Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love Language

"Happy Valentine's Day, Vera," I said when she answered the phone.

"Oh, I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Nobody gives me anything anymore." (Well, I just tried to, I thought.) She continued, "My granddaughter brought me a box of chocolates yesterday. I can't believe she forgot I have diabetes. I gave them right back. She made it clear she was too busy to come on the actual holiday." (And you're so lovable, I thought.) "I guess you want the report," she went on. "None of my ladies called me, as usual. I sat here all day long and waited, but they obviously never consider my schedule. I can't deal with their rudeness much longer."


"Happy Valentine's Day, Florence." I said.

"Oh, Dear, what a delightful way to answer the phone!" she laughed. "After such a sweet greeting, I feel bad about what I have to say: I need to be released as a Visiting Teacher. It breaks my heart. I love the women I visit, and we'll stay friends, but I can't have the responsibility of looking out for them anymore." I glanced down at my roster. Florence was 98-years-old. She continued, "I'm almost blind, you know, and it's all I can do to take care of Ray." Ray is her ailing 103-year-old husband. "I'll just serve as their unofficial sister, take a loaf of bread over, bring up their mail, that kind of thing. I just hope I haven't let you down."


"Happy Valentine's Day, Carol," I said.

Carol made room in the elevator and continued another conversation. "You graduated in 1980?" she said to the girl. "I'd lived my whole life by then." "Well, obviously not," I observed. "You're still here." "You know what I mean," replied Carol. "Life hasn't had much to offer since then." "What about your family, the people you love?" I asked. "Oh," she answered, "I gave up on love after my divorce."


"Happy Valentine's Day, Sarah. Are you doing OK?" I asked.

"The last few months have been lovely for me," she said. I strained to hear her soft voice. "Since I broke my hip I've had more time to pray. When I was up and about, there was so much to attend to, I got lazy about some of the important things. Now, I have a chance to think about the people I love and really talk to God about them. I can't serve them dinner anymore, but I serve them just the same."


Love is different things to different people. To Vera it's something she never gets. To Florence it's something she always gives.

How do you define love? Is it one big event? Is it something somebody else does to you? Is it something you receive? Is it something you say? In Sarah's language, love is a verb, not a noun. In Carol's, it's a boat she missed. Love is too often lost in translation.

Years ago I attended a woman's conference on marriage. Earlier, the speaker had asked all the husbands what they did to say I love you without words. Each wife stood up while her husband's quote was read: "Julia's husband took her to Hawaii for their tenth anniversary." "Nancy's husband sends flowers once a month." "Lydia's husband takes her out to dinner every Friday."

It started feeling competitive. "Karen's husband gave her a new diamond ring for her 40th birthday." "Carma's husband tells her she's beautiful whenever she dresses up." "Marty's husband empties the dishwasher." There were a few giggles, but my eyes filled with tears.

Dee had done all the showy things in one form or another. But the way he routinely said I love you was by emptying the dishwasher—before breakfast, after dinner, while I cooked, while he cooked, at 4 in the morning, on Sunday afternoons . . .and I hadn't been listening. He was saying he loved me all the time!

Love isn't one giant, glittery nugget, and it's not one breathless, passionate moment. And it's certainly not just for sweethearts on Valentine's Day. Love is something you can do, every day.

It's this,

and this,

or this,

and even this.

Marta says it perfectly.

♫ When your heart is filled with love,
Others will love you. ♫

What's your love language?


InkMom said...

InkMom's husband cleans the toilets.

Now, THAT'S love!

Wonderful post.

The Grandmother Here said...

My husband goes to work every day so I have a roof over my head and groceries in the pantry. He comes home every night so I know where he is. He puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. He sprays the shower when he gets out. He takes the car for oil changes. He does his Church duties cheerfully. He counsels with our children. He plays with our grandchildren. He never complains about the $$ I spend on yarn and crochet cotton. He tears up when he talks about our family. He never misses saying "I love you" when he's leaving. I get a kiss when he goes out the door and when he comes back. I know that he loves me.

Hannah said...

My husband shows me love just by choosing me first. He gives up going to his basketball games (his passion) if I need him!

There is nowhere we'd rather be than with each other. It is wonderful to be wanted like that.

Loved this post!

mama jo said...

loved that...makes you realize the way you want to be....

Christie said...

Christie's husband shows love by working so hard she can stay home. Even when there are no kids to take care of during the day.

Laughed so hard at some of these pictures of the old ladies. PERFECT casting. Exactly as I imagined them.

marta said...

my love language is links & comments.

no seriously, i love a good chat or a cute email from dan or watching tv or reading or just driving together. i know that sounds strange, but just being together is the best. i'm not busy doing anything else, my mind isn't distracted. it's just a happy spot when we're side by side.

marta said...

p.s. i've passed along your good advice. one time while dan was in law school, you told me to take the opportunity to go read with him in the library while he studies.. i remarked that it'd be a waste of my time..

you wisely advised that just being together is never a waste of time. thanks for always being such a good example of this!

polly said...

loved this post. what's that old song? " love isn't love til you give it away." shouldn't wait for anyone to send love our way, we should always be looking for ways to give our love to someone. there is always someone who needs it.

allison said...

I so needed this post. I got so frustrated at Jeff last week, because he wasn't showering me with affection. But then, I stopped to realize that he has made me dinner EVERY night since we started dating. I felt awful, and have given him plenty of kisses since then. We all show love differently, and I am so grateful, now, that I see it.

Abby said...

Love this post. And I love that you wrote Dee empties the dishwasher. Is there even a better way to express love then helping around the house? By far that is my favorite act of love!

Tiffany said...

I love this post. The world is a mirror, isn't it? (Plus, I love the pictures you used!)

Miranda said...

Goodness your posts have had me all goose-bumpy lately. I agree with Marta that spending time together is the best way that my husband and I show love. We had a long distance relationship the entire time we were dating and I don't think I've ever gotten over the excitement of living in the same town as him...much less the same house!