Andy Griffith died this morning. The man I, like everyone else in the world, knew and loved as Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry RFD, one of the most popular series in television history. He died at his home down in Manteo. I’m so glad to know that. It makes it easier somehow. He loved Manteo. People there would hail him, “Hey, Andy!” when he walked down the street.
I never knew Mr. Griffith personally, but I felt I did. Don’t you? We’ve all watched Mayberry RFD a gazillion times, and thankfully will be able to continue watching it a gazillion more. It never gets old. What a gift the man gave us! I have for my whole life wanted to live in Mayberry, and I’m glad to say that I’ve achieved that in many ways, at least in my imagination and attitude, the two places that really count. My own Valentine books have been compared, and favorably, to Mayberry. No surprise. Have you ever watched No Time for Seargents? Oh, do so! And be prepared to laugh and cry. There is so much truth in comedy.
For me, Andy Griffith was home-folks. As if I knew him. Well, all I had to do was hear him speak, and I was brought home to my roots. And he made his home not an hour from my own hometown; he had to pass right through my hometown when driving to his from upstate, as they say. Once, many summers ago, he stopped into the restaurant where just about everyone on their way to the beaches stopped in those days, The Marina Restaurant. My mother worked there then, and I ate there a hundred times. The restaurant had overflow crowd waiting for seating. Mr. Griffith voiced impatience to the owner, who told him, “Would you like me to make these other people wait so that I can seat you?” To which Mir. Griffith said, “Oh, no, certainly not! Pardon me, I was just askin’.” Couldn’t you just see Sheriff Andy Taylor stuttering out those words, maybe with Helen at his side and poking him in the ribs? I imagine him finally getting sat at a table that looked out on the Pasquotank River and eating the best hush-puppies this side of heaven, and saying, “Hmmm-mm, these are gooood!” while everyone at the tables around smiled and even waved, thrilled to be graced with his presence.
Then there’s Ben Matlock. The older Andy. When I give my name for something official, people often remark, “Hey…like that television show–Matlock.” “Yes…Uncle Ben,” I’ll say, and everyone always smiles.
This morning marks the end of an era. Thankfully in film and recordings, imagination and attitude, we can still return to it and remind ourselves of all the best within ourselves.
“Hey, Andy! Thanks so much!”