My Paw Paw used to say this in conversations with others as a good-bye greeting. He’d bellow, “Here, there or in the air.”
Although, I only knew my grandfather til I was 16 and my time with him was limited, I grew up with a very vivid memory of his legacy and all that went with it. In my mind, he was a sort of “Johnny Cash/Al Capone/Billy Graham” sort of character. Grander than life, full of colloquialism and most especially mystery.
I knew his story like the back of my hand as my father, his 1st born son, would read the “track” written about my grandfather every christmas before we opened presents.
Following the footsteps of his elders, raised in Indiana by outlaws, bootleggers and God-haters, my grandfather found himself in the Indiana State Penitentiary. He was a hard fellow with 30 day old twins (my father and uncle), a daughter from a previous relationship (my aunt) and married to a teen wife.
While in prison he found himself in the “hole” as they call it. The only way out was to attend a chapel service. He sat reluctantly, listening to a man preach about the cross and a blind girl sing, “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus”. Although, I always thought it was “The Old Rugged Cross” Either way, it was there that the story changed for my Paw Paw. He sat, his mind wrestling and felt a tug on his heart, maybe a whisper in his ear. He began to argue, “I’m not selling out to some sky pilot in the sky!” he said to himself, “I did the time, I can do the crime” but his heart betrayed his hard prideful mind as he began to feel his feet move out from under him. Eventually, he submitted to the call and without hesitation walked towards the altar saying, “swim, sink or die, it’s all the way with Jesus.” And, that was that. He laid his life down, came home and began to serve those down trodden and tired.
As my story continues to evolve I find I am becoming more and more drawn to the past characters in my lineage and the impact this story has had on my life is profound.
I was not raised by God-haters and criminals, rather a father and mother walking the continued path of commitment and service to the triune God. I know they each had to come to a place of surrender and acknowledgement of that path but was it a little easier because of the foundation laid?
I’m not so sure. Although I do believe that environment has something to do with our belief systems and ideal, I think that deep down, despite our circumstance we are all faced with the same question. Do we recognize the “hole” we are in (this can be as drastic as my grandfather or a realization that we have failed to love) and are we willing to swim sink or die to reach up out towards the provision that God has for us?
I used to think that if it weren’t for my grandfather changing directions we’d all be going to hell in a hand basket and maybe we would, but I believe that God is faithful and whether it was my grandfather, my father or myself, there would be an opportunity. I am thankful for my grandfather’s choice and I think his story is amazing but I also know that to live vicariously through his testimony is to continue to live in the hole. It’s just a pretty hole.
And so, the question becomes why does it matter then, to remember our heritage? My conclusion is that it matters because the story of my lineage testifies of God’s presence and desire to connect with all people even those in the “hole”, which is why I especially love my Paw Paw’s quote, “Here, there or in the air.” It’s inclusive and far-sighted. We are one body, all in the same boat. If one of us falls, we all fall. My desire is that we would focus not on condemning those around us but just as my grandfather did, looking in the mirror to see our own junk and testifying about God’s amazing love and amazing grace. I believe that the way to God is Christ and Christ is for everyone.
EXCLUSIVE music video by FARSON’S ARMY, from the Haunted Cassette Tapes release, “REFORMED RAVER” created a video mixing old footage of our Paw Paw to electronic music.