Different Ways to Express love

I meet and talk with many people and it is quite common to hear endless complaints and criticism, from youngsters and adults, about how their parents treated them. Complaints about lack of love and touch, lack of interest shown and time spent and on the other hand, complaints about over caring, over involvement, nagging and control. People carry it for years and it impacts their approach when they become parents themselves. Recently I was exposed to a story which was etched in my memory. A woman in her forties had some major assertions to her father and she kept resentment for years because he never showed any signs of affection and love. Through talks with her therapist she remembered that during the time she lived with her parents, even when she matured, she always found her slippers in the mornings beside her bed, facing the room. When she woke up she just had to thread her feet into the slippers, thus avoiding the cold floor. She always assumed that her mother arranged it but after her mother had passed away and the slippers were still there every morning, she understood that it was her father. Only through her talks with her therapist she understood that this was her father’s unspoken way to express his love for her. Going silently into her room every night, putting the slippers close to her bed, was his silent ‘good night kiss’. In the culture he came from, in the way he was raised, a father shouldn’t kiss, or hug, or even say ‘I love you, my dear’.

So I learned that there are many ways to express love.

Rachel is married to my eldest son for more than 13 years. Her father, Didi Writer, is a 70 years-old retired bus driver and like a good Polish/Jewish father his life is centered around his kids and grand kids.  However, he is not an extraverted person and knowing him quite well I never saw him hugging or kissing or expressing emotions. I did notice, however, two amazing things that he does.

Firstly – Mr. Writer peels pomegranates for the people he loves. For hours he separates grain after grain and puts them in simple plastic containers.  No shell, no single peel, just pure shiny red grains in a simple plastic container. On the Shabbat family dinner he will hand the containers to his five grandkids, one for each. In case one of the family participants did something special during the week he also gets a container of peeled grains as a token of appreciation.

Secondly – Mr. Writer cuts newspaper clips for the people he loves. He is subscribed for 4 different daily newspapers, regular and business. He identifies the areas of interest of each of his family members, adults and kids, and every day he sits, meticulous as an ant, cutting clips from the newspapers and sorts them by subjects.  On the Shabbat dinner while serving the dessert, like a ritual, he distributes to the people around the table the clips of the recent week. I was there one evening watching the ceremony where each family member receives his batch. They go over the clips like it is a common practice in every family. I glanced at him, and he just looks around at his kids and grandkids with a hidden satisfaction, happy when they find the clips interesting, like the enjoyment of a journalist….

What a gesture of impartation! What a nice expression of love.

 So I guess love is not always expressed in one way, and it would be wise to try and take this into consideration before we complain. My dear in-law’s unique actions reminded me the old and good saying of Mother Teresa: “We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love…”

Fireworks (51)
Shuka, Thursday, March 18, 2010

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