A Treetop View: Remembering Brother Brian, a.k.a.,
edited: Wednesday, June 30, 2004
By C. G. McGovern-Bowen
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, December 27, 2002
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Childhood memories of a beloved brother who left the planet far too soon.
A Treetop View: Remembering Brother Brian, a.k.a., “The Judge”
It has been said that in the end, only our memories remain. And so it is with our dear Brother Brian. I want to share one of those memories with you today; one that is filled with joy, and one that I think serves as a fitting metaphor for Brian’s life’s coursing. Some here will recall this story, and others will easily recognize how it illumines parts of his complex character. It dates back to our childhood years, and though it is far too early for me to tell, it will likely endure as my fondest memory of Brother Brian. The tale begins on a magical summer day in 1961 on our 40-acre farm in Hope Valley, Rhode Island, a.k.a. “The Ocean State.” Mind you, Doris Elizabeth Bowen McGovern, 83 year-old matriarch of our sizeable clan, most likely holds a less idyllic view those tough days in what Papa-Sun, our dearly departed father, called, “Hopeless Valley…”
We were all just a bunch of rag-tag kids back then, looking for some comic relief from “the dog days of summer.” With our routine chores completed, Mother, no doubt seeking a moment’s peace, booted us out the door come “playtime” with strict instructions to be careful, to look out for one another, and to be back by dinnertime. Brother Brian was about 13 at the time, I was 11, and Sister Diane was 10. We had teamed-up in our customary alliance against my two older brothers, Michael and Robert, and my younger brother, Stephen, in what turned out to be a very special game of ‘hide-and-go-seek.’ Our designated turf stretched from our farm to the adjacent one of a notoriously tough, smelly cigar-smoking, grizzled old Yankee called, Mr. Bitgood.
Yes, the terrain in which we had to romp and terry was quite hilly, as I recall; nearly three quarters of it was forested with towering deciduous and conifer trees. We had our own 44-foot deep fishpond that sported a productive tadpole breeding ground and cranberry bog in its pan-handle, a long-forgotten graveyard with crumbling tombstones, bountiful verdant cornfields, fragrant cow pastures, and yes, even a dismal swamp replete with quicksand pits and redolent sunk cabbage plants lost among all those elegant trees…
On this auspicious occasion, Brother Brian led Diane and I all around that childhood wonderland; yes, we meandered through that moss-laden forest; we tip-toed past that spooky graveyard; we frolicked in those whispering cornfields; we idled a while by the placid waters of our beloved fishpond. All the while, Brian managed to skillfully evade detection on Brother Michael’s keen radarscope. Eventually tiring of the chase, he led us to a majestic pine tree situated on a hilltop adjacent to our 200 year-old farmhouse. With great patience and care, he managed to coax a rather timid Diane, and a cautiously excited tomboyish Carolyn, up that scaly-barked tree, one branch at a time. Clearing the first clump of tightly packed branches, we stopped to look around, but alas, we were not high enough to escape certain detection. Throwing caution to the wind, or mustering our courage, however one sees it, and with Brian judiciously testing each branch before permitting his two sisters to follow, we ascended to the top of that grand old tree—well, perhaps my memory mildly exaggerates this point…
Ah, but what a truly find view we had! As we clung to those gently swaying boughs, he urged us not to look down, but rather to scan the horizon and enjoy all that lay before us; yes, to take-in the expanse of the those distant cornfields, the sweeping forests, Blitzcreek Trail that skirted the perimeter of our farm, and even that old, weed-choked graveyard! We were so well hidden from view that there was no fear of our skillful opponents launching a sneak attack! And so there we lingered, safe and secure, atop those pine-needled boughs, enjoying that summer breeze, listening to the birds, studying cloud-forms floating in an azure sky, talking about preparing for college and a lot of nothing else, and, of course, watching our three frustrated brothers, Michael, Robert, and Stephen, with unbridled mirthful delight search in vain for us!… Already practicing legal maneuvers, eh, Brother Brian?
This jewel of a memory has slumbered deep in my heart for some 40 years now—could it really be that long ago, dear Brother Brian? Cruel fate that it should surface now, when I am unable to cherish it with you, for I wish to tell you that by showing me that majestic treetop view of our precious planet, you inspired me to step out of myself to discover those first stirrings of an adult sense of personal identity… Yes, it was a pivotal moment for me, and I thank you for that precious gift, dear, dear Brother Brian.
Indeed, as I look back now, it seems that you were the one who routinely took my hand and paved the way for any number of defining childhood and young adulthood moments. You were there in grade school, showing me to my classroom and where to stand in line to buy my milk come lunchtime. Similarly, you gave me crash courses in surviving the sheer trauma of junior & senior high school. When it came time to work our way through college, it was you who led me through the registration maze, the insanity of “running for classes,” where to buy books and parking permits, not to mention where to grab what would now be for me an indigestible Cupid’s hotdog—with all those forbidden, lethal fixings… Yes, whether it was getting my work permit and social security number at 16, or encouraging me to graduate from baby-sitters anonymous and land that first real job slinging donuts at the local Winchell’s, or donating to me the latest hand-me-down, winter-rat of a car—not to mention keeping the damn thing running, no less, even without Brother Robert’s help, who, like Brother Michael had been called away to war. And too, it was you who faithfully escorted Diane and me off to the public library and later the college library for all those late-running study sessions, instilling in us the discipline and focus needed to eventually accomplish our academic goals… Yes, you, Brother Brian, a.k.a., “The Judge,” were always there. I thank you; I will never forget you; I will always love you.
Knowing this beautiful side of your almost painfully sensitive, and profoundly enigmatic personality, I understand that your own life’s coursing attained a treetop view in its own right with the appointment of your hard-won position to the judicial bench of an appellate court somewhere in a place called Pomona. Bravo, Brother Brian, bravo. And you danced in that bright light for many a rewarding year. Bravo, Brother Brian, bravo. Yes indeed, branch-by-branch, you steadily scaled life’s impressive heights to embrace its grand view. Who could ever forget how hard you worked to achieve this goal? Be it on the farm, at the local 7-11, or rising from sales clerk to management at Whitefront Discount Stores, all the while going to college and helping at home. You doggedly pressed onto law school, with Daniella’s blessing, taking night classes while working full time, and struggling to raise your young family. After enduring such taxing conditions, who could forget how rightly proud you were of passing the State Bar Exam on your first sitting? Yes, you attained your impressive goal, but paid dearly for it, my beloved Brother Brian. Alas, something was destined to give, and so it did… Is it any wonder that after years of steady pressure, and your measure of life’s torments and setbacks—times that Mother, Papa-Sun and I came to know well during your darkest hours—that you sought to pass a few moments of quietude in some towering treetop retreat, swaying in a summer’s breeze, far from the noise of mundane worldly concerns…?
Yes, I will remember you, Brother Brian with affection beyond words. And I know in my heart that you have left this planet for a far more wonderful place, perhaps, perchance, to scout-out that next treetop view? Know that it greatly pains this rag-tag assemblage of family, friends, and esteemed colleagues to see you go this soon. So please, be as patient with our tears as you were with your younger sisters’ fears when scaling that majestic tree back in Hope Valley, Rhode Island, so many decades ago... Know too, that I shall henceforth be a dedicated advocate to help fight the terrible disease that so swiftly took you from us. And I patiently await that joyful moment when you take time out, as you so often did during our younger days, from your peaceful celestial travels of present, to revisit us in a dream or two, just to show us upon which branch we should next place our trembling feet…
Carolyn Gale McGovern-Bowen, Ph.D.
Delivered on August 15th, 2001 at the Memorial Service for:
The Honorable Brian Paul McGovern, Juris Doctor
April 5, 1948-August 10, 2001
Web Site: Evil Seed
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|Reviewed by J. Joy Matthews Alford - Sistah Joy
|Beautiful farewell tribute.|
|Reviewed by David Thompson
|Oh, what a beautiful tribute to your Brother Brian. How wonderfully you have expressed his lessons of attaining life's goals by stepping up one branch at a time. I absolutely loved this reading. Thank you. I needed this post-Memorial Day (May 27, 2008) accolade to Brother Brian.
David Lee Thompson
|Reviewed by Savage Grace
|I'm here to read and learn-
What I learned from you is priceless -
|Reviewed by E. P. Ned Burke
|Beautiful words and a beautiful tribute to your brother.
|Reviewed by Robert Fullerton
|What a touching narrative.. It is a great tribute to the 'Helping Hand' you received from your brother..
Peace to You and Yours.....Bob.:-))
|Reviewed by Aberjhani
|I don't know why this title called out to me tonight but it did, and I'm glad. Memory can be a kind of spirit and this is one that abides in deep love rooted in the past but branching out through many hearts in the present. Much gratitude for the sharing.
|Reviewed by The Smoking Poet
|Carolyn, how your warm heart shows in this...
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|Reviewed by mz kimi
|sp poignant and what a lovely tribute|
|Reviewed by Gwendolyn Thomas Gath
"A Treetop View: Remembering Brother Brian, a.k.a.,"
A heartfelt rendering of your wonderful brother and the blessed time you all shared. The scenic depiction and frolicking play was surreal.
An outstanding write and befitting tribute to your brother Brian.
Thank you for sharing!
All the best,
|Reviewed by Sanjay Sonawani
|Dear carolyn, I haven't read such deeply emotional tribute before. I know somewhere your brother is tugging to the words that has flowed from your heart while riding above the treetop...with Lord Almighty!|
|Reviewed by Uriah Fields
|Carolyn, your tribute to your brother, "A Treetop View: Remembering Brother
Brian, a.k.a.," touched me deeply. While reading it I felt many emotions...empathy, affection, love...and sensed an abiding faith that connects the past, history; the future, a mystery; with the present, a gift; i.e., a present. Your messsage honoring your brother has blessed me.Thank you.