My stepfather married my mom when I was seven, and we ranched, did cattle drives, hunted, and fished. He taught me everything he knew about the outdoors, and we did everything together. He was generous to a fault. He just couldn’t verbally express love.
After he had a stroke that largely confined him to a wheelchair, I often visited him and my mother. Our conversations were usually about our times together when I was young. When I’d leave, I’d always shake his hand. Though I knew he loved me, he never said it, and neither did I.
Then the pastor at my church did a sermon on fathers, saying it was sad that men in our society felt so constrained that they never hugged and felt it so difficult to express emotions to one another. I became a “hugger” that day, starting with the pastor as we left.
The next time I visited Mom and Dad, as I got ready to leave, I walked over and gave Dad a hug and told him I loved him. He didn’t reply but teared up, and that became my regular parting whenever I visited. Then my mother died.
Everyone expected him to go first. He ended up in the hospital, and I went every day to visit him, hugging him when I left and saying “I love you.” One day he told me he had something to tell me. He looked up at me and said “I just want to tell you that I’m proud to call you my son.” It was as close as he ever came to saying “I love you,” and I treasure that memory. A month later, he was gone, but he left me a blessing with those words, and I still cry whenever I tell the story. So, for anyone who has a relative who finds it difficult to express love and affection, it doesn’t mean that they can’t do so. A little hug is a great first step.
The Power of Hugs
The Dr. Laura Call of the Day Podcast