I was raised by two very different kind of families. My mom’s side of the family—the Irish side—is very in touch with their emotions. If I’m going to be honest, the majority don’t really know how to contain their feelings. If they’re mad at you, upset at you, or disappointed in you, they let you know. But they also let you know when they are proud of you, grateful for you, or even generally enjoy your company. My mom’s mom, who we grandkids called Nanny, never let anyone leave her house without reminding them she loved them, and she’s been that way for as long as I can remember.
When she was diagnosed with Emphysema in 2000, she feared that when she were to die, she wouldn’t get the chance to tell her kids and grandkids that she loves them; so just like that, she made the choice to tell us as often as she could. Not much later, everyone followed suit. Every visit to her house and every phone call didn’t end without an “I love you” from her. If you walked in or left her house without giving every family member a hug or kiss—especially her—you were talked about until the next time you came over, so she can tell you how it hurt her feelings.
She was such a funny lady. God, I really miss her.
As many relatives as I can think of from my mom’s side of my family has kept up with saying, “I love you” often. I see my cousin, Rebecca, kind of often, and I can probably count how many times we haven’t said I love you to each other on one hand. I appreciate that my grandma started doing something so simple, yet so reassuring on both ends, to remind us that family means the most.
My dad’s side of the family, on the other hand, is like the polar opposite my mother’s emotional clan. Germans are stereotypically cold people, and seem very distant. I will not deny nor verify if that’s true, but I will tell you that it can be that way sometimes. My father was typically raised in an authoritative household. His own father made the rules, and if you didn’t listen to those rules, you were punished. Simple as that. From my understanding, they had very scheduled lives growing up, and because they weren’t allowed to break out of that mold, my dad felt like he wasn’t given any air to breathe.
So my dad obviously wanted to parent differently. He gave us kids the space we needed to become our own people—although he did watch from the sidelines to make sure we never fell off course. He’s not a man of many words, but he has always been there for anything and everything. And my Oma, his mom, is the same way; she doesn’t really put her feelings into words often, but she has always done things to show them. She’s made my favorite meal for every birthday, she listens to me rant on about whatever’s on my mind, she’s given me a couple bucks when I’m low on money. The list goes on and on, and the way that her and my dad have been there for me verifies their love for me just as much as “I love you” does.
And honestly, I’ve always been a firm believer that actions are louder than words, so I think that’s how you’d know that somebody loves you. You don’t necessarily need the words to be said to understand that the love is there. Both of my grandmothers, as well as my parents, have shown me that it comes in so many forms. I have always been very interested in my grandparents’ childhoods, so when they would use their time to tell me stories, I felt like they wanted me to understand the parts of them that I didn’t even know existed. When my dad shows enthusiasm for his favorite music, he was revealing another part of himself that he wanted to share. When my mom teaches me recipes, she’s expanding my knowledge, and ultimately, our bond. These people who raised me showed me their love mostly through allowing me to learn things about them, which helped me to learn and figure out things for myself. And in my personal opinion, they couldn’t have done any better.
Prompt: How do you know someone loves you, even if he or she doesn’t say it?