My personal connection with my grandparents—Wallace and Clara—was very strong, even though we lived over an hour away from them in central Florida. The distance normally would have been a barrier to fostering a relationship, but my parents made sure that we remained in contact with them. When I think of my grandparents I immediately think of music and its role in creating memories while visiting them on holidays.
My grandmother, even though she wasn’t a fan of rap and ’80s and 90s popular music that I liked, she still allowed us to have a “good time” and celebrate whenever we visited our extended family. I also remember my grandmother telling me stories of her time as a young woman, especially when she moved to Harlem for about a year. Those stories helped form an independently, produced web series that I created.
That connection of music, my grandmother’s great storytelling, and my personal journey are all intertwined—and now I am using those same stories, music, and great characters to write and produce a web series based on conversations of events that happened almost 100 years ago.
The top 5 important lessons I learned from my grandmother are:
1. Family comes first, always. Keeping our family together was her priority.
2. Have faith in yourself and your abilities. My grandmother was very religious so her faith was her guide. In turn, I have channeled my own personal faith into growing as a person and believing that I can take risks in life and knowing I will be okay in the end.
3. Have the ability to compromise. In business and especially in my personal life, I have learned that people are appreciative of someone who is able to pivot from their experience or perspective and listen to their ideas and thoughts.
4. Live life unapologetically and on your own terms. She would always say that I shouldn’t let anything, and she meant anything deter me from achieving my goals.
5. Be of service to others. No matter if it is one person in your life or thousands. We all should try to make a difference in humanity.
And similar to her, I live life with few regrets. She told me that regrets are useless unless you want to continue to live in the past. There is too much living to do in order to move forward.
My grandfather was such a cool, well-dressed, family man who worked hard all of his life. Even as a child. He grew up on a farm where hard work is part and a particle of your daily life. I model my work ethic in my life after him as an entrepreneur. It is something that they passed down to my mother and ultimately my siblings and me.
Through their sacrifices, I saw first-hand what perseverance would achieve if I consistently pursued a goal. I applied this logic first to my approach to college and its challenges, then later on in my adult life. He was a quiet man, didn’t talk much, but as I got older I realized that he had lived a hard life but he managed to keep his family together and they felt loved.
Here are the top 5 lessons I learned from my grandfather:
1. Give everyone your full attention when having a conversation. I know it seems simple but, especially in today’s world, you have to compete with someone looking at his or her cell phone all the time.
2. Spread love and not hate.
3. Take time for yourself and do something you enjoy. He loved his car. I don’t remember the make/model but it was beautiful and he loved riding with his grandchildren.
4. Be the owner of your own life. Don’t give others the power to make you feel less than, ever.
5. Making mistakes is ok. Actually you haven’t really lived if you have never experienced something not working out as you had planned. Being human does not come with an instruction manual, a how-to-be-perfect guide.
Grandparents are great in the way they are treasure troves of life experiences and I learned to listen to their advice at a young age.
If they were alive, they would be very proud of how far I have come and the journey I yet to live out and complete. One thing I have done differently was balance work and living a full life or at least become more aware of the changes I need to make to achieve balance. I realize that some people are not as fortunate to have a close connection, a bond with their grandparents. I wish that everyone could experience it because it will remain with you for the rest of your life.
The relationship I had with my grandparents was the beginning of a legacy that I hope to pass down to future generations of our family. My grandparents will live on in perpetuity, as their descendants will hear great stories about the sacrifices, love, and support they had for their loved ones. Music, which once brought us together, is still a major part of our gatherings. Although our musical tastes are not the same, their unity in their love of particular music identifies each generation.
Sometimes the music is the background soundtrack to someone telling a great story of a memory of my grandparents. We get to relive their presence once again, even if it is only in our memories. A mental video of happier times when all seemed right in the world in the eyes of a young kid, with three sisters and grandparents who showered me with their love as soon as I jumped out of our wood-paneled, station wagon. I miss them every day but I smile at how they would be proud of their progeny.
—Written by Terrence Patterson