Originally published on July 3, 2012.
I remember the first time I saw The Andy Griffith Show. I was six, and my mom found a VHS tape of Barney Fife’s greatest episodes at Wal-Mart. I watched it so much the tape wore out. After pleading earnestly with her, she replaced it. This time I was much more careful not to overplay the tape for fear of losing the show forever.
That was a childhood fear of mine. I recorded every episode that aired on our TV because I thought it would be a tragedy should the local television station never air that episode again. And it would have been.
Today though, with the death of Andy Griffith, I feel like I’ve lost the show, and something more, for good. In 2006, Don Knotts, the man who could never be separated from the role of Barney Fife, passed away. George Lindsey - known as Goober to TAGS fans - died this year in May. Hal Smith, who played Otis Campbell on the show, passed away in 1994. I still have a local news report on VHS that announces his passing. I was nine then. I cried that night.
I won’t cry tonight - at least, I don’t plan on letting anyone see it if I do. You see, Andy Griffith became my identity as a child. My friend Marla and I were the go-to Andy Griffith geeks as we were growing up. We prided ourselves on it; no one knew more about the show than us. I can quote entire episodes. Show me the first ten seconds of an episode, and I can tell you which one it is. Give me a line, and I can tell you who said it.
Ask me why I love the show so much, and I won’t have a response for you. There’s no one response. I grew up with Opie. I sat in Floyd’s barber shop. I tasted those horrible pickles Aunt Bee became known for. I was there when Barney came through the wall into the beauty parlor after being locked in the bank vault next door. And yes, I was there when Barney asked Opie to ask Thelma Lou if she wanted to go to the duck pond. And like Opie, I wanted to know why he wanted to go to the duck pond with her.
I was a spectator with Andy. He and I sat and watched these lovable people going about their lives in need of our direction and steadying influence. Andy was my friend who I could look up to because he had all the answers. Most importantly, he let me become a part of the town he’d been tasked with watching over. We spent a lot of time together. I would've eaten every last one of Aunt Bee's pickles with Andy if he would have asked. We were that close.
I’m married now, and my wife and I are expecting our first child, a boy, in just a month. I couldn’t be more excited to meet him. But in meeting him, I’m officially leaving my childhood to begin enjoying our son’s. For me in my own selfish little world, I take today's news as Andy Griffith telling me that our times together are through. My childhood will never return.
In my TV cabinet at home I have DVDs of The Andy Griffith Show, but in my closet I’ve got a cardboard box. In that box are rows and rows of VHS tapes. Some of them are tapes of me as a boy running around my grandparents’ garden. Playing catch with my grandma. Flying a model plane with my uncle. The other tapes are scratchy re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show. Scratchy from age, from me reliving my childhood over and over. I hope to share those tapes, the childhood I've stored in that box, with my son.Follow Dave Newell on Twitter.