With Don Grady and Andy Griffith both passing away this week, it has not been an easy time for us boomers. Don, “Robbie Douglass,” was the older brother some of us never had, an easy going and thoroughly approachable teenager (I don’t think we had “adolescents” back in the 60’s) who never complained about the many challenges of living with his impulsive younger brothers, Chip and Ernie.
In some respects, the idyllic Douglass family may have been ahead of its time. “My Two Dads” might also have described their domestic situation, although I’m not sure Uncle Charlie would have been comfortable with that particular title for a number of reasons.
Andy Griffith, a wise and gentle Atticus Finch of a father figure, exuded patience and compassion for the many quirky citizens of Mayberry. A widower, he was particularly devoted to his only son, Opie, (Ron Howard) and he always took care of the more vulnerable members of his North Carolina community. Barney Fife and Gomer “Golly!” Pyle come quickly to mind.
Andy was a selfless father who seemed perfectly content to spend his Saturday nights strumming his guitar while watching Aunt Bea knit. (It is hard to imagine Sheriff Griffith’s trying out an on-line dating service. Even ChristianSingles.com might be a bit of a stretch!)
The Douglass and the Griffith families came of age in the TV world of the 60’s, an artificial world that did not in any way mirror the profound social changes of the decade. (Had either show had one, we would be forced to retroactively fire their “diversity committee.”)
Curiously, both families seemed to thrive without wives or mothers. While Uncle Charlie and Aunt Bea took care of the domestic duties, for the Douglass and Griffiths, it was the widowed fathers who took on the important task of nurturing sons.
At boys schools, we sometimes talk about “images of masculinity.” Andy Griffith and Robbie Douglass are two who, as they might say in Mayberry, “are worth a good pondering.”
(If I were tech savvy, I’d cue the theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show” at this point. Since I am not, feel free to whistle!)