Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'll Tell You I Love You

My grandmother has lost most of her words. After watching her cholesterol for years and denying herself her beloved chocolate, it was her mind that went before her body. Alzheimers has robbed my grandmother of her personality, her memory and her words. Despite this, I remember some of them very clearly.

I don't remember how old I was exactly when we had the conversation, but I couldn't have been more than five or six. I imagine it must have started by me questioning why she always told me she loved me. I probably wanted to run and play but was delayed by her just wanting a hug. I don't remember.

However it started, my grandmother told me a story that has stuck with me forever, and I bet that even if she did remember who I was now, she would have no idea how much it's influenced how I communicate with people I care about.

My grandma was born and raised in Scranton, PA. Her grandfather was a Welshman who came to America to work in the coal mines. At some point after getting married, she moved to Connecticut with her new husband who was soon shipped off to war. She moved back to PA to live with her father, her two, much younger baby brothers and her brand new baby girl--my mom. My grandfather was gone for two years during which time my grandmother ran her father's house--her mother having died years before. With the war over and my grandfather safely home, she returned to CT and her relationship with her father was conducted over frequent trips home and the phone. She had another little girl, the 60's came and life was busy. She and my grandfather saved their pennies and built their own house from a plan they bought from a catalogue. Her dad came to visit her in her new house too. I've seen pictures of him celebrating there on my mom's 16th birthday. Not too much time later, back in PA, he died.

My grandmother had spoken to her dad on the phone the day before he died. There had been no indication that he was ill. They were making plans for her to come down soon. She ended the call and told him she'd see him soon. She didn't tell him she loved him. And I don't think she's ever forgotten that--even now.

So years later, when her precocious granddaughter asked her why she always told her she loved her, her response was simple.

The last time I talked to my dad I didn't tell him I loved him. I didn't think it would be the last time I talked to him. He died and I didn't get the chance to tell him. I don't know if he knew I loved him. I can't ever let that happen again. You never know when you talk to someone that it may be for the last time.

Last weekend my best friend lost her thirty-eight year-old brother to a complication related to a surgery that occured a month before. He died in the hospital, by himself, in the middle of the night before she and her parents could get to him. The other night, she cried as she lamented the fact that she didn't get the chance to say goodbye--or to tell him how much she loved him. She worried aloud that he might not have known.

That night as I got ready to pull away, she told me she loved me. And I told her I loved her too.

I was the kid who couldn't fall asleep at night if I thought my parents were mad at me. I actually threw up once because my mom left for her night shift at the hospital not happy with me for something I'm sure I pulled as she was trying to get to work.

I tell people I love that I love them. I tell my kids all the time. Ask them, they'll tell you. I say it in cards. I write it in emails. I don't end a phone conversation with anyone I love without telling them so and making sure they heard me.

I just can't take the chance that it's the last conversation I may have with them.

30 Deserve Mamma's Love:

flutter said...

She does love you, and believe me when I say even though she can't say it as much as she would like, the feeling is still there.

This was amazing

PunditMom said...

Thanks for this reminder. My family was not a big one for telling each other that they were loved. And that stuck with me.

So I tell PunditGirl all the time, Most of the time she's happy about it, tho' I'm sure that will change as she moves into the teen years. Sometimes she just rolls here eyes at me -- I know more of that is to come. But I don't care. When I'm gone, I want the worst thing she can say about me to be that my mom always told me how much she loved me.

And Mamma, we love you, too.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I try to do that too.

I think it can make a difference.

Nola said...

I think it is important to say it. And more important to show it with actions. Great post.

Nancy said...

Although I'm sure I told my kids I loved them all the time ... when they both became teens that went out and got cars, I point blank told them never leave my house without tracking me down. I'd hug them, kiss them, tell them I love them and to be safe.

In my mind, it was because of your very thought ... what if I don't see them again?

I've even waved them back into the house as they are pulling away for my good-bye ritual!

Bayou Belle said...

Love can be expressed through actions just as much as easily as it can be spoken.

Cathy said...

I do the same.

In my case, it's my mom who told the story that has lingered ...

When I was about 8 years old, my grandfather died. What haunted my mother for years was that a few days before his death, she was going to call my granddad for Father's Day. He and my grandmother were out of town and so she didn't, figuring she would call him when he and my grandmother got home.

He died in their hotel room, during that trip.

I've never forgotten either that story or her anguish.

Chels said...

Great post.... Thanks for the reminder

Paige Jennifer said...

I say it at the end of most calls with friends and family. A guy I dated once noted that it diminished the value of the sentiment if it was tossed around so freely. And all I could think was he just doesn't get it.

Beautiful post, Mamma. Just beautiful. Oh, and though we know each other barely and we see each other rarely, I lurv you (wink).

jennifer said...

Great reminder, Mamma. We don't say it enough in our family, but I know we should.

cathouse teri said...

Well that made me cry. I tried to read it FAST, skipping over every other word, but still made me all weepy (as I suspected it would).

My kids and I say, "I love you," every time we end a conversation. They are the ones who started it, and I comply. I've started doing it with my family and my friends. Strangely, it doesn't lose its meaning.

My boyfriend and I, on the other hand, never say those words to one another. Have never once said them. We just know we do.

It's a strange world.

Beth said...

I too say those three precious words whenever I have the chance. Lovely to say - lovely to hear. And I've raised those big boys of mine so that they feel comfortable saying it right back to me - perhaps somewhat abbreviated - "Love ya, Mom" but words I love to hear.

(Hugs are wonderful, too.)

andi said...

Thanks for making me bawl. What a beautiful post, Mamma. I always tell the people I love that I love them and now I'm reminded of why this is so important.

hollibobolli said...

It was so hard when my Grandfather had Alzheimer's - it brought so many feelings to the surface. She does know you love her, as does any parent. I wrote a long post about not getting to say goodbye and "I love you" to my Grandmother (who died from lung cancer) as my biggest regret in life, so of all people I've spent a lifetime learning to believe that families do know it when children don't get a chance to say it. But it is important to tell the people in your life for everyone's sake.

This was a wonderful, heartfelt post.

Mrs. Chicken said...

This speaks to my heart. "I love you" was the very last thing I said to my father in the ER, just before he crashed and never woke up again. He said it back, and as his life's blood was leaving him, he mouthed it at my mother.

Oh, Mamma. This made me cry. In the best way. I, too, always say I love you.

becky_handsfull said...

Very true.

mary said...

Dealt with dementia with both my grandparents. Horrible. I have learned to savor every moment, record it, and share it. And don't let a day go by without letting those you love, know that you do.

Great post :)

carrie said...

This was beautiful, and I know exactly what you mean -- I end every conversation with those I love with the same words.

Suffering a loss definitely teaches one how important it is to be loved and to make sure that you never leave yourself wondering if you said it enough . . .

Mitch McDad said...

Great post. I'm the same way. I'm always afraid this time might be the last, and I try to leave them on good notes.

mommypie said...

Thank you for this post. My daughter's father passed away unexpectedly two years ago when she was two. The last time I spoke to him on the phone, I knew he was sick, but didn't realize the extent. Because we were arguing, I was hurt, blah, blah, blah, I didn't tell him I loved him. And that he was still my best friend, even though we were no longer together. And I think it's my only regret.

I've always told people I love them. And now I do it even more. And I don't care if they get sick of it.

Whit said...

Very touching.

Ruth Dynamite said...

This is hard for so many of us. I am going to try harder to say those words out loud to more than just my immediate family.

Oh, The Joys said...

I love this.

And you!

Paige said...

You know, I spent the final months of my father's life letting him know I loved him. And the last thing I said to him was "I love you Dad. Now go get some rest."

This was a wonderful post, Mamma. Just really moving.

Loralee Choate said...

Oh, there are so many people who don't realize how FAST it can all change.

A blink of an eye. It's all it takes.


I loved this.

Dragonfly said...

I'm the same way, always telling folks I love them, scaring them off. ;) I had a best friend who after 2 1/2 years I ended the friendship because I finally realized I was the only one saying it. Ever. At all. It hurt, and I ended up saying it less frequently because of it. I guess I just say it more discriminately now, maybe? ( is that even a damn word? )

bew said...

Followed a link from Oh The Joys

there's a song you should hear...
On Angel's Wings, by Karen Taylor Good

she wrote it for her mother who was suffering from Alzheimers. I lost my grandmother to it last year. My husband lost his grandmother to it as well.

Love is an amazing thing. Thank you for this reminder.

leaving you a hug

Leslie said...

This was just a lovely post. What a wonderful lesson your grandmother taught you. I'm the same way with I love yous.

Lawyer Mama said...

This is an amazing post. And something I've been thinking about myself all day. I'm going to post about it & I'll link you.

I just saw that you nominated me for a PP. You lifted me up today & I really needed that. You're such a warm, wonderful woman and I'm so glad you're my friend.

xoxo

amanda said...

mrs chicken led me to you and i am so glad she did!! thanks for sharing such a beautiful story :)

luvubye is a word all in its self at our house - so very important!!