I know it is two days past Fathers day, but this is an adaptation of a post I did two years ago that hit me today as hard as the day I wrote it. I will re-post this every year, because the response is so overwhelming and I believe so deeply in the message. I would be honored if you read it.Today as I drank my morning coffee, I was reminded that it is Fathers Day. The tears came suddenly as sweet memories of my dad flooded my soul. If your dad is still living, call him, and tell him “I love you.” If he is nearby, hug him. If he doesn’t like to be hugged, do it anyway. Someday you will long to do so. And if you are a Dad, say the words a hundred times to family and friends today, magical words, words we were created to hear. I love you! I love you! I love you!
This one is for you Dad! Can’t wait to see you again.
As we pulled into the driveway to visit my parents I was angry. Still fuming over how it all started several months before.
I had just returned from a ceremony where I had received the gold medallion award for my book Jumper Fables. The plane had leveled off at 35,000 feet and I tipped my seat back to catch up on some sleep. My eyes settled on the baggage compartment where the engraved placard commemorating my accomplishment was safely stored. Then suddenly, I was sobbing. Not the quiet respectable sobs of an adult but the choking, uncontrollable, snot yielding sobs of a child. Tears streamed down my cheeks.
The man sitting next to me handed me the cloth that lay on his seat back tray. I used all of it. The sudden emotional outburst was born out of a deep need. I wanted my dad to see this plaque. I wanted to hear him say, “I am so proud of you.” I wanted to hear my dad say. “I love you.”
I grew up during the changing of the guard that controlled a man’s expression of emotions and feeling. My dad’s generation expressed love by putting food on the table and a roof over the families head. Real men didn’t outwardly express love or sorrow with spoken words. Those were signs of vulnerability and my dad survived three and a half years as a prisoner of war where vulnerability meant death.
I never doubted dad’s love. I just needed to hear the words.
I pulled a piece of paper from my briefcase and quickly wrote the first and only letter I ever wrote specifically to my dad. I poured out my heart. I told him what I had just experienced. I confessed that much of my driven personality came from my desire to please him and make him proud. I expressed my deep love for him and with trembling hand confessed my desire to hear him say the words, “I love you” in return.
I can still see the mailbox and smell the aroma of that morning. For days after I mailed the letter I would jump for the phone each time it rang. It might be dad. He had read my letter and now I would hear the words I was born to hear. Days became weeks and weeks stretched into months. Anticipation was replaced by disappointment and disappointment degenerated into anger. Maybe I,d have to do more, be more, achieve more in order to gain his respect and and hear the words.
Now as we pulled into the driveway after 12 hours of butt numbing travel, anger once again summoned the ghost of doubt. I could feel him probing to find access to my heart. Why didn’t Dad at least acknowledge getting the letter? Did he even get the letter? What will I say when I see him?
We entered my parents home without knocking and were immediately greeted by my startled and surprised mom. Dad came and gave us each of us his trademark wrestler hug. I am sure I was stiff and unresponsive but he didn’t seem to notice. After the initial greetings he disappeared into the garage where old lawnmowers, oily chainsaws and beat up snowmobiles stood as a testament to his master skill of fixing the unfix-able.
Immediately my mom pulled me aside. “I want to show you something,” she said, motioning for me to follow. She led me into their bedroom and with a flair of pretend annoyance she said, “Stop sending your father, stuff. He is turning our bedroom into a shrine.” The room was dimly lit by a small candle sitting on a table against the wall. Next to the candle was my college graduation picture. The wall above the table was covered with dozens of newspaper clippings. There were interviews and reviews of my shows sent to dad by friends and relatives. Nestled among the clippings was an article with a picture of me receiving the gold medallion award for “Jumper Fables.”
Then a small homemade frame caught my eye. I moved closer to see the picture in the flickering light. It wasn’t a picture at all. Dad had framed the letter I had written at 35,000 feet. My knees buckled as I reach for a place to sit on the end of the bed. Tears, snot and sobs made their dramatic and unexpected entrance again.
That dimly lit wall screamed to me, “I LOVE YOU, SON!” YOU ARE MY PRIDE AND JOY!
With an audible groan, the ghost of doubt disappeared never to be seen again.
I have scavenged my brain to remember if there was a time my dad ever verbally said, the words “I love you” unfettered by qualifiers like “I love you but with a Godly love.” I just wanted to hear by themselves, stark and beautiful. If he said it, that memory is lost somewhere. I couldn’t find it.
Near the end of his life Dad could not remember our names. Alzheimer disease had rendered him almost emotionless. Yet the soft touch of our hands and the gentle words,”I love you” would cut through that terrible barrier.
Life had not taught my dad the verbal language of love. I believe he wanted to say “I love you” but didn’t know how. He knows how to express it now, because he is with the ONE who expressed it best of all. At my fathers memorial, I made two resolutions I hope might be helpful to you.
1. I resolved to confirm my love to the people I care for with WORDS. Your family, friends and Savior long to hear “I LOVE YOU”…… Say it! Say it often!
2. I resolved to strive to understand the unspoken language that whispers “I love you.” Scour the candle lit walls. Read the note from your child. Feel someone squeeze your hand. Even if you don’t hear the words, read between the lines and believe that you are loved.
Am I alone here? I would be honored to know how the words “I love you” or the lack of them has affected your life. Has someone built a shrine that screamed “I love you,” into your life. Did you read between the lines? Your comments are valued and anticipated.
- I love you Dad!
Thank you for sharing this. I needed to hear it today.
You are welcome Connie
My dad said “I Love you” many times, but his actions never showed it. I grew up convinced he loved whiskey more than he loved me. Of course it was lies. He was a broken man doing his best, never healing from his own wounds. Bringing him to Christ on his death bed, though, reminds me that someday in Heaven we will get our father/daughter dance.
Writing this book has allowed great healing my relationship with him too, even though he isn’t physically present.
I always love your wise and honest comments Sundi Jo. Thank you
Yes, my Dad was in that same era as yours. He worked hard to support his wife, now of 63 yrs, and 9 children. He sacrificed for us and we always were well taken care of. I LOVE HIM SOOO MUCH !!
Sounds like you have a wonderful dad, Grace. Thank you for sharing.
Like your Dad, my Dad didn’t say it often. But when he did, it meant a lot. He usually showed it in other ways.
The one I’ll always remember, I wasn’t completely “there” to hear. My parents divorced when I was fairly young. But if there was something going on that was important enough that they both be there, they would tolerate each other long enough to be there *for us*.
Shortly after my wife and I were married, I had broken my leg badly enough that I spent most of a week in the hospital and then several months in various casts. During the time I was in the hospital, that most unusual juxtaposition occurred; both of my parents AND my Mother-in-law had come to visit at the same time! At one point, my Mom was lamenting that she didn’t see how I’d possibly be able to afford the hospital and doctor bills. At the time I didn’t have medical insurance. My wife’s Mom later related the story and my Dad’s concluding, “Well that’s really none of OUR business is it? He’s a man and will find a way.” I had my Dad’s vote of confidence, better than any reward I could ever receive.
Thank you for telling your story. Isn’t it amazing how important that vote of confidence from our dad is?
My Dad passed away this past January 2013. I knew my father loved me growing up. It wasn’t a feeling really, it was a knowing. I also knew his love for Jesus because anytime he would talk about his Savior and the sacrifice of His love you could see the tears in his eyes. We grew up learning about Gods love and my Dad was a great example of a Father’s love for his children. I miss him greatly but know I will be seeing him again someday.
“I will be seeing him again someday.” Therein lies the hope! Thank you
I lost my dad to cancer and longed for him to say he loved me and was proud of me… but like your Dad I never doubted his love for me – just wished he could have said it to me. Thanks so much for this post – I had said I love you to a friend last night and felt stupid afterwards – thanks for the reminder – saying it is so important.
You are welcome Linda. Thank you for your comment
I don’t remember if I commented on this when you posted it last year or not but am going to post again anyway. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. My dad let me know by his words and actions on numerous occasions that he loved me. He was not a perfect father but I also know that he did not have a good example of a father growing up and considering that, he did much better than what some other men would. He passed away 13 years ago and it still hurts as much now as it did the day it happened. I wish that I could give him one more hug and tell him that I love him one more time.
You had a wonderful father Sue Ann. Thank you for sharing your story
I tell my father I love him every time I speak to him but he never says it back. I have wanted to hear those words from him for years but he doesn’t voice it out loud. I know he loves me. I am refreshed by reading this today. Thank you for sharing from your heart.
Take comfort in what you are reading between the lines. I pray that you will also hear the words.
My dad has been living in heaven 42.5 years, he died the day after my birthday. He loved his wife and three girls very much. He had his failings but he sacrificed much to provide for his “harem”. I did a memory book for him this past weekend. It was a way for me to find closure and remember the first man in my life. I cried almost all weekend. Did he ever tell us he loved us? Yes, but not enough. But we knew by his actions that he did, not by his words. I too look forward to that day in heaven when we all get there…
Thank you for your comment Gayle. I never thought of it that way but I too have a harem!
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Your words could have been my own, Ken. It is easier for my dad to complain or point out fault than it is to compliment, confirm, or show love verbally. Our relationship today is as turbulent as it was decades ago when I was a teenager. And so often I feel myself sucked back into that teenaged soul of hurt, anger, and disappointment. My dad lives with us these days. I still try to make him happy, make him proud, and still manage to fail at it miserably. For several years when I’d say, “I love you, Dad,” he’d respond with “I’m glad.” Today he does respond and say those three little words in return. But he doesn’t take the initiative to say it spontaneously. I get plenty of strokes and warm fuzzies from the rest of my family and my friends and my Lord so why does it continue to disturb me that it won’t come from my father? I am looking forward to the day in heaven when I believe that desire of my heart will come to pass, when all old wounds are healed and misunderstandings are reconciled. Ken, it was really helpful to get the insight from this post, and to know that it’s not just me. Thank you for being brave and so often writing about your gut feelings and experiences. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve expressed the exact things I feel but cannot say because I feel I am alone in it. I am embarrassed that I am writing this “in public” so I hope you won’t mind if I just sign it with an old nickname… Mari