I’m supposed to be writing an entirely different blog right now, but this came to my mind so I had to let it out somewhere. (I will leave this one eventually and finish this one later, it’s just my process.) I didn’t hear “I love you” from my family until after my Dad passed away when I was 20. He told me before he passed. He was only 57, but he knew that his life would not be a long one. I was asked to leave the house for the first time when I was 11 by my Mom. She told me to fill a garbage bag and dropped me off at a friend’s house. No phone calls came to me from my Mom or my Dad. My Mom would just show up one day and tell me it was time to go.
Lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching, not because I want to, but because my mental health requires it. I initiated a conversation with my Mom recently about the way I was treated as a child. Why I was asked to leave the house so many times, but not my brother or sister. Didn’t she love me? We eventually talked it out and I sobbed the whole way like a baby, but I understand a bit better. The feelings of being unloved and pain still linger, but I hope for them to heal and drift away sometime soon.
Tell your children you love them. Everyday. People get busy with work or school or just plain life, but this is a priority. Read their favorite story over and over again. Tell them why you think they’re funny. (My Dad said it was my timing.) Don’t tell them they’re beautiful; tell them exactly how they’re beautiful too. Don’t let them think, even for a moment, that someone else in their life cares more for them than you do. Hug them tight, like they won’t wake up in the morning, because they might not.
When I was in high school, I went to my first Catholic funeral. It was for a boy who was found by his mother up against his bedroom door in the morning. Their happy family destroyed in one fell swoop. It was the loudest, most crowded funeral I think I’ve ever been to. People crying and, let’s just say, a few Sarah McLaughlin songs still make me cry when I think about it. I’m sure that he probably knew he was loved, however, saying “I love you” isn’t always enough.
There are other things to say than “I love you”. When I was 16, one of my best friends committed suicide. I felt so destroyed. I had had a crush on him for a long time, but I couldn’t tell him that because 1) I knew he didn’t like me like that and 2) there was a code in my group of friends because he pretended to like my very overweight friend, I wasn’t allowed to say anything. I remember the sting of it all and how my dad came to the rescue. I asked him why. Dad could only say, “You know how many times I’ve tried to do it”. He was Bipolar and the first time he tried to commit suicide, I think I was ten years old. They found him in the cemetery at his parents’ and sister’s graves.
I guess my point is, sometimes, “I love you” just isn’t enough. My friends were my family when I was a teenager. They’re all I had, but now, my family is all I have. My Mom knows now that she hurt me. She needed to know that. I needed to say that. But there’s always more to say to people that shouldn’t be left unsaid. Not hurtful things. My “official second mom” is very sick and I might not get the chance to say, “you made me feel valuable” and “you changed my life”. Sometimes, “I love you” just isn’t enough.
How did she change my life? I’ll give you just two of so many examples. When I was graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, (I was the first one on either side of my family to complete a degree) and, when it came down to the idea of celebrating, my family showed no interest. My “official second mom” however, organized and paid for a graduation party with all of the other people at work. My family wanted literally nothing to do with it. It was a pitch-in and my Mom couldn’t be bothered to even make a dish. It was an emotionally overwhelming day, but I felt so special. I think it was the first time I realized that there were so many people that cared about me.
After my divorce and return to the area, we met up for dinner one night. Other conversation aside, we talked about her first marriage and how being in an abusive relationship can effect your outlook. I hadn’t said a thing about what happened when we moved away between me and my husband. No one had actually asked until my Aunt a couple of years later. But my second mom just knew. And I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
She also told me some other things that had me wondering for days why, if God let life kick her in the face so many times, how she could still be a Christian with such a loving and giving soul. God hasn’t answered this yet. Maybe He never will, but I understand now how she can still truly believe in the good in people. She IS the good in people.
Please leave your comments, questions, and complaints. I want to know about you and your stories.
**All pics come from FreePik and Adobe Stock. Title pic created using Canva.