When my son was a young boy, he would wipe off our kisses. As hard as that is for a parent, we tried to respect his boundaries, and hoped that he would grow out if. The years came and went, and we couldn’t kiss him, stroke him or show too much overt physical affection.
He never said, “I love you.” But he did love us, and we didn’t need to hear the words to know how he felt.
At some point in his early teens, I struck a deal with him. Each year, I would take my kids to the side on the eve of Yom Kippur, give them a special blessing, and tell them how proud I was of how they used the unique gifts with which each was bestowed.
He reluctantly assented that at that time, once a year, I could give him a kiss. For years, I waited for that one special moment when I could plant my lips on his cheek or forehead.
In his late teens, he loosened up. I’m guessing that he he had come to the conclusion that kissing isn’t quite as horrible as he once thought. So the boundaries came down, and we got to kiss him more often. But we still never heard the dreaded words “I love you” pass his lips.
He’s a family man now, and is openly affectionate with this wife and kids, but the old taboos remain with us. I have joked with him over the years that I don’t need to hear the words “I love you” from him now, because I know that he does love us, and I know he will say them at my funeral. A bit of black humor, perhaps, but I’m not sure that I’m wrong either.
He’s with most of the rest of the country right now, serving in this vital battle against Hamas. We got a message from him a few days ago, which read: “Going to be unavailable for the next little bit. I love you guys and be besimcha (happy)!”
“I love you guys”? Those were the most terrifying four words I had ever read.
Saying “I love you” was saying: “Listen, Abba. I’m going into a mission now, and I may not live to be at your funeral, so I’m taking this one chance to say those words now.”
How dare you say “I love you”?
How dare you make me cry yet again, wondering if I had already enjoyed my last conversation with you?
How dare you?
Spoiler alert: his part of the mission was canceled and he’s safe and sound. I’ve seen him since then. I’ve hugged him and kissed him. And I’ve told him that I love him.
But he’d better not ever dare tell me again that he loves me. I think that once in a lifetime is all I can take!