In my first family, the children were referred to not only By their given names and often their religious names also, But often by an identifying characterization as well: John Kevin the Math Genius, for example. Our sister, a nun, is Betsy God Bless Her, and our youngest brother is Thomas More Patrick the School Principal; Peter Joseph in Denver Is in the middle with your humble scribe Brian the Writer. It doesn’t matter if the child is current or past tense, either; Our oldest brother is Seamus Who Went On Ahead, whom None of his brothers or sister has yet met, and there is tiny Christopher Who Died in His First Hour, whom we expect To meet also at some undetermined hour. And there is our Brother Patrick Born Too Early, born just halfway through His wet voyage, and so he could not breathe, but that child Would have been a giant, says our mother quietly—he was Tremendous in size even half born, my blessed boy Patrick. So it is that sometimes there are five children at dinner and Sometimes more. I suppose this happens to lots of families. We don’t talk about it. Time seethes like the sea. But there, This morning, at the end of the table, is my brother Seamus, His mouth filled with stars. If I close my eyes I can see him
Brian Doyle is editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland. He is the author of Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies, A Shimmer of Something: Lean Stories of Spiritual Substance, and, most recently, Chicago, a novel.