My mom has never told me she loves me. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t, of course—she just has a different way of expressing it.
When I was thirteen and growing up in Estonia, I fell from the top of a haystack. We had been working in the fields of the countryside where my grandma lived. And like hundreds of times before, after all the hay was gathered, I climbed on the top of the haystack on my uncle’s truck for a fun ride home. But the fun ride didn’t last long; it ended with two fractured wrists and a cut right knee.
My mom picked me up and carried me to the house. She made a cast out of two logs, wrapped my bloody, broken wrists, and took me to the hospital in the small town nearby. From there, an ambulance took me to another hospital in the capital, an hour away. My mom went back to the farm to take care of the unfinished chores.
When I finally woke up from the surgery, it was early evening. I didn’t see my mom until later that night—it took her hours to finish all the chores. But when she came, she brought me dinner. For the next two months, she came twice a day, every single day, bringing me lunch and dinner because she knew I hated the hospital food.
This, I believe, is love. This is my mom’s way of expressing her feelings.
I never thought about this until I came to America and discovered a different way of living. I liked it, and I changed. I now say hi to strangers on the street, smile at people I don’t know, and I tell my husband I love him without feeling embarrassed.
I wanted my mom to change, too, so I wrote her a letter, where, for the first time, I opened up to her. And for the first time, I told her I loved her. My mom never responded.
That was several years ago. I have learned many things since then. I have learned that words don’t always hold true and that actions are often stronger than words. I have learned to accept that my mom will never change: she will never tell me she loves me. But I have also learned that that is okay, for she has proven it many times—by showing, not telling.
Showing love, I believe, is stronger than a million uttered words could ever be.
Ann Erik was born in Estonia and came to the United States at the age of nineteen to work as a nanny for a year. Eleven years later, she’s still in the United States, married, living in New Jersey, and working as a personal trainer and a group fitness coordinator at a local health club. Her mother calls her every Sunday.
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