Andy

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Sean Dietrich

By SEAN DIETRICH

Early evening. My mother-in-law (Mother Mary) and I are watching the Andy Griffith Show. We are whistling along with the opening theme song.

Mother Mary is wearing hearing aids. The television volume is turned up as high as it will go, blaring so loud that pieces of the popcorn ceiling are falling into my beer.

We are having an Andy Griffith Show marathon. We start with the first season, episode one.

The plot is simple: Aunt Bea comes to town. Opie doesn’t like her. In the final scenes, everyone hugs. The end. Roll the credits.

Mother Mary says, “TURN IT UP!”

“But Mother Mary,” I say, “the television is all the way up.”

“HUH?”

“I SAID THE TV’S TURNED UP!”

“NO! NO! TAX DAY ISN’T UNTIL MARCH FIFTEENTH!”

“TAX DAY?”

“HUH?”

“MOTHER MARY! TAX DAY IS IN APRIL!”

“WHAT?”

“I SAID, TAX DAY’S IN APRIL!”

“WHY SHOULD I GIVE A RIP WHICH MONTH TAX DAY IS?”

So we watch TV together. And even though we’ve both seen this episode a hundred times, we still laugh at the jokes and whistle with the credits.

Episode one ends. Cue episode two: Andy and Barney catch an escaped convict.

“TURN IT UP!” says Mother Mary.

“I CAN’T!”

“HUH?”

“I SAID, I CAN’T!”

“WHO DID?”

“WHO DID WHAT?”

“GREG!”

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!”

“HUH?”

They can hear our television blaring from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Whenever Barney Fife speaks, the sound of his voice shatters our windows and cracks one of my fillings.

Even so, this is the best show on the planet. I have loved it for my whole life.

As a boy, my friends always wanted to play “Army,” or “Cowboys,” or if we were in Marvin Kowalski’s basement, “Weatherman.” But I usually voted for playing “Andy Griffith.”

I had the clothes for it, too. My mother bought several khaki-colored safari shirts from the thrift store. If you paired this shirt with a badge and boots, you looked like county law enforcement.

I would grease my hair with my father’s Brylcreem before going outside to play and tell everyone to call me Andy. Then, like all wholesome school children from my era, we would spend the rest of the day blowing up local mailboxes with barely-legal firecrackers.

My buddy, Dale, would always play Barney Fife because he was the only one who owned a police cap.

Dale played Barney differently than the Barney on TV. Dale’s interpretation of the character included carrying a Bowie knife and driving a Mustang Shelby GT500KR. He was more like Rambo Fife on performance-enhancing drugs.

We would burn up our afternoon hours playing cops and robbers until our mothers called us home for supper, or until someone sprained their leg.

“TURN IT UP!” says Mother Mary.

“IT’S TURNED UP AS HIGH AS IT WILL GO!”

“SHE DID? WHEN DID SHE CALL?”

“NOBODY CALLED, I DIDN’T SAY THAT!”

“I REMEMBER GOING TO HER DAUGHTER’S WEDDING IN TUSCALOOSA!”

“WHAT?”

“TUSK-AH-LOOSA!”

I got an email a few days ago from a man who lives in Rochester, New York. He said he was afraid the nation was forgetting about Andy Griffith and this worried him.

Well, I’m not worried. I travel to a lot of different places. Mostly, I am in these places to put people to sleep by giving speeches. And at some point during my speeches, I usually whistle the Andy Griffith theme song over a microphone. And do you know what always happens?

Everyone whistles along. And I mean everyone, including small children,  golden retrievers and certain breeds of fundamentalists.

It’s incredible. Once in Birmingham, I whistled the Andy Griffith theme song with 600 people who were all in perfect unison.

When you hear something like that, it feels like dying and going to Mayberry.

A lot of people know I’m an Andy Griffith fan, so I get a lot of stories sent to me.

Like the letter I got from Roger, in Sacramento. He told me that during his childhood, televised Major League Baseball games were postponed so they wouldn’t interfere with the Andy Griffith Show on local channels. “We go crazy for Andy in California, man,” said Roger.

Another woman sent me a message telling me about how her son dressed up as Gomer Pyle for a school presentation. Her son attends community college. He is 43.

A fifth-grade girl wrote me a letter about her science fair project, which was entitled: “Recipes Aunt Bea Cooked.”

I met a 10-year-old boy who told me he watches three Andy Griffith episodes each night. A 10-year-old.

And just yesterday, I met someone whose father knew Andy Griffith. He told me that whenever Andy talked about the show, he’d say, “You know, our show was all about love.”

I can almost hear his voice saying that. And maybe this is why I like the show so much. Because love is hard to come by in this world. Some of us grew up feeling like we didn’t belong. Some of us still feel that way, no matter where we are. Certain childhood thoughts stick with you.

But when I hear that whistling, everything changes.

“TURN IT UP!” says Mother Mary.

My mother-in-law starts to whistle. I start to whistle with her. We are grinning at each other like a couple of well-fed possums. Andy does this to us.

“HEY!” my mother-in-law says. “I JUST REALIZED MY HEARING AIDS HAVE BEEN TURNED OFF THIS WHOLE TIME!”

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