March 17, 2021- The little boy would always raise his glass, at the dinner table, and call out “Achtung”! He had seen John Banner’s character, Sergeant Schultz, give that command on “Hogan’s Heroes”, and it seemed appropriate for making a toast.
He was fourteen years my junior, but never saw me as any better than he. I was, in fact, one of his favourite wrestling partners, and when I “let” him pin me, he’d say, “Oh yeah?” and pin me even more tightly.
There were things he, in fact, grasped, that the rest of us had to think about a good while longer: Mom and Dad were the most important people on Earth; Medication, which in his case was constantly being switched and adjusted, was the bane of human existence-especially when it failed to prevent, and sometimes aggravated, the seizures that truly were the bane of his existence; There was nothing more important than a bear hug; There was never any excuse for anyone belittling another.
Brian had a limited spoken vocabulary-the seizures took care of that, early on. He was not, however, a stupid person, by any stretch-and managed to call me out, on a number of occasions, for having done something that made absolutely no sense to him. He had his favourite foods- pizza, fried clams and ice cream. When someone would spell out the word p-i-z-z-a, thinking he’d be fooled, my youngest brother’s answer was “OKAY!”. He lost his ability to walk, around the age of seven, which made being pushed in his wheelchair, around the neighbourhood, that much more important-and NOTHING beat going for a ride in the car. He loved seeing new places, but was okay with the beach, the forest preserve, our uncle’s and aunt’s cabin on Cape Cod. He was passionately in love with every girl he ever met. Going to school was the single most important part of his day.
When he passed on, twenty-seven years ago, today, Brian John Boivin had won the hearts of hundreds of people: Workers in the Special Needs schools of Massachusetts; attendants in the hospitals where he spent the last decade of his life; our second cousins, who were his sitters, when Mom and Dad went out for the evening, after we had all grown and left the nest; the cross street neighbours, who were his godparents; and most importantly, all of us who learned from him just what is most important in life.
Brian defined the adults each of his siblings became. For that, we can only repay him, by holding fast to the values which our parents imparted, and he underscored.