The Stranger

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?  He was our storyteller.  He could weave the most fascinating tales.  Adventures, mysteries and comedies were added to our conversations daily.  He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening.  If I wanted to know something about politics, history, or science - he always had the answers.  He knew about the past, understood the present, and even seemed able to predict the future.  The pictures he could draw were so life-like that I would often laugh, or cry, as I watched  him.

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 current movies, even arranging introductions to several movie stars!

The stranger was an incessant talker.  Dad didn't seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would get up quietly (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 sometimes now, if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.

You see - my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions - but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them.

Profanity, for example, was not allowed in  our house.  Not from us, our friends, or any adults.  Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm.  In spite of this, to my knowledge, the stranger was never confronted.

My dad was a teetotaler who didn't permit alcohol in his home, not even for cooking.  But the stranger insisted we get "needed" exposure and enlightenment on the ways of life.  He offered us beer, and other alcoholic beverages, often.  He also made cigarettes look stylish, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.

He talked freely (probably much too freely) about sex.  His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.  I know now that my early concepts of the man-woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.

Looking back, I believe it was only by the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us even 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 our family on Morningside Drive.  He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad as he was in those early years.  Still, if I were to walk into my parents' den today - you would still find him sitting  over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

Oh, his NAME you ask?

We just called him TV.