A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our
small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this
enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The
stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a
few months later.
As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. In my young mind,
each member had a special niche. My brother, Bill, five years my senior, was
my example. Fran, my younger sister, gave me an opportunity to play 'big brother'
and develop the art of teasing. My parents were complementary instructors--
Mom taught me to love the word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it.
But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating
tales. Adventures, mysteries, and comedies were daily conversations. He could
hold our whole family spell-bound for hours each evening.
If I wanted to know about politics, history, or science, he knew it all.
He knew about the past, understood the present, and seemingly could predict
the future. The pictures he could draw were so life like that I would often
laugh or cry as I watched.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill, and me to
our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the
movies and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars. My
brother and I were deeply impressed by John Wayne in particular.
The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn't seem to mind-but sometimes
Mom would quietly get up-- while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his
stories of faraway places-- go to her room, read her Bible and pray. I wonder
now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.
You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But
this stranger never felt obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was
not allowed in our house-- not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our
longtime visitor, however, used occasional four letter words that burned my
ears and made dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.
My dad was a teatltaler who didn't permit alcohol in his home - not even for
cooking. But the stranger felt like we needed exposure and enlightened us to
other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often.
He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He
talked freely (probably too much too freely) about sex. His comments were
sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know
that my early concepts of the man-woman relationship were influenced by the
As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did
not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents.
Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.
More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the
young family on Morningside Drive. He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad as
he was in those early years. But if I were to walk into my parents' den today,
you would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to
listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name? We always just called him "TV".