My wife picked up my phone and saw the latest text exchange with one of my best friends and colleagues, now in New Mexico.
As the sign off I said, “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” he texted back.
She started making kissy faces and saying, “Aww…so sweet. You and your boyfriend.” We laughed, and she was right: it was sweet. It was meant to be sweet, and endearing, and real. Because we mean it.
My son, likewise, stops by my office every day to tell me he loves me. He’s 4, and it’s part of our routine. “I love you, too!” I say, and he trots down the hall with his class.
Unlike some fathers, I say “I love you” to my sons all the time. They regularly get kissed and hugged by me, too. They need to know that I love them, that I’m on their side, that I’m for them. They’ll be detached from me one day, in those sulky teen years, but they’ll never wonder if I’m detached from them, because they’ll remember these years and know.
Another friend of mine is going through a tough time. I text him just about every morning these days and say, “Hey, love you. We’ll get through today.” He needs to know that I love him, even if he can’t love himself.
I say “I love you” a lot, and it’s only increased as I’ve gotten older.
I think part of the reason I say it a lot is because I’ve watched the news these past ten years, and with the number of reports of people texting “I love you” right before the active shooter takes their toll, I’m not willing to have a text be the only time I’ve said it.
I think part of the reason I say it is because I’ve had too many kids sit in my office and tell me that, since they’ve come out, they don’t feel their parents love them anymore, or they say they “love them” but “don’t like their lifestyle,” as if those things can be parsed so simply.
Orientation is not a lifestyle, by the way; it’s a life. And they need to hear that someone, maybe even someone who looks like their parent, loves them for them.
I think part of the reason I say it is because when a friend loses their spouse they don’t hear it much anymore, and they need to. We all need to hear it.
I think part of the reason I say it is because with all the abuse in organized religion, and with so many so-called Christians spouting things that sound nothing like love, hearing someone who works in the faith say it, and mean it with actions, is pretty important.
I think part of the reason I say it is because there are too many boys and men in this world who want to say, “I love you” to their best friend but don’t think they can because “boys don’t say that to one another.”
Yes they do. They need to.
I think part of the reason I say “I love you” a lot is because I’ve buried a lot of people, and I have a really deep and ever-present awareness of time, and you don’t have forever to say it, so say it, by God.
So, if you didn’t know, I love you. Mean it.