Understanding A Dad’s Expression Of Love…

My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it (drawing by Diane Mottl)I am blessed with a Dad who makes celebrating Father’s Day easy. He was and is there for me. This is not to say there were not bumps along the way. Like many men of his generation, his expression of love (and other feelings) was in a language that was not always easy to pick up on.

Relationships with fathers can be complicated. Even the healthiest of Dads may struggle from the aftermath of being bombarded with societal message about what is manly and what is not; how to express themselves and how not to; what their role in the family is and what it is not. Many men are socialized into expressing themselves through actions, not words: when I do X for my family, it means I feel Y-Z about them. Sometimes the son or daughter can decipher the Y-Z in the actions, but other times they cannot.

I remember the first time I asked my Dad if he was proud of me (twenty some years ago). I said it while holding my breath, my heart-pounding in anticipation/fear as to whether he would say the words I wanted to hear. I will never forget the look on his face: it was one of surprise that I even needed to ask.

From his perspective, he had been expressing his pride in me for years. He was overflowing with love and pride, yet I had only absorbed a trickle of it. My back had been turned looking for it in a different direction.

It took some of my own growing up to recognize all the different ways that my Dad expresses his love and other feelings towards me. Some are in easily recognized form (we are a family that hugs and says “I love you”), but others are unsaid, assumed or need to be interpreted from actions X, Y and Z. But once I learned how to decipher his language and accepted it, I was able to appreciate the depth of his love.

This Father’s Day I feel truly blessed. Although I have lost one Father (in-law) only one short year ago, both my husband and I learned his language of love before he passed away. We heard and felt his love and pride in who we both are and were able to give that same love, respect and pride back to him.

I hope that the Universe gives me many more years with my Dad, but I already feel blessed beyond words for having experienced the depth of his love — and for being able to give it back to him.

I love you, Dad.

“One night a father overheard his son pray: ‘Dear God, Make me the kind of man my Daddy is’. Later that night, the Father prayed, ‘Dear God, Make me the kind of man my son wants me to be.'” — Unknown

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me.” — Jim Valvano

“An effective father devotes himself to become an instrument and model of human experience to his children…accepts and affirms his children for who they are, appreciates them for what they are accomplishing, and covers them with affection…”– Gordon MacDonald

“Words of praise, indeed, are almost as necessary to warm a child into congenial life as acts of kindness and affection. Judicious praise is to children what sun is to flowers.” — Bove

“A dad is someone who wants to catch you before you fall but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again.” — Unknown

“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” — Anne Sexton

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” — Thomas Campbell

4 Responses to “Understanding A Dad’s Expression Of Love…”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. says:

    My father had a hard time telling us that he loved or was proud of us until the end of his life. Nonetheless, he was a multi-talented person who taught us an awfully lot. Belated Happy Father’s day to you and your dad! jan

  2. Kim says:

    Bucky Covington’s song “A Father’s Love” came to mind when I read your comments about learning your dad’s “language of life”. My Dad died in 2001 and while I still miss him and think of him often, and certainly there is no one person who could take his place, I’m blessed to have a number of “adopted” fathers that bring much joy to my life. If there are any male readers with no children who don’t already realize this…you can be a father figure to child (or adult if you are my age!). The same applies to women without children, as you had touched on in your Mother’s Day post, Diane. Happy (belated) Father’s Day to ALL of the men out there!

    • Good point, Kim. There are so many ways to play a significant role in another’s life. As Johann Friedrich Von Schiller once said, “It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.”