My dad doesn’t say “I love you” to his youngest daughter very often. That would be me – in case you’re wondering. I’ll stop you right there. Don’t feel sorry for me. He loves me – and all his daughters very much. But that actual phrase doesn’t come out of his mouth very often.
It did on my wedding day – moments before he gave me away. “I love you, Dad” was followed by an “I love you, too.” The rest usually end with, “Yep, be careful.” Or, “Take care of yourself.”
We all know what he really means.
My sister’s and I have made a game out of it. If Dad ever responds to one of us with an actual, “I love you” we’ll all hear about it. “Dad loves me more than you!” is the usual taunt that comes out of our mouths.
I use to think Dad was a quiet guy. I figured that was why he didn’t toss around those three words very often. As a kid, I watched him talk to men after church or strike up a conversation during one of my high school sporting events. Still today when he speaks, it’s always kind. I have never heard him raise his voice.
I wish we had that in common.
What I’m learning, however, is that Dad and I are a lot alike. Maybe more than I once realized. Although he is a soft spoken man, and his youngest is a bit louder – we share many similarities; including story telling. Simply put – we both like to talk.
I have been fortunate to come across a stack of letters my dad wrote during his Vietnam days in 1969 and 1970. They were all letters home – to his mom and dad. There are letters he wrote to my mom, too. But I’m not allowed to read those – yet.
For the past few days I’ve been scouring those letters; meticulously reading each sentence – learning about a very young man I’ve never known. Through his words I’m discovering a common theme in our way of thinking. Page after page includes a bit of humor, sincere concern for friends and family, constant mentions of his wife and daughter at home, a love for the family farm and an incredible pride for his country. Not once did he utter concern for his own safety. Not once.
I wish I could be as selfless.
He concludes each letter with two simple words; Love Keith. No mentions of I love you in any letter. He didn’t need to. Grandma and Grandpa knew what he meant.
What I’ve learned through his letters and from my 32 years on this earth – is that my father isn’t as quiet as I once thought. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t say the phrase very often – because he’s an emotional guy – not a quiet guy. Maybe he’s afraid he’ll tear up if he says I love you in front of us?
I can relate. It’s easier to write my emotions than tell loved ones in person how I really feel. I think I learned that from him.
Fortunately for me, I’ve always known his love – with or without the words. He may not vocalize that sentence, but his actions are loud. His love for all of his daughters is shown through constant support and a kindness that describes the emotion better than any words ever could. I know I am incredibly blessed. We all are.
Happy Father’s Day to the best dad a girl could ever ask for. You be careful.