“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.“
I think the story goes like this: Wife chides husband, “You never tell me you love me; you never say “I love you.” Husband replies, “What are you talking about? I told you I loved you the day we got married.” The wife responds, “That was 27-years ago?!?!” Husband grumbles, “Well, nothing has changed.”
I challenge you to find a spouse or sweetheart who will agree that once every 27-years is often enough. But what is the right number? Is there a prescribed standard on the number of times we speak those endearing words?
My wife and I have friends in whose home we visit occasionally. They have a lovely daughter in her early twenties. When the daughter enters the room, they tell her they love her. As she leaves, they tell her again. I find that a bit much; matter of fact, I question the depth of the words. After a while, it comes out like a flippant, “OK” that we tend to say many times a day.
In Nancy Reagan’s book Letters from Ronnie, we’re invited to voyeuristically participate in the strong affection he felt for her. Made me wonder if he was that comfortable mouthing the words in her presence. No doubt many men can write the words easier than say them.
I grew up in a family of a Mom and Dad, eight brothers and sisters. We were not demonstrative of affection. We did not say, “I love you.” Nor did we kiss Mom and Dad goodnight. I cannot remember hearing Dad tell Mom he loved her. But love abounded in our family and we expressed it in many obvious ways. When I met my wife, her family was the opposite. They hugged me, each other, and everyone else. I thought they were perverted until I became accustomed to the open display.
Our second born of four children, Eddie, grew up either not able to or wanting to express his feelings and emotions. He could pass by Mother’s Day and his Mom’s birthday as if they were some obscure Tuesday in October. But I assure you the feelings for us and other family members were so apparent in so many ways. He was always the first to express concern when illness befell us or when we were overwhelmed with frustration. Sure we talked about it–even joked about it among ourselves. But we understood his reluctance in verbalizing his feelings. It was “just Eddie.”
Eddie had kidney failure in 1987 at the age of 32 and began his medical journey through thirteen years of dialysis, transplant, transplant failure, dialysis, peritonitis and an ongoing variety of associated ailments and discomforts. As a single man, his Mom and I (and his brothers and sisters) were his prime source of emotional support. He knew we loved him; we knew he loved us. We just never said the words.
On 28 June 2000, Eddie’s colon and bowel ruptured, spreading toxic waste throughout his system. He drove himself to the emergency room and barely made it. When notified, we raced 100 miles to be with him in intensive care. The prognosis scared us. We knew the odds were against his recovery. Following each vigil as we tried to comfort him and massaged his back and aching legs, we would cry as we left the hospital. It was so sad.
On about the fourth day of our visits as his Mom held his hand, Eddie said loud and clear, “I love you, Mom. You’re the greatest.” His Mom said, “I know that you do.”
He never said it again. Eddie died on 21 July 2000 of sepsis after 23-days of intense pain and suffering. Before he died, we each in our own way told him how much we loved him. The nurses praised our courage and marveled at the closeness of our family.
How often should we say “I love you?” Eddie’s Mom would tell you that once is enough when it’s sincere and you mean it with all your heart. She’ll know the rest of her life the loving feelings her son felt for her.