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Are You Having Any Fun?

I watched today as California's First Lady Maria Shriver eulogized her mother and carried her casket.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking: I didn't know women were allowed to carry caskets.

I guess if your mother was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, you wouldn't have grown up thinking you couldn't.

From Ms. Shriver's account, her mother, founder of the Special Olympics and a woman infused with the spirit of public service that is the hallmark of the Kennedy clan, was, above all, a mom. And it sounds like she was a fun one at that. Ms. Shriver spoke of how her mother wore men's pants, smoked Cuban cigars, cared little about how she wore her hair, played touch football, and came to pick up her daughter from school in a convertible while wearing notes pinned to her sweater to remind her of her to-do's. She was, in Ms. Shriver's word, an inspiration to women because she made them think they could indeed have it all.

She sounded like she was Katherine Hepburn, but with children. She sounded like the kind of woman you would have invited over for girl's poker night and a pitcher of margaritas. Like she was simply a hoot.

Say what you will about the Kennedys, but what sets them apart from most Americans is that they live with passion. Maybe it's because they supposedly live under some curse, as some have said; maybe it's because they know that life is truly a gift from God for an undetermined period to be lived in service to others. I don't know what it is, but they seem to live with passion -- for public service, for family and friends, for life.

Do you? I know I don't always.

I was thinking about this as I was cleaning out my garage and watching while a plumber was working on our water heater. By the way, if you have a Bradford White water heater, let me tell you now: Your water heater sucks or will soon suck. Our house is only three years old, we've been in it less than a year, but this is our second service repair on the water heater. Take my word for it: They suck. But I digress.

I was unpacking boxes of stuff we received as wedding gifts over six years ago and moved from Colorado to California without even looking at them or put in storage in California. I came across a box of glasses and stemware -- white wine glasses, red wine glasses, highball glasses, martini glasses. And that little ditty from the Safeway commercial came to mind:

Are you having any fun?
What'cha getting out of living?
What good is what you've got
If you're not
Having any fun?

It reminded me of how little BMNB and I entertain, partly because we have no decent furniture (two things we didn't really take care of in our thirties: Furniture and children. We're working on the latter. The former is from thrift stores), partly because we're not so good at it, partly because it's work. We forget how fun it is simply to be in the company of people we enjoy, people who really don't care if we've got great furniture or if we burn the steaks on the grill. (And if you don't watch BMNB, he will indeed burn your bovine and char your cow.)

Both of us are members of black fraternal service organizations, but with time and cross-country moves, we've inadvertently distanced ourselves from the bonds of those organizations and the public service we pledged ourselves to in college.

But we need to do more. We need to have fun. With people we like and who like us regardless of whether we live in a hut or a hovel. And we need to serve more.

We need to live our lives with the same kind of passion as the Kennedys, even if we don't have their money. We need to make the most of what we do have, enjoy it, and share it. Because when we go, I want our friends and family to say that we did indeed value the lives we were given and lived them with the same passion and purpose as Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

If my future daughters, my sisters, or my nieces want to carry my casket, so be it. They're more than welcome to wear pants while doing it. And if they have some margaritas afterward, I ain't mad at them.


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