“Andy who?” I gasped.
“Yup,” she said.
We both knew that to a classic TV fan such as myself, there was only one Andy she could mean.
It immediately struck me as odd that Andy Griffith had died so close to July 4 considering that he’s as famous as any of the Founding Fathers and probably more beloved.
At least I thought so until one co-worker said she hated “The Andy Griffith Show” and another suggested that Homer Simpson was a more entertaining TV dad than Andy Taylor.
I guess they’re entitled to their opinions, misguided as they may be.
I took some time to reflect on Griffith’s passing by reading a few online articles about his life and career. This material was harder to come by than one might expect.
I had heard somewhere that Griffith had become a recluse in his later years, but I wasn’t aware to what extent until I found an article that appeared in The Virginian-Pilot several years ago.
It was titled “The real Andy Griffith lives among us, quietly.”
The author, Mal Vincent, alluded to a number of telephone conversations that had taken place between himself and Griffith over the past four decades, but I got the impression that he had never been granted a face-to-face interview.
Apparently Griffith would talk for hours on the phone, but his waterfront estate on Roanoke Island, N.C. was off-limits.
Vincent said that any request for a personal meeting was always followed by several seconds of silence and then a whisper – “Let’s just talk.”
It seems that Griffith wanted fans to stay at a safe distance as well.
The article said that he had been known to turn down requests for autographs and that his wife often admonished him to not speak when they went out so they wouldn’t be recognized.
“People are nice, but they can be overbearing a little,” Griffith told Vincent.
I’ve never been one to confuse actors with their TV personas.
As a diehard “I Love Lucy” fan, I learned at an early age that Lucille Ball was nothing like Lucy Ricardo.
However, I do find it interesting that a man who has made millions of people yearn for a time when everyone knew their neighbors would choose seclusion for himself.
I think we all do to some degree.
That’s why we can grieve the death of someone we met only through the magic of television but turn a blind eye to the struggles of a stranger living right down the street.
We love to escape to Mayberry because we recognize that the world is a lot more dangerous and discouraging than it appeared in 1960s black and white. So we hide behind locked doors, privacy fences, politics, pride and prejudices.
But every once in a while, we let our guards down and make a real connection with our fellow human beings.
We stop pretending to be perfect, suspend all judgment and don’t even think about what’s in it for us as we show some love to someone who needs it.
In those moments, we’re as close to Mayberry as we’re ever going to get.