Monday, March 9, 2009

I love you.

I stopped saying “I love you” when I was 5, shortly after she died. I thought that those three simple, monosyllabic, words could kill someone. That I had that kind of power.

“I love you Mom” ...

BOOM! Gone.

Brrrring! Brrrrring! The telephone was sqealing, screaming, yelling.

"Uhh, hello? Oh, god, no. No. No. NO! Ann!!! Ann!!! Katie is dead. SHE'S DEAD! Katie is gone."

Does it matter that Katie's daughter, YOUR granddaughter, was sleeping next to you in your bed (because of nightmares), and could hear your voice? The voice that was yelling out to Katie's mom, my grandmother, she (I) could also hear?

You were gripping the bedroom doorframe, gathering strength for yourself. Was there any compassion for Ga, for me? Were you grabbing that wooden frame for yourself, or for us?

All that little girl (your granddaughter) knew, at that moment, was that the last person she said "I love you" to was gone. Forever.

And there you were ... bellowing that she was dead. Tsk, tsk.

No compassion.

I guess that is what they describe as a wake up call ... literally.


It took a decade and a half for me to say those same words out loud again. When I first said them, I cringed; I thought that a lightening bolt from on high would come down and smite him; my first boyfriend, the one to whom I said them. The feeling of love? I was full of it. The words? I meant. Never the twain shall meet. At the time, I was terrified to combine the two – the addition of feeling and words I just couldn’t do. Couldn’t handle. It was too terrifying. My soul felt like it was going to be torn. When I said them out loud to him, I thought quietly to myself, “I hate you”. It was akin to not stepping on a crack to keep mother’s back intact. I was trying to balance the feelings. The words. The intent. It was to save your life (or so I thought).

My aching heart? It would bleed.


Almost 3 decades later, I still have a hard time saying those three simple syllables. Instead of light and happiness, there is still fear, darkness, and loss tied into those words; more specifically the order in which they are said.

Many times (too many to count) I wished I had said those these words:




Say them with me.


Just saying them out loud – separately – it’s not so hard, right? Said separately, they are easy – like reading off a grocery list. They are words that we use every day, in many different contexts.

Stating, saying, and feeling those simple words, in that SPECIFIC order … that can, and is, terrifying.

Still ...


Why the fuck are we so scared of how our love will be taken. Perceived?

Why can we not tell someone we love someone, without fearing how THEY will take it? Are our emotions only true, dependent, and worth something on how the other person sees feels those emotions?

Can I/you/we not love someone? Whether or not they love me/you/us back? Does it HAVE to be a two-way street?

It is comfortable when the one way turns into two-way; in fact … it’s easier. That pent up breath that you didn’t know you were holding? It finally comes bursting out. "I love you."

"I love you too." PHEW! Why the hell are we so afraid to voice what we feel? Why can’t we allow our heart to speak the truth? Damn the consequences!


Thinking back, I remember a couple (maybe two, maybe six, maybe four) times that I actually told Dad (out loud) that I loved him. Out loud. There were only a couple of times that the words “love”, “I”, and “you” came out in the correct, and in the right, order.

The correct order. That was felt. All at once. That small handful … said out loud … well, the amount of times I said it? It makes me feel like a shithead.

The terror I felt, from trying to voice those three words, would always tie up my throat. (I mean, I told Mom numerous times that I loved her. And Dad. And a random assortment of family. But then? Then she died. Were my words enough to kill? I didn’t want to take chances, so those simple words were stricken from my spoken lexicon. Nobody heard those words for a long, long time.)

I know, know down to my heart and marrow, that Dad knew that I loved him. But there are times …

... there are times that I wish I could have overcome my own self-imposed fear. Not only for him, but also for me.

They are just words, right? Just sounds that are made – starting at the lungs with an inhale, exhale. Let it out. Let it go through the vocal chords and zenith over the tongue and through the mouth. How hard is that?






Three syllables. Three breaths. Three short sounds to make.


Just saying “I love you” was hard enough. Words can be insubstantial. The wind can catch, and take away, anything said. The words out of your mouth are ever changing – a dust mote caught in the sunlight. Never permanent. It twists, and can be twisted. It can be carried away.

Written down though? Said AND felt?

Those words can haunt you.

They are palpable.


Tanya, one of my nearest and dearest friends, taught me the power and sanctuary of saying, and feeling, those three words. Those words said, and felt, in the correct order. Many times she said them to me. I kept pushing her away. She didn’t care – she was saying her own truth. Finally, finally, I accepted them. She taught me how to love myself. Not in any perceptible way. There was no “a-ha!” moment; her words, and feelings, wriggled themselves into my psyche. She created a chink in my emotional wall that went both ways. I opened myself up to love from the outside, and it penetrated my own inside workings.

She loved and accepted me – warts and all. By doing that, by feeling that, and by stating that vocally … she allowed me to open up just enough to love myself.

Many friends and family did the same thing, and they all created the cracks. Each and every one of them had a hand in breaking down my walls. But Tanya was the one who was the most persistent and adamant in her feelings. And one of the most vocal.


There was a time that I was used to, but not yet comfortable with, saying “I love you”; the next step was actually writing down those words.

It was easier to stop cutting my wrists than it was to actually put pen to paper and permanently etch those feelings. The act of writing was more permanent – it was not as ethereal as just saying something What if the object of my love died? Or didn’t reciprocate those feelings? Did that mean that my words, and heart, killed them?

That was my experience – my words killed.

It wasn’t until later that I finally realized that my words, my feelings, were just a victim of circumstance. That by saying “I love you” – it didn’t mean an automatic death sentence. It actually meant growth. And life.

Withholding my true feelings not only hurt(s) friends and family, it also hurt(s) myself. I know that Dad would have liked to hear me actually tell him that I loved him more often than I actually did.

But I also know that he just knew I did.


“I love you Bubba.”

“You too.”

Even though I couldn’t say it, he still felt it.

He, however, was able to say (and feel) it.

Learning ... I'm learning.


Superglue is one of the greatest inventions – it allows you to put back together pieces to where it’s almost whole again ...

In that vein, I’m mostly put back together.

The breaks, the chinks, the cracks, they are all still visible. But by showing them, I’m also showing that I have been used, and loved. I am not perfect, but I am still adored.

“I love you” is no longer something to fear. It is no longer an invective. They are now words that I embrace. They are words that I live. They are words that I feel.

They are words I now say.

And feel.

Now? Down to my marrow, my soul, I feel and live them.


I wish I could have said those words aloud in life, instead of waiting until we were both broken: me, grasping the flag to my chest – he, being lowered into the ground.

At that moment, he was complete – laid to rest with Mom. His pain finally subsided.

I was the one still broken.


To those who are reading these black words on a white page? I say this to YOU, without fear …without reprisal ...

I love you.

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