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Happy Father's Day. I was once told that angels walked the earth. This was so very easy for me to believe. Why? Because I was molded by the best of them. My Dad, Grandfathers, Uncles, and Godfathers. All of them Strongtowers and examples of what a real man should be.

I used to tell people that before I knew that there was a Batman, Superman or Blank Panther, I had already seen these supernatural powers in work in my home and my village. The African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I would like to humbly add on to that it also takes a village to support and guard a child. Never in my life did I feel unprotected and defenseless. Never in my life did I feel unwanted and loved. These emotions are usually expressed when dealing with the female counterpart of a loving family, but these men gave me this and so much more.

I remember preparing to go off to college, and you religious folks may just have heart palpitations on this one, my Granddaddy William C, pulled me into the backyard of his house and presented me with a gift. But, not just any gift, a knife. You see, I was heading off to the city (Richmond, VA) which was an hour and a half away from my family. He wanted me to be able to protect myself should anything happen. Once I got my driver’s license at 16, my granddaddy Frank taught me how to change my car tire. I remember him telling me that a woman shouldn't be stuck out on the road by herself. That day, I also learned how to put a little gas in the carburetor if the car wouldn't start (disclaimer: this was for a 1970s/1980s car, please DO NOT do this now). My grandfathers not only taught their children but also their grandchildren with all the love and knowledge they possessed. Silent in their homes but their messages rang out loud a clear. A man loves, honors, and protects his home. He never neglects his responsibilities, no matter how difficult they may be.

My uncles are a mix group of wonderfulness. Charles, Melvin, Reginald, Vernon, Gerald, Richard, Keith, Mike, Chester, Milt, and George. They constantly serve as reminders of how to stand tall and never waiver on your beliefs. Protectors. I could easily have gone to any of their homes and felt safe. Knowledgeable. Their different experiences in life allowed them to give you a viewpoint from many different aspects. Loving. Seeing them love on their wives and children, made us understand that real men didn't have to step outside of their vows to know and show love. Compassionate. I remember being taught how to drive a stick shift. My father had no patience for me. But my Uncle Milt did. He just happened to come to the house one day and where my Pops had gotten frustrated, he moved him out of the driver's seat and took me for a spend. No matter how many times I messed up he gently coaxed me back to point A and we started all over again. When we got back, I'm sure his head was hurting from the constant start and stopping. Joy and Happiness. Laughter is good for the sole and this is a lesson I learned at many a family gathering where joy was spread like a ray of sunshine and laughter could be heard blocks away. My uncles would constantly joke with each other and on each other. But all was done in fun during a time when love and laughter were part of the everyday experience of childhood. Blessings to the memories of my Uncles Vernon, Reginald, and Milt.

My village encompassed two more houses, those of my Godfathers. They were always there to give a supportive hand, a clap on the back, or a lecture if you needed it. My Aunt Barbara was the official childcare provider for my son, Taron, but it was my Uncle Jack (I call my Godparents Aunt and Uncle so you won't be confused) that would pick him up and have him sitting in the den with him eating ice cream, watching tv, laughing and playing. Uncle Zack (as Taron called him) always had his cape on and flying in the wind. We miss you so very much. Uncle Frog (Greg) has always been the one to check on me to make sure that everything is alright. Even now, in my 40s, I have to check in periodically to let him know that my house is okay. He never leaves his post. And knowing that he's there gives me an insurmountable feeling of protection and love.

This is the hardest one. My Daddy. Although he has transitioned into eternal life, his love for me and my house surpasses all time. There are days when the weight of the world seems so very heavy. I stop and breathe and hear him in my ear pushing me to keep going, never give up. My Pops was (and still is) my coach. There were times as a grown woman that I would face adversity at work and would call him and cry and cry. He let me get it all out then he would coach me back to facing the issue head on. "Never let them see you sweat Baby Girl. They don't deserve to see your tears." His advice stays with on those days when I want to scream. Then there are days where I play the oldies of Motown and I hear him singing along. That voice. I know it. It was the voice that encouraged, guided, and scolded me. It was the voice that I longed to hear good job from and ran and hide from when I did something wrong. That voice, that man, that love. I love and miss you daddy.

I thank each and every real man that has come into my life to be a strong tower. None of you came for a season but for a reason and a lifetime. I thank you for the love, guidance, and wisdom you bestowed upon me and Taron that he will prayfully pass onto the next generation (no time soon!!!).

Love and blessings

- - Nakya

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