In The South, we spend a lot of time talking about our Mamas. They are very important, after all. They love us, guide us, nudge us, nag us & drive us crazy from time to time, but are always there to reinforce the strength of the maternal bond. Today though, it’s appropriate to focus on the often unsung heroes in our lives: our fathers.

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My great-grandfather, S.O. Hill, my grandfather, Herman (aka Papa Hill), Uncle Ed & last, but never least, my Daddy, JM Hill.

Fathers, or Daddies (pronounced deh-deez) as we call them in the South, are equally as important but are very comfortable letting Mamas shine. They do all of the things that Mamas do, in more subtle ways. My Daddy has always been there for me, even when I was difficult to be there for. He has shown unconditional love & acceptance, even when I’m sure I tried his last nerve. He is a man of few, but important, words & through his actions taught me how to be a man in this world. He taught me how to be strong, how to show love, what is truly important & what is just noise. Although I can’t recall the conversation word-for-word, when I came out I remember him saying, “you’re my son & I love you”. As anyone that has ever been terrified to reveal their true self to another can tell you, those are simple & extremely powerful words. In that moment, he talked about acceptance of a son that he didn’t understand, but that he loved & would spend the rest of his life protecting if necessary, with six little words. And while I may not need him to protect me anymore, I still remember how incredible that felt.

So, here’s to all of the fathers that love, accept, laugh, teach & protect. You’re great men, but you’ll never be as great as my Daddy.

I believe that what we become depends on

what our fathers teach us at odd moments,

when they aren’t trying to teach us.

We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.

-Umberto Eco

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My Daddy, Mama & Me. 1974.

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