|In Chicago the occasion is celebrated with an environmental atrocity--dying the Chicago River Green in commemoration of Richard J. Daley's ego.|
It’s St. Patrick’s Day. And my birthday. On March 17, 1949 I evidently elbowed my twin brother out of the way and made it out of the birth canal in time to lay claim to the name. I grew up feeling Irish, although as an adoptee my actual linage was anyone’s guess. My birth mother had the English name High and the only thing I ever heard about my father was that he was “a Swede” with, apparently, a wandering eye and an itchy foot.
My adopted family Murfin name was assumed to be Irish somewhere back in antiquity. But my mom’s folks were Scots Irish and Grandma Murfin was a Steffie—Pennsylvania Dutch. Protestants on all sides back to Adam, if you heard them talk about it.
But I grew up with a pug nose, potato digger hands, a bright red goatee, a gift for gab, and a seemingly unquenchable thirst. With a name like Patrick, I passed for a son of the Auld Sod in every Chicago North Side pub with Guinness on tap and Jamison’s behind the bar. I could sing the songs and weep with the best of them.
My pub crawling days are long past. I’m a reasonably responsible and mostly sober grown up. The goatee has gone grey. And a family genealogist proved conclusively a few years that Murfin was not a corruption of Murphy, but a name out of Cornwall, probably connected with Merlin. Celtic perhaps, but not Irish.
George W. almost ruined by birthday 10 years ago when he me gave a damn War in Iraq all tied up in yellow ribbons and gore as a belated birthday gift. And the twin brother I shared the birthday with, Timothy in childhood and Peter as an adult, has been gone almost as long.
This is not one of those big birthdays that end with a zero. But it is the one that caused The Beatles long ago to fret over the endurance of affection. And you know two of those lads came from the Irish diaspora in Liverpool.
Despite it all, however, I can’t shake a certain fondness for the day. I will wear green. Not hard. I have a closet full of shirts in various shades of green. This morning I can count on my jones for a little Irish music being satisfied by Tom Steffens who always works in great music to our Sunday morning service at the now Tree of Life UU Congregation. This year due to busy schedules, partying will be at a minimum. I shared cake with granddaughter Caiti Pearson last weekend. Today I have to squeeze in grocery shopping and napping before my overnight shift at the gas station. So I will miss the usual dinner out with my wife Kathy for corned beef and cabbage. Pub crawling is definitely out.
But I will fill the day with music. And if you stop by the gas station tonight, you might catch me in an un-regulation green tie with my bright read uniform shirt singing some old song at the top of my lungs if the store is empty.