I wondered this morning what I should post for fathers day. I simply can’t think of anything more important than the challenge of a post I have done before.
Please read it. Then, if your dad is still living, say the words, “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!
I love 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. Evidently, before the emotion that triggered this reaction had entered my conscious mind it lived for a long time at some subterranean level of my inner soul. When it was finally exposed to the light it was not a wispy apparition. It was full grown, HD quality, focused and clear as crystal. In that moment I recognized what it was that had wandered below the surface, silent and unresolved for so many years. 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.”
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 don’t think I ever 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. And with anger an ominous ghost of doubt sulked nearby, begging to be embraced. What if he doesn’t love me? Maybe I have to do more, be more, achieve more in order to gain his respect and love.
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 in testimony 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 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 I love you from my dad. If he said it, that memory is lost somewhere. I couldn’t find it.
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 proclaiming “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.
Have a Happy Fathers Day!
I would love for you to know about the sacrifice my Dad made for our freedom. My sister, Candie, recently retraced many of the steps he took as a survivor of the Bataan death march and prisoner of war. She wrote a book entitled “Forged by War” and is available here. It is a touching a fascinating account of how his experience shaped her life.
I might write more later once the tears clear, but for now… I love you Ken!
And you Erica! Your tears are welcome here.
Beautiful essay. Trust me Ken, I can relate, as can so many sons of our generation. The first anniversary of my Dad’s death was June 13. That day I post this.
I was touched by your post. Thank you for adding it to this conversation.
Very beautifully expressed and written. I think God is answering my prayer for healing of my father wound this Father’s Day season. My father did a lot of good things to help others and inspired me with his courage and selfless acts to help others in his mission work. At the same time, I longed for the same thing you did, to hear his words of love and affirmation.
This same concept came up in another blog post I read this week, “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.”
I found out after his death that he bragged to others about something I had written and told my mom he was pleased with choices I was making. I only wish he had told me. But it’s better to hear second hand than not at all.
I chose to forgive what was not, receive what was good and look to God the Father to fill in the gaps. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Psalm 27:10
Thanks again for writing this and sharing so vulnerably your experience. By doing so, you bring healing to others.
Dear Ken, Wow! Did you touch my heart with this post; it brought tears to my eyes! Especially these words “I don’t think I ever doubted dad’s love. I just needed to hear the words.” Yes, I too knew that both of my parents loved me, but those words were never “spoken”… I am now 70 years old and saying, “I love you” to my own two sons did not come easy; I loved them dearly but only recently have begun telling them so. Amazingly enough, they themselves “broke that chain” with my grandchildren who hear those words often. Bless you for being so open and honest AND vulnerable about your life’s experiences. I love you, Ken Davis, and thank God for your witness and testimony.
Ken, I remember your story about your Dad from one of your DVD’s where you spoke at a Gaither Group appearance. I was touched by it then and still am. My Dad is no longer on earth and I miss being able to call him or go visit and hug him. But we as Christians who love the Lord, know we will see our loved ones again one day and it will be FOREVER! My Dad was in the Merchant Marines. He told me they had almost hit a mine in the water and dodged many more to do their job getting supplies to our servicemen in WWII. I am proud of him although he was not on the front lines – he still did his duty as an American. Thanks for your wonderful stories Ken – I never tire of hearing them.
Ken, Thank you for your Father’s Day message. My dad was like yours. He didn’t say I love you, but I knew he loved me and was proud of me. The one way he showed his love when I was growing up was to give me a “dutch rub” on my always crewcut head. That might explain why I have very little hair today. He was so proud of me when I landed a job at KDKA-TV in 1968. It was the number one TV station in Pittsburgh and he would talk everyones ear off telling them about his son working at KDKA. My dad went to be with the Lord in 1976 at the young age of 66. There isn’t a day that I don’t think about and miss him very much. I will continue to effort to tell my two children that I love them. Again thank you for your wonderful message.
Dear Ken, Thank you for writing this for me, especially for Father’s Day. My Dad went to be with the Lord 12 years ago. Unfortunately my most ingrained memories of him are not hearing the words “I love you” but of “Well now, let THAT be a lesson to you!” (compassionate words and gestures eluded him). There are visions of him sitting cross-armed when my family drove out the driveway to move out of state. I had to believe he was guarding his emotions; that in all actuality, he was afraid he would break down and cry because he was so sad to see us go. I NEVER doubted he loved me. The good that comes out of it is the resolve I have to always tell people that I love them. My husband, my children and grandchildren hear “I love you” each time we greet and each time we part in person or phone conversation. There are no perfect people. An ideal father doesn’t exist. Never has, never will. God in His infinite wisdom saw fit to bless me with the father He gave me. For that I am so grateful and take what lessons I learned and apply them to my life.
Thank you again Ken. Tears of JOY. I love you!
Thanks Ken…what a wonderful tribute to your father and for our dad’s too!
Thank you, Ken! I know there are many out there that need to know their fathers love them. My dad was very open about his love for me. “I love you” echoed in our home. My dad was a hugger and that is one of my favorite memories of him!! For those who need a dad hug…check out this song for a musical hug…it’s a tear jerker!!
Happy Father’s Day to you, Ken, and to all dads! I miss mine!!!!
I, too, never heard those ever enduring words “I love you” from my Dad. He actually never really showed any love either yet he lived with us as we four children grew up. It was almost like I didn’t exist. Yet I was always trying to get his attention in some way, either by just sitting by him or combing his hair (he had beautiful black hair). He surprisingly let me do it. I know that alcohol had a hold on him and he didn’t quit drinking until his health demanded it after finding out that he has scirrosis (sp) of the liver and emphesema (sp). One time I asked my mom if Daddy even loved me and she said yes. It’s my belief that he also grew up not hearing those very words as well. Of course I loved him regardless of the trials our family lived thru because of that terrible addiction he had. Although he never did say I love you to any of us kids, I do believe he did love us and there is that small hope (although not completely positive) that he gave his heart to Jesus before he died so I will look forward to meeting him someday in Heaven and if not, I know there are no tears in Heaven.
I enjoyed your story very much about your dad.
Not quite a fathers day story, but, a story about the words “I Love you”. After the wedding ceremony between my first wife and I as we were walking down the ilse as husband and wife my first wife Cheryl asked me that fatefull question, “Do you love me?” I answered her with a wisper of, ” yes, and if I ever change my mind you will be the first to know.” She never asked that question again and I didn’t say the words “I love you” again until just after our 11th anniversary while she was being wheeled down to the MRI machine to see what kind of damage was done to her heart after suffering a massive heart attack. Her words to me were “You broke your promise you said you’d tell me when you changed your mind.” The next time I said those words were on October 11, 1996 in the ICU at Rose Medical center in Denver, CO at 6:05 pm. She died due to the massive heart damage at 6:10pm that same night.
With Cindy I now say I love you more often, however, I still do not say it every day as I want every time to be special.
Ken had to share this. My husband is a 5th generation farmer not that matters , he is a man. We had a dear friend lose his father this past week and the viewing was Sunday on Fathers day, (ugh) The funeral was this morning.
We went to the viewing last evening and I had already called my 86 yr old dad to wish him a happy Father’s day. My husband did not. I kept asking him when he was going to call his (85 yr old) dad, no answer. Hmmm. I finally called him myself.
We saw his dad today at the funeral and my husband went up to him and they both embraced in a very rare, firm hug with big smiles. O.K. so you guys don’t always follow our ‘girl rules’, but it works.;)
Ken, I just read your piece about your father never saying “I love you”. My dad never said I love you in words. In 21 years of my life, he showed me he loved me in so many ways. I just always knew he loved me, plain and simple.
Daddy died the year I turned 22. He never accepted Christ. He always said he would be saved when he could live the Christain life. As he died, part of me died, because I knew I’d never see him again. This Father’s day, at the age of 66, I gave my testimony and urged parents to recieve Christ so another chold wouoldn’t have to see their parent go to hell. Its an awful feeling and loss.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. I’m sure you know your Dad loved you now. But I agree, we should say it as often as we can to our loved ones, especially our children.
This blog really moved me. I sit here now with tears in my eyes. I am glad you learned that you Dad loved you, even though he didn’t say it with words.
My husband has four children and is currently estranged from them, because of circumstances that are too long to list here, but I pray each day that GOD moves in all their hearts and finds a way to bring them back together. He had no father in his life to show him how to be a Father and has tried, in his own way to be a Father, if not a Daddy, but feels rejected at each turn.
Thank You for sharing. Keep sharing and lifting our spirits with your wit and wisdom. Would love to see you if you ever come to Florida one day.