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 out 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 spellbound 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 lifelike that often I would laugh or cry.

    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 did not seem to mind. But sometimes Mom would quietly get up and while the rest of us was enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places, go to her room, read here Bible, and pray. I now wonder if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.

    You see, my dad ruled our house 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, 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 did not permit alcohol in his home - not even for cooking. But the stranger felt we needed exposure, and he enlightened us in other ways of life. He often offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages. He made cigarettes look tasty, 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 now know that my early concepts of the man - woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.

    As I look back, I believe it was only because of 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 then thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our young family on Morningside Drive. He is not nearly so intriguing to my dad as he was in those early years.

    But if you were to walk into my parents' den today, you would still see him sitting over in the comer, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and look at his pictures. His name? We always just called him T.V.


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