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
am 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. Adventure, mysteries and comedies were daily
conversations. He could hold our whole family spell-bound for hours
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
lifelike, 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 ball 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 obligated 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 teetotaler 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
He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes
distinguished. He talked 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.
The stranger began to discuss personal issues and aliments without
regard to the tender ears that might be listening or the fact that
it was at mealtime - some of the topics caused mom to leave the
As I look back, I believe it was by 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
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 parent's den today, you still see him sitting over
in the corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch
him draw his pictures.
He never told us his name - We always used his initials: T.V.