My dad has never really been a man of a lot of words.
I grew up saying I love you, mostly to a response of “I know.” But that was always enough for me because he has always been a man of action. And actions can speak louder than words.
He was always there.
Wrestling with us in the evenings. Doing tricks on the trampoline. Taking us out to the farm with him. Bouncing along in the bucket seat as he drove the tractor. Stopping to move the birds’ nest and then putting it back after he plowed by. Letting us play in the back of the truck with the wheat as we pretended we were in the biggest sandbox there ever was before he hauled it into town.
Ice cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top after I broke my ankle. Riding his bike beside me as I went on runs on those country roads. Teaching me how to drive on all the backroads. Dancing with me every Sunday morning to the country music playing on the tv. Feeling beautiful in my Sunday best as he told me how pretty I looked. Riding quietly in the car beside him when he took me on a date to the next big town. Always eating at Red Lobster. A place that felt so fancy with him. Me always beaming with pride.
Telling me, I had to get back on, when I fell off the horse and when I fell off the cow.
When the first boy broke my heart. Going to every basketball game, I warmed the bench. One day mentioning, as I sadly walked out beside him, that he really wasn’t that good at basketball, either. Which I completely doubt because, in my eyes, he was good at everything. But permitted me to be okay with not being the best in those simple words. Showing up to every track meet. Every mile marker of a six-mile race I first ran in the sixth grade. As soon as I passed one, he drove to the next. And I fixed my eyes ahead of me until I made it to him again. Until I, at last, sprinted across that finish line.
The one who told me to buck up when I missed going to state by one person. The one who taught me how to ski and took me down the blacks. Rode to the very top of the mountain with me, his ski pole over my lap. And stopped for the over-priced hot chocolate at the very top.
The one who handed me my diploma as I walked across that stage at my high school graduation. Swimming with me in the rain on of my last nights home, before I went to college. And when my parents dropped me off at college, there were no words as I whispered, I love you in that last hug goodbye. But, he called me. After they had driven off. Simply saying, I love you, too. So I responded with, “I know.”
And I did. With every bit of my heart.
Not because he finally said it, but because he had always shown me. And continued to do so by slipping money in my pocket, after visiting for the weekend, before going back to college. Calling asking why the emergency credit card had so much on it from Target and Abercrombie and Fitch. Really using it as an excuse to see how I was doing.
Walking me down the aisle on my wedding day. As we paused in the back, and he whispers those words again. That he loved me. Before he gave me away. To a man he knew would treat me right. Because I had been taught how to be treated. Meeting my husband and me in Lubbock, with all our things in a U-haul. After us, both quitting our jobs and realizing apartment complexes don’t let you sign a lease without proof of income.
When each grandchild was born. Watching as each one softened him a little bit more. His words beginning to flow freer as they wrapped their hands around his finger. Showing up for every birthday. Even the ones in the cemetery. Pulling me aside and pointing out the balloons that had gathered as three in the sky. For my three sweet girls. The balloons he had taken a picture of. For me to keep.
He is always there.
A man of action. Who shows his love with absolutely everything that he does. Through his hard work to provide. His support of anything I loved. His hugs held me when I was breaking. His arms carried me to bed so many nights. His kisses goodbye. His smile when we walk through his door. The pictures he takes. He loves his people hard.
And what I’ve come to learn over the years is sometimes the words “I love you” don’t even come close to describing the way you feel about someone.
Sometimes the words, just come across as words. But when you show someone. With the entirety of your life. When everything you do, comes from a place of love, your actions spell it out for you. “I love you” becomes the heartbeat undercurrent felt through everything you do. A love that speaks volumes. A good love. A strong love.