And if I say I really loved you,
And was glad you came along,
Then you were here today...
For you were in my song.
- Paul McCartney, Here Today
I didn't take this photo. But I love it. Here's the fearless leader of Fountain of Youth - with his phenomenal indie movie reference (The Life Aquatic), his infectious smile and his incomparable embrace of humor, joy and life. There are some people who leave an indelible mark on your universe - transforming forever the way you see the world, because of the brilliant color they bring to it. John Fountain is one of those people.
There are two halves to Fountain of Youth. Sweet G is the calm, the actual depiction of motherly love and beauty. She's got the kind of creases at her eyes that come from a life full of smiling. She's patient, she's nurturing, she treats each and every child as though they were her own. She's the strong, quiet backbone of this operation which has been decades in the making.
But Mr. John is the heartbeat. He's the rhythm. He's the guitar solo that the children gather around. When I bring my sons to daycare, they drop everything and run to sit at his feet and listen to him sing to them. Stripy people. Top hit.
He's the adventure in the snow, the trek to the yard to see geese resting in the field. He's their first time listening to System Of A Down, but he's also playing Beyonce and Bach. When he's there, you feel his warmth and his energy, and you feel seen. Wanted. You feel like you matter. He does this effortlessly. He makes a world that everyone wants to be a part of and everyone is welcome to participate in.
We found Fountain of Youth two and a half years ago. I was a single mother - recently and unexpectedly raising my two beautiful sons full time. I needed someone I could trust (and afford) to care for my kids so I could go to work and keep a roof over our heads. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life and I went to bed many nights exhausted and crying, trying to keep it all together for the two people I love most. I couldn't ever have guessed what a treasure existed just five minutes away from my home, when I called to ask if they were taking new children.
Mr. John didn't know what my sons and I were going through when we showed up on Halloween, 2016, for their first day of school. But it wouldn't have mattered if he did, because he treated everyone the same. We were family from the moment we walked through the door. My children, who I was entrusting to his care with little other option at the time, were instantly scooped up in the excitement of a costume party - dance music blasting and delicious treats waiting to be served at snack time. Maybe without even knowing it, Mr. John and Sweet G eased a hurt that we were all feeling when they showed my children unquestioning acceptance and love. And Mr. John, though his warmth was universal, made a special connection with my sons who were longing for a man to show an interest in their lives.
I can't put into words the gratitude I have for this very special couple and their legacy. And I can't really express the grief that I feel today, as Mr. John's life is drawing to a close. Cancer is unspeakably cruel. But I know that he's made his short life here count more than most because I'm not the only person who loves him like I do.
In February, Mr. John celebrated is 55th birthday. He said it was his best one, yet. He was surrounded by his cheer team, mostly thigh-height, some with runny noses and all with adoration in their eyes. I'm always going to remember him this way. Smiling. Making even his last birthday feel like a party for everyone else.
I love you, Mr. John.
Rock and roll.