Becoming the Fourth


The death of my grandfather has led me to accept the legacy of being Nathaniel Singleton IV.

Until that moment, I’d never seen a person lay on their death bed. The last little bit of life my grandfather was fading away as I looked at him. He lay there with tubes assisting him to hang on.

Until that moment, my heart didn’t sink any faster than then. After hearing about how he wanted to talk to me, I was looking forward to that conversation. I’m just not the person to rush to speak to someone over the phone, so I put it off. Life being short and unpredictable, I can never have that chat to see how things are going.

Until that moment, I never thought I would want to hear about how our family name is our legacy we have to keep building. My grandfather went to prison early in his life and never was able to get his life on the right track. No stable job and income forced him to be a scavenger. These were the pains I looked at to make sure I move in such a way that I will never have to scavenge to live in America. It’s already difficult being a black man with no financial advantages, so there isn’t any reason to give the opposition ammunition to their unloaded gun.

Until that moment, I never began to think about life insurance and my will.

Until that moment, the future wasn’t a thought that controlled my brain. I try to live in the present. This moment, though, altered living in the moment to game-planning days because of the way I wanted to live in the future.

Until that moment, I had not built a strong relationship with my grandparents. My mother’s father passed away before I was even born, and her mother passed away when I was 4-years-old. My grandmother and my mother don’t have the greatest relationship, so I always felt that I was on one side or the other. My grandfather was the relationship that felt neutral with my emotions. The only problem was he wasn’t around much. Family is an important element in people’s lives and grandparents build foundations to the family. My foundations weren’t the most stable.

Until that moment, my family that lives in North Carolina and I never met in the state of New York. My memory recalls only meeting them twice. First, it was my great-grandmother’s birthday party in North Carolina in 2018, and I had just finished high school. Three years later, and I was meeting them for the second time. Unfortunate circumstances but a family reunion.

Until that moment, there wasn’t a moment that made Dad closer to his mother ( my grandmother ) in the past couple of years. Just before the incident, my father stopped coming around after he got into a disagreement with her. My grandmother is younger than you think despite her title. She was active in the U.S Army for 23 years and then worked as a correctional officer, doing all this being 5’3” and no more than 120 pounds at her peak. So despite her small stature, she is tougher just as tough as a full-grown tree, and that mixed in conflict with my father’s stubbornness. Sometimes that rubbed off on his relationship with my grandfather. In the weeks prior to his death, the two were not speaking.

Until that moment, I never touched a dead body. I was so afraid of death that I didn’t want to get anywhere near it. I’ve been to maybe five funerals and couldn’t push myself to touch any of the bodies. This is the man that had me fall in love with basketball and told me I could go anywhere I wanted every time we spoke. This is what pushed me, however.

Until that moment, having something in your possession that belonged to a person that is no longer with us didn’t seem important. Everyone was fighting over clothing and items placed around the house. I quietly grabbed a couple of his ties, a Derek Jeter jersey, and his bible. The Bible is my favorite of the three because in the back pages hold papers that have his handwriting and his interpretation of the Word.

Until that moment, I had reasons to visit my father’s old stomping grounds. However, since his father was no longer with us. The visitations ceased. My great-grandmother’s apartment was no longer her apartment. No more family was living there.

Until that moment, the thought of whether I could have done more never crept around. I looked at life as the adults should reach out to the younger generation because they are supposed to lead. Truth of the matter, love is supposed to be spread by everyone. I could’ve told my grandfather how much I appreciated him for giving me my passion and for trying. Perfection is not reality. I can’t expect life to go perfectly like movies and television and my family was far from it. Should’ve noticed this early and called to extend my gratitude.

Until that moment, death never looked so closely at me.