There’s a scene in one of the “Harry Potter” books where the character’s mentor Professor Dumbledore spars with a bad guy, releasing magic from his powerful wand to block out evil forces. Even though I grew up in a religious household where my grandmother wanted nothing to do with the books because they were witchcraft in her eyes—and that’s the devil. I always read that scene and thought about her.
She was always a powerful but quiet force of nature who knew exactly what was going on. When she spoke, people listened. People moved. That was the grandmother I knew while growing up.
In mid-October I attended Atlanta Pride. It’s like a mini reunion for my college friends and me; we all travel back for the annual celebration. The trip this year had a double meaning for me, however—after wrapping myself in rainbows, drinks and celebration, I was going to see my grandmother.
In the mid-90s, when I was in middle school, she had a severe stroke that left her paralyzed on the right side. She’s not been in great shape recently; a couple weeks prior she had several strokes that affected the left side of her body.
My boyfriend stayed with me and we were going to spend a few days just sitting with her. To be honest, I didn’t want to go. Remember, my grandmother was the Dumbledore-like character in the story of my life. Powerful. Strong. Mighty. I didn’t want to see her in her current state.
As my boyfriend and I walked into the facility where she is going through speech and physical therapy, my stomach knotted up. There were seniors sitting on rocking chairs just blankly staring at what seemed like nothing. In that moment I knew I made the wrong decision to visit.
We walked into her room and waited for her to come back from speech therapy. As we waited with my mom, she informed me that my grandmother had no clue we were coming to visit—and all of the reasons why I didn’t want to be there started building up in my head.
Then a nurse wheeled my grandmother into the small room and she scanned the area to see who all was in it. When her eyes locked on mine and she realized it was me, a smile instantly popped on her face. I knew I made the right decision.
After the hugs, smiles and pleasantries were out of the way, my grandmother settled back down in her wheelchair and I really got to see what time has done to her aging body. This was not the grandmother I knew growing up; this was a woman who was tired. This is when my mind started to wander. At 80-something years old, what is going on inside my grandmother’s mind about herself? Is there anything she regrets doing or not doing? Anything she wishes she would have done differently?
My mind started spinning with questions and thoughts about life. Why did it take me so long to come out to her? If I were sitting in that wheelchair, what regrets would I have? What would I wish I would have done? In that moment I decided that I did not want to be in that wheelchair one day and not do the things I’ve always wanted to do, like living fearlessly.
For all of my adult life I’ve gone to drag shows. I’ve hosted a lot of drag shows in my 20’s when I was a baby morning show radio personality in Panama City, Florida. I watched as the drag queens beat their mugs in the dressing rooms, stuff themselves into exquisite high heels before going on stage to completely slay it for a crowd of people that hung onto every death drop, twirl and leg shake. I always said, “One day I’ll finally do it, but right now I can’t.” I still haven’t.
In college I had a Political Science professor that inspired me to go into politics one day. She was a lawyer and her husband was a state legislator. I would stay after class and pick her brain about the lawmaking process her husband went through and how she would craft cases. I sat in her office one day and said I want to be a governor or president one day. I just wanted to be involved in the lawmaking process somehow. I still haven’t.
I could go on and on about the things I said I’ve always wanted to do in my life. We all have those lists of projects. As I think about my grandmother sitting in that wheelchair and what’s going on inside her brain, I can only hope that she’s at peace with the wonderful life she’s lived.
Will I be able to be at peace? Will you? We are living in a crazy time right now. We can’t afford to put off the things we want to do in life—time is unforgiving and it doesn’t stop for anyone. I want to remember and always keep that close to my heart so I can think about what it’s going to be like when life slows down and my loved ones are coming to see me.
Miguel Fuller is the host of Miguel and Holly on HOT 101.5 in Tampa Bay and hosts daily segments on the nationally syndicated Dish Nation. See his life in pictures and videos on Instagram @MiguelFuller.