Dear Grandma Lillian,
I still remember the last words you ever spoke to me just before you passed away more than 20 years ago.
“Be happy,” you said.
As simple as those two words sound, they held so much weight at a time when I was just alive but not living life authentically. If it wasn’t for those words, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of certain negative situations. I probably wouldn’t have the drive to fight my demons and I definitely wouldn’t have been ready to receive such a remarkable woman, like my fiance Cynthia, into my heart. When I think about all the good that has happened in my life, I know the root of it is because of you Grandma.
Since you passed, you have missed so much of my life. You never saw me broadcast live but I made it! I am a host on national TV, where I cover sports but also use my platform to speak about equality for all people. You never had the chance to meet my two beautiful daughters. You’d be happy to know I’ve done everything in my power to give them what they need and most of what they want so that they can make an impact on society as well. And after all the relationship lessons you taught me, I hate that you never saw me experience true love.
Grandma, we used to sit and talk for hours. You told me how to treat and love a woman. You taught me that I should respect women and that I must get that respect from them in return. You insisted I love and cherish my relationships. I will be honest, I didn’t always listen.
At 15 years old I told a girl I loved her for the very first time. I meant it and I said it straight from the heart. Not to be vulgar, but she looked at me like I farted in her mouth, like I was the biggest piece of shit.
She looked at me like, “What is wrong with you? Why would you say that?”
A couple of days later, she was walking down the hall with another dude. It was at that moment I realized that I would never open my heart again because I never wanted to feel that pain. To this day, and I know it’s been 34 years, it’s still kind of painful.
As recent as three years ago, I was so against getting married again. I didn’t want to move in with a woman. And I sure wasn’t giving anyone a key to my place. For so long, I was still acting like that 15-year-old boy hurt by my first girlfriend. I would never allow myself to fully love or be loved because I was afraid. I was afraid to open up. Looking back, I was not the type of man that I would want my daughters to date.
I began to realize that when I went to church one day and God spoke to me.
God said, “Open up! Open up your heart and open up your heart to a relationship.”
Around the same time I wrote a book, Open Mike, where I expressed my feelings about my past. I was finally in a place to let go and release the hurt. Then, I met Cynthia Bailey, a businesswoman, model and reality TV star, on The Steve Harvey Show.
A lot of people think we fell in love right after we met but it was not love at first sight. It took some time. We would text each other now and then. I didn’t think there were sparks as far as a relationship and I was about to give up on trying to date her. But I never wanted to give up on Cynthia. I just knew Cynthia was supposed to be in my life. There was a reason God brought us together.
One day she just happened to be in Mexico with her daughter, Noelle.
She said to me, “You want to facetime?”
This was the first time that we had ever facetimed. Maybe my smile was right that night. Maybe I had a good look that day. Maybe it just hit her that she was missing out on her blessing. I don’t know what it was but it has been non-stop magic ever since.
I finally am with the woman of my dreams. I finally met the woman who is my equal. She matches what I bring to the table, including her drive and ambition. Cynthia is the female version of me. She always says I am the male version of her.
She even reminds me a little bit of you. You were classy and carried yourself so well. That’s like Cynthia. The way Cynthia acts around people, the way she treats people, the way she is so sweet and affectionate resembles you, too. I even see you in the way she works and the way she parties.
Maybe that’s in part why I trust her so much. This is the first time that I’ve ever allowed myself to just fall. I can just let go and I know that, unconditionally, she’s going to catch me.
Grandma, I proposed to Cynthia and I can’t wait to marry this amazing woman.
I am now in the type of relationship that you wanted for me. I am in the type of relationship that if one of my daughters came home and said, “I have what you and Cynthia have,” I would be overjoyed.
Cynthia’s smile, makes me smile. Her presence makes me happy. Her love makes me want to share our love with the world. My life finally feels whole and just like you wanted me to be, I am happy. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.
Grandma, I am not perfect but I know that you would be proud of the man I have become. I know you would have loved to meet Cynthia and my children and be a part of our lives. But I know what would give you the most peace is not only realizing how much I love Cynthia, but how much she loves me too
Feeling happy, whole and in love, your Grandson,