This is an excerpt I published this morning on my blog. Feel free to check out more at http://notdarrendryden.tumblr.com/tagged/personal .

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A Prayer for Mayberry

I'm 27 years old. I grew up partly in the 80s, mostly in the 90s, and a little bit in the early 2-oughts. I am not a Gen-X'r, or a Gen-Y. I'm too old to be a part of the Me Generation, and I don't exactly know where I do stand. I was the kid brother of a big sister who swooned over NKOTB and rapped the lyrics of SWV. I remember when Garth Brooks was still hot in his 20s. The first guy-crush I had was on Jeff Bagwell's rookie card (where he was carrying an equipment bag and had braces on his teeth). The Oiler's were still in Houston. Grunge was the newest craze. Cheers was still in its original run on television. And Wal-Mart was still brown.

There are only a few shows that I can remember watching on television as a young child. Cable was a luxury advent, but we had it on every television in the house. There were only about 25 channels available--half in Spanish--and as one of the Jones's in white suburbia, I can remember sitting in our living room on our teal-colored carpet in front of our white sofa to watch our RCA 32" television from the custom oak cabinetry. Watching television wasn't something our family really did ritualistically, but there are a few times it pops into my memory.

When I got a little older--around 7 or 8--I began to appreciate the humor of situational comedy TV series. We watched Family Matters, Full House, and Step-by-Step. After school I might watch the PowerRangers. And late some nights (after 8pm) I might be able to stay awake long enough to catch Unsolved Mysteries or Rescue 9-1-1. But eventually, contemporary TV lost its edge, and I discovered a cable channel called Nick At Nite. It was the after 6p programming of the Nickelodeon station, and it aired mostly vintage SitComs from as early as the 50s through the 80s.

My grandparents had a TV in black and white when I was a very young kid. They had a color TV soon thereafter, but the novelty of a colorless TV show sucked me in. I feel like this time in my life began to mark the departure from my peers, and as we became a TV generation, the only shows about which I had any authority to speak had all existed some 40 years before my own time.

Patty Duke were the original Sister Sister. Donna Reid was entertaining before Roseanne. 30 Rock are all trying to be what The Mary Tyler Moore Show was. Sex in the City was really a take off of The Lucille Ball Show. Modern Family took a cue from Laura Petri's slacks (only aired once a week). Dysfunctional work places like The Office and Parks & Recreation are merely modeled after the quirky dispatch of Taxi. And a show like Mr. Ed got many more laughs than the talking dog of Family Guy.

Now, to most of you reading this, you've never heard of half of these shows. But they were the foundation of television in America, and the successes of today's contemporary television programming owes much to these shows.

What might be one of the most popular shows in all of American television history was the Andy Griffith Show. You've probably never heard of it, but I can tell you that you probably know a few things about it. You've heard the theme song to it whistled a hundred times. You have probably done something stupid and been called a Gomer Pyle or had someone mock you with a "Well, golllllly.". And the bug-eyed expressions of goofy-old Barney Fife have lent themselves to many a modern-day catch phrase. The show was classic humor before punch lines were only good if they consisted of sex, alcohol, or swear words. It was corny slap stick with a laugh-track to cue the viewer's response, but the tales of Mayberry went down in the hearts of millions.

My Dad might have been their biggest fan. He whistled the tune constantly growing up--and still does--and will watch every episode re-run regardless of how many hundreds of times he's seen it before. Something about that show spoke to him, and I know in many ways, Andy Griffith reminded him of his own father. I never liked the shows a kid--it was hokey and country--but when I was a teenager I discovered that my good friend and early mentor, Larry Hovis, got his start on the show. Larry meant much to me as a young teen and gave me some very valuable advice which I still carry with me today. If it weren't for his big break with Andy Griffith, I can't imagine how his life would have intersected with mine.

Today when I woke up, I laid in bed for a while and started to check my Twitter news feed. Near the top--only some 8min prior, a headline broke from a local news correspondent that EMS had been rushed to the home of Andy Griffith near Roanoke, VA. A few moments later, a friend to Griffith had announced that he had passed away. I texted my dad immediately, and then I felt remorse for delivering such personally tragic news in such an impersonal way.

Griffith was a hero to my father. And short of losing his grandfather back in the early 1980's, my father hasn't truly dealt with a death or a loss of an important role model in a long time. As I sat there waiting for a response, I could see my dad's face drop in my mind. His big, thick fingers hovered above his phone as he stared back trying to form a response as the news of this loss sank in. I could feel his heartbreak hundreds of miles away. But, in his eternal optimism, he responded back, "He was my favorite! He [stayed] true to form all through his career. God got a good one by his side now." It was his way of finding peace in the loss and and comfort in the passing. As quickly as he'd been informed, he quickly found closure. And somewhere in his mind, he was able to smile, fondly remember his childhood, and say, "I was a part of that." A solice, due in part to the generation in which he was raised, but also from the heroes he watched growing up: my grandpa Williamson, my Pops, and men like Andy Griffith.

So, to the people of Mayberry, thank you. Thank you for being a part of my own childhood and my own relationship with my dad. Maybe if television were more like the antics of the Mayberry town courthouse, we'd all be a little better off.

And to you, Mr. Griffith, say hello to my good friend Larry when you pass St. Peter. I firmly believe he'll be there waiting for you as well as many of the greats of your time who have passed on before you.