This post is a little bit different than the other posts I’ve written because I’ve been dealing with a lot of sadness and grief after two of Hollywood’s greatest actors passed away recently, who were also two of my favorites: Ann Rutherford and Andy Griffith. I’m sitting here watching a marathon of the “Andy Griffith Show” on TV Land and can’t help but get emotional after hearing about the death of the most amazing TV dad of all time and the best sheriff Mayberry has ever seen.
I remember when I read about Andy passing away, Tuesday when I got to work, I immediately felt a lump in my throat and remember checking all the news sources to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I’ve watched every episode of the show since I can remember and even have the entire series on DVD, but still laugh out loud whenever Barney locks himself in the cell or accidentally shoots himself in the foot.
I have learned so many lessons from Sheriff Taylor and owe him so much because he really was like a second father to me. Although I never met him personally, whenever he walks in the courthouse, I catch myself saying, “Hey Andy!!” just like he walked into my bedroom after getting home from work. Something about watching the show makes me feel safe and gives me a peace of mind that I can escape into the fictional world of Mayberry whenever life is a hassle or I need a quick history lesson. I still remember learning the Preamble of the Constitution from watching the episode when Barney gets Andy to “hold the book on him.” The scene when Barney’s hair is messed up is absolutely priceless and is just one of the many times the two comedic geniuses made me wish I lived in Mayberry with them.
And what I think sets Andy apart from the other TV dads out there is the relationship with Ron Howard, who played Sheriff Taylor’s son, Opie, during the show. I really think their’s is the perfect father/son relationship because you never saw Andy get really angry with Opie, but instead he sat down and had a good heart-to-heart talk with his son about what he did wrong and why Opie was being punished.
I think the perfect scene that captures the relationship between Andy and Opie is during the episode “Opie the Birdman” when Opie has to let the baby birds go. If you haven’t seen the show, Opie kills the birds’ mother and takes on the responsibility of raising the birds himself. At the end, when it’s time to let the birds go, Opie says, “Cage sure looks awful empty, don’t it Paw?” Then Andy, right on cue, says, “Yes, son, it sure does. But don’t the trees seem nice and full?” I really wish more fathers took time to talk to their kids the way Andy took time to talk with Opie. The world would be a much better place.
Another Hollywood legend I was fortunate to meet on a few occasions was Ann Rutherford, who played Scarlett O’Hara’s sister, Carreen, in “Gone With the Wind.” I was so humbled and blessed to meet Ann back in 2009 at the 70th anniversary of the movie in Marietta, Ga. Truth be told, I was a little nervous about meeting someone who played on the silver screen, but Ann was just as down to earth as anyone I have ever met. When I first met Ann, she took me by the hand and wanted to know all about me and my job. She was so thrilled about everything I’ve accomplished, and even said she was proud of me. When she mentioned she was proud of me, it really hit me pretty hard that someone from Hollywood would take an interest in me and what I do, and that meant more to me than anything in the world. As I learned Ann was having health problems, I was taken aback because she had the same thing my grandfather has, dementia or Alzheimer’s. When I last saw Ann in 2011, I do remember she seemed a little out of it, but she still looked as radiant and as beautiful as the first time I saw her. I will miss Ann so much, her acceptance of me and willingness to talk with me for a few minutes when she had a crowd around her, but what I’ll miss most about her is her determination and fighting spirit that “Gone With the Wind” is known for. Ann inspired me in ways I could’ve only dreamed of, and I’ll forever be indebted to her for her graciousness and beauty.
God bless you Ann and Andy. You will forever be missed. Thank you for inspiring millions of watchers and giving me hope for a better tomorrow. Think I’ll go down to the filling station and grab a bottle of pop and watch “Gone With the Wind” next weekend because there are some crappy shows on television nowadays and frankly my dear, “I don’t give a damn” about them.