There were many times after the advent of youtube that Don and I shared a laugh in front of a computer watching this brief 52 second clip. So many times the “down home” humor of the timeless sitcom brought laugher to Don. Even after his illness had developed to a stage where it was a challenge for Don to try and vocalize anything, he still could muster up a cackle for the Andy Griffith gang. Even after laughter ceased, Don would still smile.
On the afternoons that I spent with Don during the final three months of his life, we had somewhat of a regular TV schedule. Up until 5:00 we watched anything on the History Channel, unless there was an afternoon Braves or Cubs game. Then after the local news at 5:00 we would switch to Andy Griffith. That one thirty minute episode that we had the opportunity to watch and laugh at together, in many ways became the highlight of our afternoon. It reminded us of another time. A time when we were boys, laughing at Barney’s misfortunes for the first time.
One particular afternoon I remember as being different. The smile on Don’s face disappeared as we watched Andy and Opie make their way toward a lake, fishing poles in hand. The father and son stood side by side at a fishing pond on a lazy afternoon. As Opie posed some question for his father, I noticed a tear in Don’s eye. I quickly took a napkin from the wooden TV table beside my chair and wiped it away. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know that I let my brother know that it was all right to cry. I’m sure he and Lisa had cried on many other afternoons as they thought about what ALS had done to their lives.
For the remainder of my life I will always think of my brother every time I watch the Andy Griffith Show, and I will smile. My smile will be for my brother Don and the enjoyment that these characters brought him when he was a healthy man, and for the smiles they continued to bring, even after an awful disease had robbed him of so many of the joys in life that he had celebrated with laughter. When Andy closed his eyes, I’m not sure he thought that Cary Grant was in the sheriff’s office. When I close mine, however, I’ll still hear the laughter of my brother Don as he reveled in all the wonders that life had to offer.
Andy Griffith, “Judy, Judy, Judy” click HERE.