One of my earliest memories is sitting in front of our black and white television watching The Andy Griffith Show.
It may seem ridiculous, but tears came quickly when I heard Andy Griffith had died this week. Felt like an old friend of the family had passed.
Someone I’d known all my life.
Someone I’d grown up with.
Someone who helped shape who I am. How I think.
I’m part of the first generation to grow up with television. There’s never been a time in my life when television didn’t exist – never a time when we didn’t own at least one television set.
And as an only kid growing up in the days before anyone even thought about it not being so good for us, I watched a lot of it.
For better or worse, those shows taught me a lot about the world and about life. I spent a good bit of time with the characters on those shows.
They became friends. Friends I know well.
So well that I can laugh just thinking about Ernest T. Bass.
My all-time favorite scene, though, is from “Opie and the Bully,” where a kid at school has been threatening Opie and taking his milk money. When Andy discovers it, he tells Opie about a similar situation he was in as a boy and how he handled it, without ever revealing that he knew what was happening to Opie. The morning that Opie leaves for school, knowing that he, too, must stand up to his bully, he’s afraid and Andy senses it. Instead of talking Opie out of how he feels, or minimizing those feelings, or taking care of the situation himself, Andy simply picks Opie up, without saying a word, and holds him tight.
I never knew Andy Griffith as a person in real life. I don’t know what kind of dad he really was to his own children. I don’t know what kind of friend he was, or if it’s even possible to be as faithful and patient a friend as Andy Taylor was to Barney Fife.
But if he was even close to the man he played on television, I would’ve liked him.