how do you love?

“I want to tell you about something I saw the other day,” she told him. “something that reminded me of you.”

so she fell straight into the story, start to finish. it wasn’t a long story, and she was doing just fine, even though she felt herself taking deeper breaths as she neared the end.

she suspected this would happen. but it didn’t make it any easier.

“I wanted to tell you that you set a good example for me.

and that you are awesome.

and that I love you.

and that I don’t tell you that enough.”

and then: silence.

the few seconds that passed felt like an eternity. and were just enough to let the emotions creep in. hard.

she gulped back tears as he broke the silence.

“wow. thank you for saying that. it means a lot to me. I love you,” he said.

she could hardly catch her breath now, but wanted to seem strong. the tears were coming. she took one deep breath before answering.

“you’re welcome, dad. I just needed you to know that.”

***

I remember when I was about 12 or so, that I used to go up the stairs to my room and I’d stop before reaching the top, turn toward the living room and tell my parents I loved them. I remember how this went, every time, because there was always a slight laugh, as if they thought I was superstitious or something. like if I didn’t say it, something would happen and there’d be no more chances. it became robotic. I believed I had to say it. so I did. and I meant it, but … it was just … weird.

then, something else happened not long after. I stopped saying it.

my family has never been very openly loving in that way. we love each other, obviously. but we don’t say we love each other. a hug usually does the trick.

I think it struck my parents that my kids, ever since they learned to talk, have always said “I love you” when on the phone or leaving from a visit. they even say it to my sisters. I don’t think I ever told my aunts and uncles that I loved them. I’m sure I told my grandmas. not sure I ever said it to my grandfathers, though. maybe. I hope so. but I don’t remember, honestly.

after this call tonight, I went into the bathroom and literally slid down the door, sobbing.

I also texted my mom immediately, through tears, because I had also spoken to her on the phone before asking to speak to my dad (who never talks on the phone, like, ever), but I hadn’t said “I love you” or gone into any grand story about being thankful and appreciative of her (like I had just done with my dad). I thought these stories might leave them both wondering if I were on my death bed. but I just wanted to make sure she knew I loved them both, obviously not just my dad.

maybe it’s the middle child thing, I don’t know. but I needed them to know and I felt like I needed to explain myself. trouble is, I was on the floor, and could only do it through text. I was a mess. still am, an hour later. I cried harder when she texted back: “love ynz, too!”

today was an emotional day, for whatever reason. and I don’t tell this story for any reason other than to acknowledge that all families are different. some hug and kiss and openly love. some fight, but still love. some are silent, and still love. and some just don’t know how to love at all.

I think we fall somewhere in the middle, maybe. we love. we just do it silently.

and sometimes, just finding the courage to express this love and respect and appreciation is so difficult. and that sucks. but it also is so beautiful when you do.

for any family members reading this, please know that I love you to pieces. I really, really do. I just think we suck at this.

or maybe it’s just me.

I hope it’s not just me.

and for those who find it difficult to believe I have a hard time talking to anyone about anything … well … this is that one thing that kills me dead.

every. single. time.

(and here’s the commercial that started all of this … in case you are intrigued.)

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