Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful day, that started with an early call and ended in a mournful way.
If you sort of recognize those few words, then you’ll probably understand how I feel.
Thursday, Russell Johnson, who played The Professor on “Gilligan’s Island,” and Dave Madden, who played Reuben Kincaid on “The Partridge Family,” died. And it feels a little like part of my childhood has been taken away.
Those television shows were staples of my tween and teenage years. I sang along with the theme songs and watched the antics of those seven stranded castaways and the musical family. Many of the situations they encountered were similar to things I experienced while growing up.
My friends and I would share the good times along with the bad. And, of course, there were those typical teenage crushes. Who could resist Gilligan’s simple charm or Keith Partridge’s charisma? Not me.
The characters played by Johnson and Madden were an integral part of the shows. Without them, a key component of the ensembles’ success would have been missing. They were like a family’s patriarch.
Their passing reminds me how quickly time flies. Wasn’t it only yesterday when I was watching these television shows after getting my homework done?
Perhaps it was the early morning phone call that made their deaths so much more meaningful to me. My husband’s brother also died that day, and his sons were calling to tell us of his passing.
Because we lived thousands of miles apart, I only had the chance to meet Charles once. That was nearly four years ago. Sure, we would talk on the phone occasionally, but it was the stories my husband told about his childhood and the adventures that he and his older brother had that made me feel close to Charles. Some of their adventures — and misadventures — could easily rival those had by Gilligan and crew or the Partridge family.
During our only visit, we spent several days in Kentucky, visiting the area where my husband was raised, seeing where things used to be and telling tales. Time seemed to travel backward on those days as the brothers were ready and eager to create new adventures.
One highlight of the trip was going fishing at a nearby lake. My daughters loved it and their Uncle Charles loved it even more. He would graciously put wriggling worms on their hooks and help them unhook and release the tiny fish they caught.
No sooner did one girl cast her line into the lake when the other would pull hers out proudly showing off her “trophy” catch. My oldest even caught a fish without a worm.
The expedition included a great deal of laughter, and a few squeals of delight and disgust with the idea of touching worms and fish. They fished until the fireflies came out and they couldn’t see where their lines were going.
And that’s how I’ll remember him. Out on the lake, laughing and giggling just like the girls, fishing.
Another part of my past has slipped away, and unfortunately there are no reruns or theme songs to bring it back.