Tell ‘Em You Love “Em

I grew up in a large, energetic, loud, happy, loving family. And talk about interacting! We all held a carload of opinions, which we freely shared at every opportunity. And sometimes even when an opportunity refused to present itself.

Family conversations were verbal melees. Waiting for a break in the conversation to say your piece meant you remained silent. Joining the conversation involved jumping in at full volume, continuing until you finally got the floor. Or you gave up. None of us were much on giving up.

We spoke of many things in our far-ranging conversations. But we didn’t talk much about love. We felt love, and our actions exhibited love. But our words? Not so much.

Well, one fine day, some time after I left the nest to go out on my own, I decided not to stay silent about love. I can’t remember what prompted me in this direction, but I committed myself to saying “I love you” to people whom I did, in fact, love.

As it turned out, announcing the magic words to somebody not accustomed to hearing them–at least not from you–can leave them pretty speechless.

Ending visits or phone conversations with my new way of saying good-bye inspired varying responses. Perhaps stone-cold silence accompanied by looks of wonder or a certain amount of stammering confusion.

But, as I mentioned, none of us were much on giving up, so I persisted. I persuaded myself that although nobody seemed able to muster up a response, deep down they really liked it.

As time–and my inevitable closing remark–went on, most came up with some kind of response. Even an “I love you, too.” from time to time. Hubba hubba!

But one brother decided the proper thing was to say “Thank you.” A close friend decided on “Yes.” And so it went.

My mother-in-law never got comfortable with the whole business. Feeling called on to respond, but not knowing what to say, she kind of gobbled. A ladylike, mini-gobble, but not real words.

My mom fell into a rote recitation. Proper certainly, but restrained.

On the other hand, my dad–after a couple of deer-in-the-headlights reactions–got on board big time. He loved that I loved him, and even more that I told him so.

I called my parents every week-end. Being a Daddy’s girl, I spoke mostly with my dad. And each week, when our conversations ended, he saw my “I love you, Daddy” as an invitation, and his deep, bass voice rumbled, “I love you, too, Bette” with feeling.

I called one Saturday afternoon and learned he’d been in bed pretty much all day, feeling tired and not well. We talked for an hour as I tried to lift his spirits. It seemed to work. He even chuckled a few times.

Finally, we ended the conversation with our professions of love and hung up.

Four hours later, my sister called to say that Daddy had died. He was gone. Now this Daddy’s girl didn’t have a daddy.

Although he had been sick, I always thought he was invincible.

In the years since, the memory of my last words being words of love has eased my loss. I celebrate my decision to end conversations with an announcement of my love as one of the best decisions of my life.

And I recommend it to you.

If you love somebody, tell ‘em you love ‘em. Whether or not they know how to react, people need to know they’re loved.

And you won’t have to live with regrets about love unspoken.

Read about all that Bette offers at

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