One of the more challenging phrases spoken in our family over the past week and a half has been this: “We’ll just have to make our own fun.” In my family, we relied on Jeff to keep things fun. Not just funny; Jeff was so much more than the family clown or entertainer. Jeff made things fun. And by things, I mean everything.
Everytime we got together for a holiday or celebration, it seemed that Jeff had a phrase he was using that day. Most recently, I remember enjoying the food at our annual Kracke Lobster Bash and laughing as Jeff declared dish after dish “sweet as the day is long”. The steamers were sweet as the day is long. So was the corn. And a beer. And his wife. And the birthday cake.
And it’s not just the phrase. It’s about the delivery. Consistent rhythm and meter. Funny Voice. Over and over until others join in and it becomes “one of those things”; an inside joke. And the Krackes have dozens of these things. We have a special way of saying “ham” because Jeff was not a fan of that meal. My sister and I reminisced about “fry bread” (pronounced “fry breh” and is essentially french toast without the eggs) because it was a breakfast option if you stayed with Jeff. Jeff’s little things became part of our family culture; part of our history.
And it’s not just the phrases – Jeff was the life of our parties, weekends, and gatherings. When things slowed down, Jeff often started the game of Jenga, or found the awful B movie on cable, or brought out the latest remote control toy. Jeff made up songs – often terribly irreverant songs – that broke silences and woke us up. His laugh was often explosive, waking those taking food naps. And as a younger guy, I cherished every stunt that ended with “O geez … don’t tell your Dad, OK?”
Jeff made everything fun.
And he did it on purpose.
On more than one occassion, when I was moping or downtrodden, Jeff reminded me that life should be fun. “If it isn’t fun, then what the hell are we doing here?” He pursued joy like no other man I have ever known. He was never fake about it. His joy wasn’t forced or trite. He just had fun living and invited us to join in.
And that is why I am almost haunted by “We’ll just have to make our own fun.”
Because missing Jeff isn’t fun. I am sure that someday, there will be more laughter than tears as we remember him. But this week, the tears have taken a huge lead. And soon enough, we’ll have to make our own fun. We will have to carry on this legacy of living life in such a way that laughing comes easy and often. Because if it isn’t fun, you’re probably doing it wrong.