We've reached an odd place in Western history when a case has to be made for fatherhood, but here we are.
I'm a shameless "Daddy's girl" even though I'm well past the age of a "girl" and "Daddy" is 10 years in the grave. I'm even past grieving at this point and struggle sometimes to bring his face into focus.
What I have no trouble recalling is the power of his influence in my life and the utter impossibility of imagining a childhood without him. It's not that he was perfect - who is? - but he was mine. And because my mother died young, he was mostly mine for much of my childhood.
This particular happenstance is probably what led me to become a champion of fathers. If my father had died young instead of my mother, maybe I'd be a champion of motherhood, but I doubt it for this simple reason: Motherhood doesn't need a champion.
The sanctity of motherhood is intact and manifest, as irrefutable as the umbilical bond between mother and child. Fatherhood is something less certain. Until the advent of DNA to prove paternity, fatherhood was a bond of faith founded in trust.
She says, "The baby's yours."
He says, "I will be his father."
Unlike women, who know with inescapable certainty that they are the parent of their own child, men have had to place their faith in the integrity of their sexual partner. Thus, fatherhood was a voluntary commitment, a quintessential offering of self-sacrifice and surrender to mother and child.
His selfish interest, of course, was tied to his wish to propagate and protect his own bloodline. Even so, sticking around requires a leap of faith that borders on the mystical.
It's really rather sweet when you think about it - man surrendering his less laudable nature, tamping down his more natural inclination to play Johnny Appleseed in order to mow grass on weekends and patch skinned knees for the added privilege of working hard for little credit.
Fathers, in a word, are awesome.
Things have shifted a bit in recent years, you may have noticed, and "awesome" isn't a word you hear much in describing men, unless you've got some little moon-faced twit gaping at a guy's pecs or the angle of his jeans. More often they're deadbeats, losers, rapists, murderers and abusers. Oh, and idiots. Name a TV dad who can tie his shoes without assistance from his far-smarter wife or kid.
Fathers aren't only morons, they're expendable.