I owe a great debt of gratitude to certain people who shaped my character as I grew up. The one I will talk about today is my paternal grandfather.
Burgess was a mountain of a man to me. He was only 6’3” but that seems huge when you’re a child. He was a roughneck by trade and I seldom recall seeing him outside of black work clothes. He was dark haired and tan. His hands were rough and his smile was sincere. He smoked King Edward cigars on the back porch usually with a radio earpiece so he could hear the ballgame.
I remember being attacked by our bantam rooster when I was very young. He walked over from where he was smoking and kicked it over the roof. That bird was kind of tough, barely edible.
His work kept him in
He always kept a garden at my house and one at his own. He loved the garden. That is where he lived and where he died. The days of my childhood were spent in the garden too. I remember the feeling of the soft sandy soil on my bare feet. I would catch horny toads and he would help me pick the grass burs from my feet. I would climb up the windmill just so he could catch me. I think all children love to jump and fall. I could play forever in his shadow as he hoed the rows.
I now know he was up to more than growing tomatoes. He was growing a man. God bless him for that.
When he died I was sad but not shattered. He did a better job with me than that. In fact I think that was his final lesson for me. We talked on the phone the day before. I was away at school and he wanted me to come see him. I had made plans to do so. I even bought the plane ticket. I ended up using that ticket to go to his funeral. This proved to be a major rite of passage.
When the graveside service ended something happened on my way to the car. My cousin Karen needed to see me. Our grandfather was a major father figure to both of us but, even more so for her. Karen never knew her father. He was killed in
That day in that cemetery my purpose and calling broke through the surface of the earth. That day I realized being a man is more than what you do on the field of play, plowing fields or the battle field. Being a man is about what you do for those you love not just what you do. There comes a time when folks need the strength and understanding that no one on earth can provide but you. There are callings that only one person can answer. And on many occasions I am that man. It is incumbent on me not to flee for Tarshish but to stand up and say, “Here I am Lord send me!”
Many days have passed since then. I have held many crying heads. I have hoed a few rows of my own. I know that I can do anything I am called to do. That confidence doesn’t come easy. It only comes from the successes we experience. Those successes are hard earned and hard fought. Nobody picks the grass burs from my feet anymore. But somebody continues to water my life even from the grave.
Thank You Lord, for giving me Burgess. Thank You Lord, for blessing my life.