What can you say about Uncle Jed that hasn’t been said before?
Okay, yes, that probably hasn’t been said before, Phil, but I was speaking rhetorically. What I was trying to get at is that Jed was a lot of things to a lot of people. Devoted father, dutiful husband, admired brother, faithful friend, consummate Rubik’s Cube enthusiast — he was all these things, and yet none of these things. Not even the Rubik’s Cube enthusiast. But that didn’t stop us from loving him. There was just something about Jed that put a smile on your face, whether it was his seemingly infinite collection of used celebrity Kleenex, or the casual way he flipped you the bird every time you asked him to pass the salt.
Yeah, ol’ Jed certainly had a rare sense of humor, but beneath that jocular exterior also lay a kind of genius. As many of you know, Jed was the sort of guy who could fix almost anything, from your car, to your computer, to your flamboyant nephew. Granted, it was usually Jed who broke these things in the first place (nephew included), but his inspired solutions were often nothing short of brilliant — and even legal, much of the time. You all remember cousin Gerald’s toupee? Ha ha, say it with me now: “AHHHHHH! OH MY GOD!! IT BURNS, IT BURNS!!!!!!!”
But there was more to Jed than just jokes and gin, and I would be remiss if I didn’t touch upon his warm heart, his compassionate nature, and his gently racist worldview. A peaceful man when he was sober, it could truly be said that Jed would never hurt a fly — unless that fly was slightly different from him in some superficial way beyond its control. But then, that’s Jed for you.
Of course, you’ve all heard the tales of heroism from his days fighting the Vietcong, how he once carried a wounded comrade through two miles of heavy sniper fire, only to discover that they had walked in exactly the wrong direction and had to travel four miles the other way to exit enemy territory. Private Benson may not have survived the return trip, but you can bet that Jed did his best to make his last few moments nearly tolerable.
Beyond Jed’s willingness to risk his life for his fellow soldier was his willingness to lay it down outright, as in the time he threw himself onto a live grenade to save an entire squadron from certain decimation. This act would ultimately earn Jed the Medal of Valor, even though the grenade in question turned out to be nothing more than an avocado that had rolled off a table in the mess hall. “Guess that’s why the uniform’s green!” Jed always joked after relating that particular chestnut.
Yes, Jed was something all right — something you couldn’t quite put a finger on and probably wouldn’t care to. But he’s gone now, and the world seems a little less interesting for it. A little less bright. A little more predictable. Yes, a world without Uncle Jed doesn’t quite seem possible.
…So, who’s up for Steak ‘n Shake? My treat!