Saturday, November 5, 2011

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Andy Rooney-dies: End of an era

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  • With the death of CBS commentator Andy Rooney, the era of blunt articulation comes to an end.

    November 5, 2011–The news this morning of the death of Andy Rooney struck hard on hearts everywhere, even those of us who live with the Civil War era. For his was a life well-lived, a life that crossed the generations and life spans, hearkening to a time when men were men regardless of age and women were still ladies.

    Rooney was a crotchety, curmudgeonly old man, who probably aggrieved as many people as will now grieve for him. While most of us did not know him personally, at 92 he was someone we have all known at one time or another. His incarnations are everywhere.

    He was the gravelly voiced grandpa we may have seen only once or twice a year, whose friendly, loving pat on the back sent us sprawling across the floor in our black Mary Janes. He was the man you feared to love, but love, you did. There was never a question he could not answer, in a voice that came with such authority you never realized he hadn’t a clue what he was talking about!

    Rooney had probably read more about the Civil War than you ever would, and could tell you chapter and verse what both General Lee and General Grant did wrong, and how they could have done it better. It was as though he actually knew General George Pickett and could have said to him, “George, cut that silly hair and think more about your plan, which will not work!”

    And upon meeting General Sherman, just as easily intone, “Bill, if you don’t do something about that hair, you’ll never amount to a darn thing. And it makes you look crazy.” This being said by a man with the most pronounced case of brushy supercilium on the planet, and yet he would get away with it.

    Think how Civil War history could have been changed had Rooney been able to tell General “Stonewall” Jackson, “Always watch to your sides. That’s where the stray bullets come from.”

    Andy Rooney also fit into the loving avuncular mold, dispensing judgment and wisdom, and I’m betting there was a bag of candy in his left front pocket. He and his beloved Margie had four children, twin girls, another daughter and a son, all of whom are involved in some area of journalism or writing. He had barely announced his retirement a month go when he was hospitalized for an undisclosed surgery and did not recover from its complications.

    Somewhere there’s a battered old desk which he had lovingly made himself, piled high with papers and files and the stuff of which good writing is made, shelves of books haphazardly lined up behind it. And though in later years he modified his religious beliefs from atheist to agnostic, I like to think it’s a pretty good bet that he is now holding court somewhere behind the Pearly Gates, still trying to convince Lee and Jackson and Sherman that they COULD have done better, had they only taken his advice.

    Rest in Peace, Andy, and know how many of us loved you.


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