The Wind Beneath My Wings: My Grandpa, My Hero

John Fountain with his grandfather George A. Hagler, 95, his idol and the patriarch and eldest living member of his family si
John Fountain with his grandfather George A. Hagler, 95, his idol and the patriarch and eldest living member of his family sit together at True Vine Church Of God In Christ, in Bellwood, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago. The church was founded by Bishop Hagler and his wife, the late Florence G. Hagler.

By John W. Fountain

Never judgmental. An incomparable symbol. Of what it means to be a man.

To stand.

He showed us. By the way he walked. And talked: Gentle. Meek.

How to let your actions as a man speak.

Provider. Producer. Protector. He blessed us. Never left us.

Never withheld his substance. His time.

Grandpa played softball with us. Took us to the park. Embraced his family. And others in kind.

Spoke to us like dear children. Didn't bark.

“So at 40 years younger, I stand in his presence. As silence. In awe of thunder.”

A shepherd's heart. In a mammoth of a man. Broad shoulders. Strong hands. Soft to the braiding of his little girls' hair. Gentle to children's care.

Vision beyond his circumstance. Of being a freed man’s grandson. Born a slave. Though the grandson he raised would be the grandfather who would help save me. Show me a better man to be.

His eyes have known pain. He has suffered shame. Withstood the rain, loss, hurt. And yet, regained. Staked his claim on life, frame by frame.

And after nearly 96 years, 35,000 days, 840,960 hours, 51 million minutes, more than 3 billion seconds, he remains bathed in God's grace. A man. In name. And deed. In heart.

A man. Without greed. Or the need to take more than he gave. Not a slave to the whims of "righteous" men who count it not a sin to rob God.

So at 40 years younger, I stand in his presence. As silence. In awe of thunder.

As a raindrop in the splendor of a perfect storm that carries the wind and the elements to fallow ground. That drenches the earth and causes life to resound as fruit and grass and emerald trees. And generations to live. Thrive. Succeed.

My grandfather is my splendid storm. My rock. My tree. The one who stood for me.

And it matters not that I am not his favorite grandson. Not the one who makes his eyes so delight and dance. Not ordained by him. Or the one standing to assume the reins from his hands as the hourglass sifts his life's sands.

It matters not our miscues. Or things misconstrued. Misunderstood. Or mistook…

Only that he took the time to be a grand father. A grand provider. A grand inspirer. A grand man of his word in a land of men who are grand liars.

A grand man who taught me by example to stand. Without fanfare. Without pretension. Without raucous bravado. How to stand. As a man…

And as I see his strength waning. See in his eyes a stare with a hope toward heaven, I feel only admiration. Deep adoration. For the only grandfather I have ever known.

See in his eyes. Hear in his voice when he greets me: Pride. That I am one of his own.

I am his legacy. Bearer of his love of family. Caretaker of his dream: To be more than his natural father could be.

I am the understudy who quietly, in the shadows, noted his every step. Who even amid his imperfections as a man, admired the heart of the man that has always felt a love for God. For those invaluable intangibles beyond things that make a grandson’s heart sing.

And though his steps have grown slower, his proud amble lighter, he has never glowed more. Never shined brighter. His effervescent smile has not lessened. And standing in his presence is still no less this grandson’s blessing.

And though I feel the strength in his handshake without the same power as once a lion of a man, there is no slack in his soul’s stand.

And while I cannot deny the dimming light I see in his eyes, I hope he can also see there is no dimming of delight in mine. For the grandfather who, at 95, and forever more, is the grand Oak, towering in my sky.

The wind beneath my wings. The grandfather who makes this grandson’s heart sing.

John Fountain with his grandfather George A. Hagler.
John Fountain with his grandfather George A. Hagler.
John Fountain at breakfast with his grandfather Rev. George A. Hagler.
John Fountain at breakfast with his grandfather Rev. George A. Hagler.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS