Just after my daughter moved into her own place in 2004, I was feeling quite lonely one evening and sat down to watch an old Andy Griffith re-run. The Andy Griffith Show was one of my and my daughter’s favorite shows to watch together. We usually ended up laughing a lot before it was over. But, on occasion, we found ourselves crying a little, as the theme music faded away.
On this particular episode, Opie finds himself the caretaker of three baby birds. It happened after he accidentally kills the mother bird with his new slingshot. After his father expresses his displeasure in his son’s reckless behavior, Opie decides it is his duty to step in and attempt to care for the birds himself. He loves watching them grow. He feeds them, talks to them, and finds pleasure in their company.
One day, Andy tells him that the time will come when he will have to let the birds go. They weren’t meant to live in a cage, he tells his son. Opie isn’t too thrilled with this news. He can’t imagine having to let his babies fly away.
When the day arrives for seeing if the birds are ready, Opie becomes worried. “But what if I didn’t do all the right things?” he asks his father. “What if they can’t fly, Pa?”
His father assures him the birds will be just fine.
As Opie clutches the first little bird in his hand, he says to it, “I sure hope I did all the right things. I sure hope you can fly away. Please fly away. Please?”
With that plea, he releases the bird and is ecstatic to see it fly off toward the tree in the front yard.
Soon, the other two birds follow and Opie is left holding an empty birdcage. “The cage sure looks awful empty, don’t it, Pa?” he says to his father.
His father says, “Yeah, son, it sure does.” And then, he looks up and, in Andy Taylor's inimitable way, says, "But don’t the trees seem nice and full?” as the chatter of birds is heard in the background.
How ironic that I would watch such a bittersweet episode on such a bittersweet evening, which is why I got up and wrote about it in my journal, marked October 13, 2004.
This is just one example of why The Andy Griffith Show is still making families smile today. You can watch the full episode of, “Opie the Birdman” below.
Rest in peace, Andy Griffith.
Gone but not forgotten.