My family is not shy about the big “L” word. We have found many ways to communicate the word – even if sometimes our actions might convey otherwise. But the reassurance of love served as a net for the times we might not have been filled with like for each other. We might not see eye to eye but at the end of the day we’re family and that means we love each other. At least that’s how it works in my family. So, we have devised many ways to remind us that yes, we do love each other. Even if we’re being stinkers.
I come from huggers. Especially my dad. My older sister, MZ, recalls when she was young they would play a game. She’d try to sneak pass him in the hall and he would stop her and give her a hug. Today, he still gives great big bear hugs.
I remember one time when I was pretty young and my mom and I were shopping at JC Penney’s. Mom held my hand tight and gave it three squeezes. She explained this meant, “I love you,” and the proper response was for me to squeeze back to answer her. I thought she came up with this game just to keep me interested in holding her hand but discovered my siblings also played the game with her. No matter. My final goodbye to my mom’s physical body this week was three squeezes to her hand. I’m hoping she’ll get the message.
Sometimes touch isn’t enough. Not for my family. We also came up with a gesture so that we could communicate across the room. And yes, we use it. It could be surprising how many times a person might need to send an urgent “I love you,” without saying the words. This started years ago with my mom and oldest niece, MM. They held up their hand, palm facing forward with the fingers extended except for the two middle ones. The pinky represents the “I,” the index finger and thumb formed an “L” for love, and then you point to the person with the index finger for “you.”
This might seem obvious but not for my family. “Love you to pieces,” is a phrase I’ve heard since I can remember. It’s usually accompanied with a bear hug from my dad. Oh yeah, didn’t I mention? We often combine our methods. Kind of a double teaming of reassurance. My mom also would say, “Love you muchy much.” Not really with me because we had our super-secret coded hand squeezes that everyone else knew about.
My brother’s family always ends their phone calls with, “Love ya.” For some reason, and no, I don’t really want to delve into the psychology of, I’d always forget to respond appropriately to my niece, NR. She’d finish a phone call with a cheery, “Love ya,” but I’d already be in mid-hangup and all she’d get in return is a click. Not cool. I think I do better now – I just text her.
When all else fails, we also use the traditional, “I love you.” That’s the big gun though and we better have the action to back up the words.
I usually can’t get through a day without having at least one of the messages communicated to me. Oftentimes, it’s a combination. So, no, I don’t doubt I’m loved.