Today is not only the birthday of the OPC. Closer to home it is also the day my recently deceased dad was born. This is not the place or the time to begin sorting through my relationship to him, but a number of thoughts come to mind on this June 11th.
When I first heard my father had died, I was on my way to the emergency room of a downtown Philadelphia hospital. I had fed the livestock, Cordelia and Isabelle, and during the procedure the lid to the can of cat food made a huge impression on the index finger of my left hand. The gash which would not close after an hour of tinkering was my penalty for kitchen awkwardness. After four hours at the hospital, I took five stitches. The wait in ER gave me time to sort out the logistics of burial and memorial service with my brother.
I was â€“ and still am â€“ glad for that cut because the scar not only reminds me of dad but also the wound that I still feel over his loss. And even if it has healed, and will continue to just as my own spirits have rebounded to some degree, it will always be a reminder of my great loss (because my father was a great man). In which case the cut was a providential form of self-mutilation. I may have been tempted to do so on my own, but cutting the body is not a proper way to honor Godâ€™s good creation. So rather than having a stud in my tongue or a tattoo on my left buttock cheek, I have a scar on my left hand. I can live with that. This day I even relish it.
On or before June 11th I usually buy my dad a birthday gift. In later years when he and my mother were both in a nursing home the challenge of buying something that he could use became greater. Now that I no longer need to buy a gift, I wonder what my failure as a consumer will do to our ailing economy. In fact, I wonder what the effects of death are generally for the economic health of a nation. Clearly, the funeral and flower industries benefit. And the federal government breaths a pint-size sigh of relief to have one more of its citizens off its role of Social Security beneficiaries, not to mention the inordinate expense of Medicare. But if a death brings savings for some and expenses for others, it also means none of the purchases that go with birthdays, Fathersâ€™ Day, anniversaries, and the annual spending spree we call Christmas.
So to do my part for the economy, Iâ€™ll have to go out and spend on some â€œspirituousâ€ refreshments. If I drink enough tonight to spend the amount Iâ€™d normally use to buy a birthday gift, the elixir may not only further heal my wounds but pickle them.