“Any man can have a child. Only someone who’s around to raise them well can call themselves a father.”
– Babenon Dosal, aka The Gentleman, Critical Role
Campaign 2, “The Mighty Nein,” Episode 85, “The Threads Converge”
I am going to rush, first and foremost, to add the obvious qualifier that we are talking about fathers who aren’t taken from their children involuntarily, which is an all too common tragedy in this world.
And, another qualifier, I would stipulate that “raising them well” means doing so voluntarily, to the best of one’s ability, without neglect or abuse coming into it… which is also all too common a tragedy.
With that said, however, I thought this was an excellent quote to share for Father’s Day, precisely because it speaks to how it is a man’s choice which defines him as a father.
Babenon Dosal, more commonly known as “the Gentleman,” is the father of one Jester Lavorre. He was a man of humble means who fell in love with a lady, Marian Lavorre, much sought after by many men of much greater means. She loved him, too, and, with the benefit of hindsight, that ought to have been enough. However, he wanted to prove himself worthy of her, so he went to sea to find his fortune, hoping to return to her a wealthy man, and marry her. But his ship ran afoul of pirates, and then he made himself useful in such a way that he became entwined in their criminal community. Eventually, he found himself on the wrong end of a dispute and barely escaped with his life, and by then he’d become a wanted man throughout the region, including the city his beloved lived in, and going back would have ended with him on the gallows. So he went far inland and built himself a little empire in the criminal underworld. Yet, for all his success, and all the pleasures he enjoys, he knows, not so deep down, that his time is limited. All life ends, and his kind of life tends to end with his “disappearance,” his body in a gutter, or his neck on a chopping block. He knows that, and he lives with it.
So, when he learns that he has a daughter, and one who is such a vibrant, strong young woman as Jester, his first instinct is to push her away, to keep her and her mother as far as possible from the danger which will eventually destroy him. He believes that is all the good he can possibly do for them now. And, even more, he knows now that his mistakes cost him any chance of raising his daughter, so, as he sees it, he does not deserve to be her father. No, he maintains that he isn’t, because he wasn’t there.
To be a father, he knows, is more than just… well, it’s more than just getting a woman pregnant. It’s more than being the male half of that equation. For lack of another way of putting it, fatherhood is being a father.
It’s being that man who works and provides for the child out of sheer, overwhelming love. It’s being that man who teaches them, watches over them as they learn to walk, to talk, to count, to think, to feel. It’s being that man who builds them up, day by day, as patient and long-suffering as any mother. It’s being that man who shows them what is right and wrong by example, both in what they say and what they do. It’s about being that man who tells them bedtime stories, sees to their little cuts and bruises, encourages them to run, to dream, to fly, and to get back up when they fall. It’s about being that man who puts in the long days and long nights seeing to their necessities and comforts, sheltering them when their hearts are broken, and protecting them with everything they have.
Fatherhood, like motherhood, is the choice to love wholly and unconditionally. That includes the choice to be there, whatever it takes.
I am lucky to have a father who was actually a father. He is my dad, and I love him, and I am thankful for him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.