As I play with baby on the couch, she giggles and laughs and makes all sorts of sounds. She’s trying to communicate; at four months she mimics all our sounds and tries to talk. I reach down and smother her with kisses and hugs. I am mentally transported back in time with just a simple phrase “I love you.”
I’m caught thinking about my dad. I grew up with busy working parents, who have always worked so hard to put food on the table and when possible made time to enjoy family. Oddly enough, I don’t ever remember hearing the words “I love you.” although I have always felt it and never needed reassurance from them, its interesting to reflect on those days and think why that generation shy away from affection.
I know it’s a common thing amongst my age group because we have at one point or another talked about it amongst ourselves. Our parents (various european backgrounds) were raised to be tough and resistant and feelings where not expressed but put on the back burner. Looking back at even some of the pictures of great grandparents its even more evident, no smiles. Gazing at those eyes in the photos, they stare back at me so full of emotions but the expression on their faces are blank and serious. Probably dressed up in their Sundays best and with much resistance they manage a portrait. It was always serious composure with a held up head. Almost cold but very composed. How many times did they hear “I love you?” never. I almost wish i could reach in and shake them. Shake the feelings of what must have been stress, frustration, happiness, and quit often from stories I have heard sorrow. I want to show them what it feels like; to embrace emotion and hope in a simple gesture. I want to tell them I love them; that without all their sacrifice and even silence I would cease to exist. Today, those same three words brought me my dad. The night my dad suffered a severe stroke (10 years ago). The scene still so vivid in my mind. I am kneeling over my dad crying out to him. So vivid are my last words to him, and the smile on face as he faded away. “I love you dad.”
I tell my kids everyday that I love them. First thing each morning as i see them off to school and each night at bedtime. I hug them and embrace them and teach them affection. Expressing my love openly to the kids has taught my mother to be open as well. Every time I hear her speak I love to the girls, I smile. She is free to love and express unlike those before her. I know a piece of the phrase falls on me; for all the times I never heard it. Part of me is reaching out to those of my story who never knew the importance of affection; a simple caress, a mothers assurance, a warm smile breaking the silence. The glitter in her eyes, the beauty in her smile, the enchantment in the sound of her laugh as I whisper “I love you.”