Tonight I was called a nut. It's not the first time. I hope it's not the last. When I hear someone call me that, it takes me back. To my grandmother's house on Maple Avenue near downtown Burlington, North Carolina. My grandmother and her daughters frequently, it seems to me now, would talk about some crazy stuff that folks they knew did from time to time. “Oh, he's a nut,” Nanny would say. “Oh, he's a nut,” my Aunt Gladys would say. Aunts Geraldine, Alice Blue and Barbara all used that same phrase at one time or another. So did Mama. Funny thing is, it always seemed to be “HE'S a nut!” Never, “SHE!” It's a sexist declaration to be sure. But that discussion is better left to another time.

I also remember hearing those words from Nanny and Granddaddy's RCA color television. That's the television I watched with them often. And often on that round RCA, we watched many black and white episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” or “Barney,” as they called it. Barney even said it one or two times. “Oh, he's a nut,” Barney said about Gomer or Goober or somebody. Maybe Ernest T. Bass. And, of course, Nanny said the same thing about Barney.

Well, I'm not Ernest T. I'm not Gomer. I may be a goober, but I'm not that one. And though I enjoy doing the cocky “Barney sniff” and belt pull from time to time, I'm not Barney either. Still, I've been called a nut. It happened again tonight by a co-worker. And I love it. I quite often behave like a nut. Being called such a thing brings me recognition. This is a good thing.

Now my grand young-ins are a bit too young to know the real meaning of the word, “nut.” Right now, to them, it's a snack food. They are all North Carolina natives. It's just that none of them has lived in this state quite long enough to understand. And that's okay. They will get there. But until that time, they will have to use their own known vocabulary to describe a lunatic.

Just last week, I was with those youngins. I don't remember what we were doing, but I was engaged with the oldest boy, four-year-old Sy. He was laughing and having fun. And so was I. And I did something. Again, I don't know what it was that I did, but I remember his reaction.

The young guy called me a nut. He just didn't quite know the right words to use. But in his way, he called me one.

“You're a funny old man,” he said to me.

I love it.

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