Harry and Betty were dressed to the nines, he in a navy suit with a bright red tie and she in an equally bright red dress. The family, three generations worth, were gathered to celebrate their wonderful marriage. The evening was focused on dinner, but the real treat was the storytelling.
The evening started with a serenade by a flock of young men from the same fraternity that Harry had attended 75 years earlier on the same campus. The boys dutifully came into the room and sang their fraternity and college songs — a lovely gesture, even if some looked like they couldn’t wait to fulfill this obligation and get on to the bars. The measured nonchalance all melted away when Harry stood to meet and talk and shake hands with every one of the young men. We were close enough to hear him thank each man, and then with a wink and extra handshake, give each his trademark advice: “Try to have a little fun every day.”
That motto came up several times during the many stories about Harry and Betty — as a Marine Corps drill instructor visiting a favored young cousin who was unhappily strugging in boot camp, to graduating kids, to young couples on the occasion of their wedding. It was a philosophy that served him well as his family reflected on a lifetime of many, many laughs. There were stories of legendary root beer floats, kids’ memories of childhood stories, the bequeathing of a favored couch to a grand-daughter. (Harry to grand-daughter as the couch leaves his house for hers: “I hope you have as much fun with it as we did!”)
The “Try to have a little fun every day” philosophy isn’t hedonistic as Harry applied it; this was an act of service to others and a reminder not to take yourself too seriously. Bringing a smile, a laugh, to another is a noble act and a kindness. It is the sign of a welcoming heart, it is a gesture of sharing, a recognition of common humanity and emotion.
I can still hear Harry saying it: Try to have a little fun everyday.