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Delaney: Papa

06/12/12 7:55AM By Dennis Delaney
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(Host) With Fathers' Day fast approaching commentator and former Republican State Senator Dennis Delaney looks beyond the commercial surface - at what it really means to be a father.

(Delaney) I've been wondering why Fathers' Day doesn't generate quite the same warmth that comes with Mothers' Day. So I did a little research on the subject. One definition I found explains that Fathers' Day is when we celebrate the "contribution" of fathers to children's lives - sort of like writing a check, I think, then back to the office.

In tracing the origin of the day I discovered one theory that suggests that it may have originated in 1907, when a memorial service was held for a large group of coal miners who were killed in a West Virginia mining accident. Most of the miners were fathers and I think that explanation touches on one important role fathers play in children's lives. We protect our children and give them a sense of security, even when doing so is very hard.

Recently, while reading, I came across the familiar word "papa" which a little boy, caught in the most dreadful of times, uses repeatedly to seek assurance, safety and love from his father. There are no names given for either. They're just a man and a little child who calls the man "papa," as both struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic America.

Any word by itself can be flat, sterile, unmoving; but folded into this context - that of a frightened child and his father- it becomes profoundly human, a thing of grace and beauty, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. And so it is with the word "papa" in the searing and overwhelming story "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.

The world McCarthy creates in his novel is one of "banished sun," gray snow, dead lakes and relentless cold. Civilization and humanity have been reduced to what the author describes as "nothingness and night." He doesn't tell us why this has happened but we suspect nuclear holocaust. A man, "papa," and his little boy are struggling to survive in the bleakness. They are headed south, along a road they hope will lead them to where it is "warmer."

The bond between father and child confers a small but transcendental grace on a destroyed world. At one point the child wakes up and says "Hi Papa." And the man answers "I'm right here." And the boy replies: "I know."

These few simple words between a father and child strike a small light in the darkness.

At another point the man in McCarthy's story says to the child: "If you get scared call me and I'll come right away." And then he says to himself: "This is my child... my job is to take care of you."

This Fathers' Day I hope that we "dads" will remember that we are all "papa," someone much loved - but also someone a child depends on to feel - and to be - safe.

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