So I sat. I told him my grandfather had just died. He was one of the few good things I had. I felt adrift. Brokenhearted.
I like to think I didn't go on and on, but pretty soon he was telling me about his grandfather and a boat the old man bought him as a kid.
Mr. Rogers asked how long ago Pap had died. It was a couple months. His grandfather was obviously gone decades. He still wished the old man was here. Wished he still had the boat. "You'll never stop missing the people you love", Mr. Rogers said.
The grandfather gave Mr. Rogers the row boat as a reward for something. I forgot what. Grades, or graduation. Something important.
He didn't have either now, but he had the work ethic, that knowledge that the old man encouraged with his gift. "Those things never go away," Mr. Rogers said. I'm sure my eyes looked like stewed tomatoes.
Finally, I said thank you. And apologized if I made him late for an appointment. "Sometimes you're right where you need to be," he said.
Mr. Rogers was there for me then. So, here's this story, on the 50th anniversary of his show, for anyone who needs him now.
I never saw him again. But that "helper" quote? That's authentic. That's who he was. For real.
When mr. Rogers died in 2003, I sat at my computer with tears in my eyes. But I wasn't crying over the death of a celebrity. I was mourning the loss of a neighbor.