Expressing Love Should be Simple
I have a friend who believes that showing love has to be a large scale production in order for it to mean anything. I believe the reverse. On my last birthday, I got a card from my older brother. It had a picture of a pig on the front of it, and featured a phrase about how I should “pig out” on cake. It was a typical Hallmark sentiment. However, my brother wrote a message inside the flap that said that if I could see his arms outstretched as far as they would go, he’d love me even more than that. I could tell that my brother had put more thought into it than whoever wrote the pig phrase, and because of that little bit of extra thought I knew how much he loved me. I believe in loving people bigger than your arms can stretch, but I believe that love that big is most meaningfully expressed through humble means.
My Granny and Grandpa lived on a vegetable farm in Texas. They lived there for many years, and every day of each of those years, Grandpa had been able to find something to gripe about. He relished every word he moaned. When Grandpa would come inside for the night, my Granny would let him shake his fists and grumble all he wanted. She simply listened and didn’t ask him to stop complaining. All throughout his tirades, Grandpa always called Granny Dot. Her name was really Dorothy, but since they married, he never called her that. Grandpa wasn’t accustomed to using tender words, so calling Granny Dot was the way Grandpa showed that he wasn’t angry at her, and that he was glad she was there to listen. Granny knew that no matter how cantankerous he was, Grandpa loved her when he said Dot instead of Dorothy.
Then Granny got sick. Her heart wasn’t strong, and one day she died. Grandpa didn’t know what to do with himself. He grew somber and didn’t talk as much. He was a different man. Once he told us that Granny’s passing had left him with a physical ache. I don’t think that anyone understands Grandpa’s ways better than Dot did. Granny had simply been there to lend a listening ear, and Grandpa in return used her cherished nickname. Those small acts fostered a love that altered their lives.
I don’t understand why my friend says that means of showing love must be big. Love itself is big. I love my family because they breathe, because they exist. The only way I can make sense of something that big is by stripping it down to its barest foundations. Love is best defined in the thoughtful contents of a birthday card, a listening ear, and a familiar nickname. When love is expressed in a small way to me, I smile, and now that Grandpa has lost those little expressions, he aches. That is why I believe showing love is best done simply.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.