I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU
I can write it till my fingers fall off. I can add XOXOXO to every letter, put emoji hearts in every text.
But make me say it and it catches in my throat.
It’s not that I don’t feel it. I do. How could I not love a spouse who has put up with me all these years? (Those of you who know me, know what I mean.) And I believe it’s biologically impossible NOT to love your child. But, do I really have to talk about it?
I have friends who say I love you to their family members multiple times a day.
“Mom, I’m going to take a shower!”
“Love you, honey!”
“Love you too, Mom!”
“Love you too, Mom!”
“Dad, I’m running to pick up Chinese.”
“OK. Love ya.”
“Mom, I hate you! You always take Billy’s side!”
“Love you, Sweetie!”
They love each other in the morning, they love each other at noon. They love each other when the car breaks down, the toilet backs up and the sun don’t shine. They love each other before every bed time, after every phone call, during every meal. It’s exhausting, all that love.
Yet, after a conversation with a couple of girlfriends over dinner the other night, I convinced myself that I was indeed the world’s worst mother. I became obsessed with my lack of love and, as I tend to do with most of my neuroses, started questioning everyone I knew, looking for affirmation of my worth.
“Oh, please,” a wise friend told me. “You’re a writer. You’re supposed to show, not tell.”
Yesterday I decided to show my son (the only one left) that I really DID love him by making his favorite (and my least favorite-to-make) meal – fried chicken cutlets.
It’s a mess and a half. First you slice the slimy chicken as thin as you can get it (making sure to cut out all the fat, cause one bite of grizzle can sever a lifetime of chicken love), dip it in the flour, then the eggs, then the Panko breadcrumbs, then into the pan of hot, sizzling oil that splashes in your eyes (good thing I wear contact lenses). Your fingers fill with the gloppy breadcrumbs and then you run out of egg and have to wash your hands and grab a couple more eggs and beat them up, all the while watching the chicken turn blacker and blacker, add a bit more flour to the flour bowl, roll the bag up, cough as it puffs in your face, and just keep on keeping on. The house inevitably fills with smoke, setting off the fire alarm, the stove is splattered with oil and the place stinks for the next two days. But, hey, it’s worth it. It’s his favorite. And you love him.
I finally finished and set all the cutlets on a paper towel-covered cookie sheet to sop up some of the grease – as if it would make much of a caloric difference. My spouse and son were watching football in the basement. I went upstairs to clean the recently vacated room of college student number two.
Deep into the thick of things, picking up the single socks, multiple quarters, half-empty water bottles, chewing gum wrappers, discarded sweatshirts, cap-less magic markers and crumpled papers, uncrumpled to reveal a two-year-old not-so-stellar report card, I heard a clang, clang, clunk from the kitchen.
I ran downstairs as fast as my arthritic knees would take me to find our crazy hound, Griffey, licking his chops as he finished off my son’s favorite dinner.
Though my attempt to show my son how much I loved him was foiled, I did a pretty good job of showing the dog just how much I loved him at that precise moment.