One of TV’s good guys, Andy Griffith, passed away today.

I came home this afternoon and did the usual quick scan of the news page on the computer. I admit I’m a little unfazed by most of the stories. Some are horrific – so much so that I really can’t bring myself to dig into the details, and others fall into the category of “wow . . . are they hurting for stories today?” So, when I saw Andy’s face on the screen, I wasn’t prepared to read that he had died. Friends are calling and expressing condolences.

Even now, early in the evening, all the news shows are running snapshots of Andy Griffith’s tremendous career. One network spotlight ended with this phrase (a video clip of the real Andy saying, “Andy Taylor was a better man than I am.” To which the news anchor responded, “Not by much.”

The closest I came to meeting the man that I admired so much was one year at the Dove Awards. He was hosting and I picked this particular year to be absent from the festivities. Wow, now I really wish I’d gone just to shake his hand. A friend of mine told me that he’d met Mr. Griffith backstage, that he was visibly weak and tired looking, but when the camera came on, he was all over it.

Can you imagine the thousands or tens (hundreds?) of thousands of hours Andy Griffith spent in front of a camera?

I didn’t know much about his private life. My assessments were drawn purely from his TV characters. And mostly from the near total recall I have of most of the episodes of The Andy Griffith show.

One of the big anniversary years of the show, the local Christian radio station held an Andy Griffith Show Trivia contest. They’d heard that I was somewhat of an “expert” and asked me to call in and play an on-air game of “stump the artist” or something like that. Listeners would call in and the radio hosts would throw out a question. First one with the answer was the winner and so on. Well, if I may say so, I was killin’ it! After a few questions, they took a break and I overheard the hosts (not over the air but through the phone) say, “Wow . . . he doesn’t even let us finish the question!”

So, I don’t know the personal details of Andy’s faith. Although, a few years back, he had a huge selling CD of old hymns. But how could anyone that’s just a TV viewer know what’s going on in a guys heart? He sure seemed to have a good grasp on the Gospel and the Christ at the center of it.

And I have no clue about his family. I do know he was divorced twice and was married, at the time of his death, to his third wife. Who am I to speak into that? It’s easy to rush to judgment about such things that are so very personal and impossible to interpret given so little knowledge of a person’s life.

I just heard that he’d done a political ad supporting the new healthcare plan but I’ll just pass that off. Nobody’s perfect . . . even good ole’ Andy.

I do know this – I got a lot of my fathering lessons from my own dad and Andy Griffith. I watched those shows as a child, then again as a young adult, as a young father and now as just me. Of course, it was television with scripts and the luxury of reshooting scenes. Real dads don’t get “do-overs” very often. You just make the call and do the best you can. But Andy gave me some great tips on how to handle children and how to handle life.

And friends.

I loved watching his show, watching Deputy Barney Fife fowl something up terribly only to find encouragement and partnership in the mending from his friend, Andy. I might be wrong (and I guess I’d be stumped on this trivia question) but I don’t think I ever remember Andy ever saying, “I told you so” (or something to that effect) to Barney. Most times, he just put the proverbial arm around his shoulder and set off to fix the problem – many times, giving Barney the credit for the solution. He was a selfless friend, not at all concerned with getting the glory.

Some nights when it’s hard for me to shut down, I watch a re-run of the Andy Griffith Show. My wife says my countenance changes. All I know is, I find it soothing and reminiscent of a simpler age and it calms me.

I pray that I’ll be a kinder man, a fair and understanding friend, a descent citizen and a man of dignity and faith.

We’ll miss you, Andy and I hope, one day I’ll shake your hand. And if there’s fishin’ in heaven, I want to be in your boat.

Wayne Watson
July 3, 2012