Every year Father’s Day catches my by surprise because I’m so out of the habit of thinking of it, even after four years of fatherhood. After my father died, what started as willful ignorance of the day became a total blindness to it. For over 20 years, I didn’t see the cards, sales, or ads on TV.
Even now, I reflexively delete Father’s Day offer emails. Sure, in part because they’re spam, but also because it’s my habit to mutter under my breath, “That doesn’t apply to me.” Except that now it does because I am a father, but it still doesn’t because I am still fatherless.
I could get maudlin about it. I’m good at that. But my true reaction when I think about it–what comes first into my heart after all these years–is anger. Anger that slices with a razor sharp edge and burns deep inside like a tempest-tossed sea of fire.
When I was younger, I would have put on my headphones or gotten into my car, turned the music up to 11–Dead Kennedys or Metallica, The Cure or Depeche Mode, Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy–and lost myself in the frenzy. But now, for me, every source of anger is a source of energy. What makes me angry fuels my drive to eliminate it.
I use my anger to focus my thoughts and propel my actions, and so it is after all these years of anger at that which killed my father: cancer.
I still like the music, but I’m too old for that kind of rage. Mine is a long, slow, simmering anger that gives me the energy to get on my bike at 5 a.m. on a Saturday and ride 28 miles, or sit on my bike trainer in my living room after everyone has gone to sleep, spinning my wheels, getting hot, sweaty and tired, but getting nowhere.
Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but my vengeance against cancer is heated by my anger. And the best vengeance is success. I’ve already succeeded despite cancer, what’s left is to succeed over cancer–to go on living after cancer itself has been defeated.
And that is why, this Father’s Day, since you can’t give me what I want–a father to send a card to–give me what I need. Feed me the fuel I need to succeed. Support my ride.
“I want my father back, you son of a bitch.”
I’m working to make cancer history. Will you help me?