I have been giving a lot of thought lately, to those three words. About how important they are and how everyone, from the tiniest baby, to the toughest man, needs to hear them. Their absence in a person's life, changes who they become. Just as hearing them too often, with no true feelings behind them, does the same.
My sister and I were just discussing the other day, the fact that our mother has never once told us that she loves us. Never. Basically, I'm fairly certain, because she simply doesn't. After this many years, after all she has done, I probably wouldn't believe her anyway. I hold this against her a lot. Not because I give a rat's behind that she doesn't love us. but because she never taught us to say it. Every day, I am thankful that we kids, some of us anyway, had the inborn sense that we were so much bigger than the world she presented to us as children. We instinctively knew that her way was not the proper one.
But one memory has stayed with me for years, as clear as if it was yesterday. I was seven years old and my daddy was sick. He was dying. I knew that he was dying because, every chance she got, our mother would tell us kids, "Your daddy's not going to be with us much longer." She would say this without emotion, without sadness. Not caring that it ripped our guts out, every time we heard those words. She told us this several times a week, beginning well over a year before he actually passed away. I tried to push it to the back of my mind. Surely she was mistaken. He couldn't die. He was the one who loved us. We loved him. God wouldn't take him away from us. Would he? But, as the months went by, I couldn't deny that he was wasting away. Soon, I wouldn't have a chance to tell him that I loved him. I didn't know how. I was embarrassed. What if Mom heard me? What if she laughed at me? I gave this a lot of thought for several days, trying to get up the nerve. I know this sounds crazy to most. You would have to have lived with her to understand.
One day, I saw Daddy sitting alone in the kitchen, in a ladder back chair. This was my perfect chance. I walked over to him, "Daddy?" He didn't look up from whatever it was that had his attention, "What Baby?" Feeling stupid, I almost said, "Nothing..." and walked away. But, as I looked at him, with his hair all gone, his cheeks sunken in, his beautiful blue eyes seemingly twice their normal size, because his face was disappearing around them, his chest covered in red and black marker lines, showing where the cancer was and where it wasn't, I knew this may well be my last chance. I looked around quickly, to be sure we were alone, "I love you, Daddy." I held my breath, waiting for his reaction. He turned to me and smiled, "I love you too, Baby" Then he hugged me tight. I took a deep breath, the weight of the world, now gone from my little shoulders. Not long after that, he went back to the hospital. I would never see my dear daddy alive again. I vowed then, all those years ago, that my children would never feel ashamed to feel love.
When I finally gave birth to my own kids, I knew immediately that I was different than my mother. Within seconds of looking down into my new babies' faces, I had blurted out a tearful, "I love you!" It was and is second nature. I tell them every day, many times a day. As a result, my children tell me, their fathers, their siblings, and even some friends, that they love them, without hesitation to worry how they might look, or to care what others might think. We'll shout out I Love You's across crowded stores or restaurants, if we are parting ways. The important thing is that we really mean it. I managed to "break the cycle", so to speak.
Many Mother's Days, I have visited my mother, to offer up obligatory gifts and well wishes, only to find her sitting by the phone, boo-hooing, crushed that almost none of her eight children has called. Feeling sorry for herself. For a split second, I almost feel bad for her. I guess because I have the trait of empathy, that I most certainly did not inherit from her. But then I think, are you for real, Lady? Did you honestly expect to throw eight kids into the wind, to fend for themselves, with no help from you. Never hugging us, never mothering us, never even telling us that you loved us, while we witnessed you loving all over drunks and perverts that hurt us, declaring your undying love for them. Did you really think that we would flock to you on Mother's Day, thanking you for doing such a great job!? Give me a freaking break! Any hint of sorrow for her vanishes immediately. I am only there for selfish reasons. Trying to feel normal. Trying to pretend that I have a mother. She taught her kids that love is always conditional and never sincere, and some of them weren't smart enough to ever see through that.
One night the phone rang late. I answered and it was my brother. He had been drinking. He said lots of stuff, but before he hung up, he said, "I love you" I immediately turned to Hubs and said, "My brother is going to try and kill himself." He asked how I knew this. Had he told me that was what he planned to do? "No. But he told me he loves me. He has never said that. He's planning to die." Hubs looked almost amused, "You mean to tell me that just because he said he loves you, you think he is going to kill himself?" This is alien to him, as his family always says they love each other. I nodded. "I have to call my sister, so she can drive over there." My sister went to check on him and sure enough, he had taken a bunch of pills and washed them down with liquor. Case closed. Sad but true.
If you leave here today with nothing else, please take with you the knowledge, from someone that knows first hand, If you love someone, tell them. They need to hear it. It'll be good for both of you.
I Love Y'all : )