magical wife, Varlissima. That is not her real name. I would like to have used her real name, but since my Sicilian-American wife is mostly American now—as well as being reserved, private, and far better educated than I—she insisted that I use a fictitious name in this book. Was this to ensure that her real name would remain unknown? Was it to protect the innocent? Was it her way of distancing herself from the facts and fantasy of my life? I think it was because of her deep humility, which renders memoirs fundamentally foreign to her way of being.

            The vignettes in Part Two explore the delights and sensuality that come with a successful path in life, as well as the many fears we face as we age. For me, during the long valley of middle age, the magic of my life with Varlissima was complicated by the growth and success of my management consulting firm, which necessitated global travel; by the emergence of an increasingly strong desire to establish myself as a writer; by the death of my mother; and by the presence of the many muses in my life.

            One of the central characters in this part of the book is Darlene—who actually exists and who has indeed improved the life of my family and my firm. But like other characters in the memoir, Darlene is a combination of herself and others I’ve met as I traveled the long road of middle age. How else to sum up that magic but through the composite flowers before you?

            While echoing some of the themes found in Parts One and Two, Part Three is perhaps the most magical section of all. Inspired by a hopeful passage from best-selling author Oliver Sacks about life after eighty, this part involves the fascinating idea that one’s reputation can continue in the future. It presents a flash forward of my life—a visionary journey of memories and new adventures—during my final decades.

            When I think back to my childhood memory of playing catch with my grandmother all those years ago, I can still hear my mother’s voice telling me that it could not have happened. But the memory was absolutely real to me. In that same manner, the future vision of my life—the essence of Part Three—is as vivid and real as those moments with my beloved Bapci.

            For once we come to appreciate the power of memory, we can make out the patterns that will likely precede our end. This might prove the most magical stage of all.

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Missing Persons: A Life of Unexpected Influences 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Cecesimms More than 1 year ago
This book is an homage to the women in Piasecki’s life – his wife, mother, and daughter in particular.  He writes about women so warmly, you understand the high esteem he holds them in.  What I appreciated about the vignettes was that they helped me reflect on my own life, especially the family, friends, and colleagues who have influenced me, including those who are no longer here.  I was delighted by the photographs that appear at the start of each vignette, especially the art objects, as it gave me a visual reference for reflection, along with Piasecki’s lyrical language and the poetic imagery he conjures.  
SusanCarol1 More than 1 year ago
I personally enjoy vignettes, so for me, "Missing Persons, A Life of Unexpected Influences" is a series of life moments that are presented thoughtfully, deeply and with a strong poetic sensibility. I imagine that in reading this many would find relatable moments that would stir memories of one's own story.  In my own reading, those that stir a sense of gratefulness will continue to be cherished. 
Albert_Path More than 1 year ago
This book is more than just a great read - it's literature, something to keep on your shelf for rereading.