It's no secret that I'm a fan of television from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, with a couple favorites in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, so when someone from television days of my youth passes on, I'm particularly saddened. That happened most recently with the passing of Andy Griffith.
As a parent, I learned much from my parents and used much of that learning in the raising of my children. Being a boy in our family, I focused a lot on that child-raising learning based on what my father did as he raised his family.
I can honestly say that my father taught me well, though I'm not sure I've always practiced the lessons as well as Papa Joe X did. As much as I learned from my father, I've also tried to use anything to try and be the best parent I could be, so I'd take advice, watch others, take notes - anything to help me be a good parent.
J. Paul Lombardo
Little did I know, much of what I learned from my father about being a good parent would be reinforced in a half-hour "trip" my dad took us on every week, when, from our living room, we traveled to Mayberry, N.C., to check in on the lives of Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bea, Floyd, Gomer, Otis and the rest of the citizens of what could be described as the perfect "Hometown U.S.A."
Andy Taylor, Griffith's character, was a great father. Sometimes he had to be a great mother too. As I watched, being a kid, I didn't realize what an impact Andy Taylor could, or would, have on me as I became an adult, but at this point in my life, I know the character had a profound impact on me.
My father taught us morals and values. He impressed upon us the importance of worship, citizenship, patriotism, being a good friend, earning what we got, getting good grades in school, honesty, integrity, fair play, tolerance and respect.
At the time of our weekly visit to Mayberry, I never realized that Andy Taylor was actually my dad. I was too busy laughing at the antics of Barney, Opie, Gomer, Helen, Thelma Lou, Floyd, Goober, Otis, Aunt Bea, The Darlings and Ernest T. Bass, never figuring that, in between those funny moments, were the very lessons my parents taught us growing up. It wasn't until I had my own children, and was still watching reruns of Andy Griffith, that I realized what Andy was teaching Opie was what my dad and mom were teaching us.
From my reading about Griffith and his life, I learned that he insisted on wholesomeness and integrity in all he did, and all with which he was associated. He did that in all of his television experiences, from playing Andy Taylor, to Harry Broderick (Griffith's role in "Salvage 1"), to Ben Matlock. He kept to his beliefs of good, clean entertainment in all his work. He loved to laugh and wanted to make others laugh too. Some of his talent has been showcased on movie channels - his brilliance on the big screen showcased in movies like "No Time for Sergeants" and "Angel in my Pocket" - on comedy TV channels, satellite radio comedy stations, and through the brilliance of television's TV Land, we get return to Mayberry through reruns, and I get to see if I learned my lessons on parenting.
Not too many remember that Griffith even had a role in "Roots: the Next Generations," showing the versatility of his acting abilities, and many forget that he was a talented musician/singer gracing the stage of the Grand Ole Opry many times. In everything he did, Griffith maintained his conviction of wholesome entertainment. Throughout his career, he succeeded in achieving that goal.
I watch reruns of "Andy Griffith" whenever I can. If they're not on, I pull out the DVDs I have in my collection, which includes 16 episodes of the sitcom, so I'll always be able to watch and remember. My buddy Mike and I can sit together and recite dialogue from many episodes of the "Andy Griffith Show" and occasionally we even sing, in harmony, the Mayberry Union High School song, featured in a few episodes throughout the show's run.
There are so many things I remember from that show, and how it really emphasized what my parents taught us, and how it helped me raise my kids and even deal with some situations in my life.
Recently (a day before Griffith passed), I posted on Facebook and included a reference from one of Griffith's shows. We were in Virginia, moving our son, the third of our children, who has relocated to start his career. I posted that in one particular episode of "Andy Griffith," Opie accidentally killed a mother bird, leaving three orphan baby birds. He named them Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod and raised them in place of their mother. When they grew, he sadly had to let them go, and I compared that to our Winkin' living successfully in Bethpage, Tenn., our Blinkin' living successfully in Hookstown, Pa., and we had just let Nod fly off to Chester, Va. to begin his career. In the episode, Opie stated that the cage looked empty but Andy commented on how full the trees looked. I posted that our cage was now a bit empty, but the world was now a bit fuller. I felt like Opie, but was comforted by what Andy said in response.
Andy Griffith was an actor, musician, singer, comic. Most of all, he was a teacher. He'll be missed.
Tune in next week for part two.