I read the news this Tuesday past. A young man was found dead in the trunk of his car—shot by a friend of 20 years over an $800 drug payment dispute. He’d been dead for six days.
I could have skipped over the report. But I stopped and stared. He was the son of someone I know. Not well, but well enough to feel shaken.
I went to his shop the next day. I thought it might be closed for family bereavement. It wasn’t. I was only slightly surprised. After all, his shop hasn’t closed for more than a few days in 40 some years.
A son was found dead. There’s no rule for what a father does next.
This shopkeeper loves his work. It’s where he loses himself—in pizza boxes up to his elbows. Our town loves his pizza. I’ve eaten at least a hundred.
It was late afternoon. He was alone in the kitchen. For once I had no order to pick up.
I heard about your son’s death. I just came by to say I’m sorry.
He blinked back tears and took my hand. Our first touch in 40 years. His lips trembled. My son was imperfect. I know that. But he didn’t deserve this.
I have two sons, I told him. They’re not perfect. I’m not either.
Neither am I, he said. But if the imperfect don’t deserve to live, who’d be left?
He’s Greek. Greeks are philosophers. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a philosophical question. It didn’t come from his head. It came from his broken heart.
The shopkeeper has two other sons. And Thursday is Thanksgiving. An imperfect holiday.