It’s a chilly, gray Saturday morning, and as I read the last page of this book, the first snowflakes of winter began to fall. What I saw outside my window seemed to fit perfectly with the feel of this book. First off, let me say this is not a biography about Fred Rogers, despite the picture on the front cover. Whoever catalogued this library book obviously didn’t read it. It also is not a book about television, despite some libraries putting it in their 791 (television/movie) section. The book is a biography about Tim Madigan, and heavily includes Fred Rogers as a close friend who changed his life and helped him heal emotionally.
While I learned very little about Fred Rogers, I learned plenty about Tim Madison – his strained relationship with his father, his closeness to his brother Steve, his near divorce from his wife, and the changed relationship with his own son. The book was very moving, with me reaching for the kleenex box many times. There seemed to be so much grief and sadness in the book, but there was also a lot of encouragement. Fred and Tim became a support to each other as they went through difficult times. It’s rare to read a story of such closeness between men, but this kind of friendship is something everyone – men included – needs.
Excerpt from pages 20-21:
“With grief there is, inevitably, some times of anger and you know, God can take our anger,” Fred said. “I think God respects the fact that we would share a whole gamut of feelings. I’m a real person, I think kids understand that.”
It was in that next moment, I’ve always believed, that our friendship was born. I had become mesmerized as I sat in his office, listening to him as he remembered his friend, listening as Fred shared so much of his own insides. My mind also raced ahead, anticipating, as journalists too often do, what a wonderful story this would end up making for my newspaper. For despite the intimacy of that moment in his office, I was still a reporter and Fred was still a source. The tape recorder still lay between us, running, as if to provide a necessary barrier, enforcing the journalistic ground rules. But with Fred there were no ground rules. There were just two people, two human beings, together. He turned away from the window, looked at me, and smiled sadly.
“You’re ministering to me, Tim,” he said. “By listening, you minister to me.”