Those Three Words

Field of Dreams

Men in their twenties don’t say I love you to male friends or at least we didn’t when I was in my twenties. It was a mistake but I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know it because when you are in your twenties you are invincible and you don’t worry about dying.

You don’t ever expect that one day you will stand under endless blue skies holding a shovel because you have to bury a friend who was more like a brother. It is not supposed to be like that and you never could have imagined that 14 years later you would remember it all so vividly.

It never occurs to you that you’ll wonder what happens after we die and ask yourself if he is watching over the six year-old boy who is buried near by. I didn’t know about that little boy until after ‘D’s funeral. I was lost that day and I didn’t pay attention to any of the graves, but I saw him later.

One day after my oldest was born I decided to go visit ‘D’ and tell him that I had become a father. I walked by the little guy’s grave and had to sit down. It was always tragic to me but I hadn’t ever thought about it as a father. This time it was different. This time I remembered the looks of horror on the faces of ‘D’s parent and the magnitude of it all hit me in a different way because I understood the responsibility parents feel regarding their children’s welfare.

Those Three Words

I don’t have many regrets but I wish that I had told ‘D’ that I loved him. I wish that he hadn’t hid the severity of his illness and that he would have let me help carry some of the load. I would have done it. He would have done it for me.

All these years later I don’t doubt that he knew it but there is something different about saying the words. I have thought about it quite a bit and I haven’t ever figured out why I didn’t say it other than I don’t share my feelings easily.

That might sound shocking to you, but if you are an old friend you’ll know that I am close lipped about many things.

My Uncle Jimmy died in ’94. Technically he died from pneumonia but it was AIDS that got him. I didn’t find out he was gay until I was a senior in high school. Funny thing is that it never was a secret, I was just oblivious. It didn’t change my feelings about him. He was my uncle and I loved him, but I didn’t say it to him either.

Hell, my father almost died eight years ago and we didn’t exchange those three words. We did when I was little but somewhere along the way it stopped and I am not sure why.

But if I have learned anything from these experiences it is that you shouldn’t wait to tell the people you love that you care about them. I have gotten better about it but I need to do more.

Eight years later I am carrying around some guilt because I don’t think dad is taking care of himself the way he should because he is worried about my sisters and I. I wasn’t going to say anything to him about it because I didn’t think he would change.

But I can’t do this any longer. I can’t not say anything. I am in a transitional phase but I am not worried about coming through it. I always get through and I will this time. I am concerned about my kids, but that is because it is what parents do. They will get through this time too and they will probably do better than all of us.

This time I am going to say something. I am going to pull out those three words. I should have told ‘D’ and I should have said it to Uncle Jimmy but I won’t miss the opportunity to say I love you to my father.

This post is part of Just Write #39 and Yeah Write #61.

(Visited 677 times, 1 visits today)


  1. Steve Rice September 3, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Wow, Jack…this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you (another 2 words we don’t say–and mean–like we should). This made me emotional and more resolved than ever to tell those I hold dear that I love them.

  2. Kaarina Dillabough September 3, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Never miss the chance to say I Love You 🙂 Cheers! Kaarina

  3. mannahattamamma June 14, 2012 at 5:23 am

    I once said to my dad “tell me you love me,” and he said “it goes without saying.” And without even skipping a beat, I said “no, it doesn’t.” I’m not sure where our Western culture learned that men should only be affectionate with one another on a playing field or after a few beers, but it’s a silly, silly idea. Who among us doesn’t want to be told that we are loved, when you get right down to it? Anyone?

    • TheJackB June 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

       @mannahattamamma This is one of those areas where I think there is “disconnect” between the genders as well as some socialization differences.
      Women like to feel close to men so that they are ready for sex and men like to have sex so they feel close to women. That is a generalization and probably phrased awkwardly, but…
      I agree that most people like to hear those words but I have to concede that in more than one relationship I was told that it would be nice if I said “I love you more frequently” and each time I remember wondering why it it wasn’t obvious that I clearly did. Just based upon my actions it seemed hard to misinterpret my feelings.
      But over time I have also realized that it is not always the case and that it would be good if we did say it more frequently.

  4. DudeOfTheHouse June 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    That’s very touching, Jack. Sometimes that realization just hits you. Good luck. It’s not easy.

  5. TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    @GalitBreen Thank you for the RT. How are things? Are your children on summer break yet?

  6. Dainty_Mom June 13, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    @GalitBreen Thanks for this! @thejackb

  7. michellelongo June 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Maybe it’s that I’m female, but I tell people I love them all the time.  I don’t know why or when it started, because I used to not say it.  For some reason I can’t not say it to people I care about.  It’s good that you want to say it more.  And men should tell those they love that they love them, even their guy friends.  Thoughtful post.

    • TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm

       @michellelongo Hi Michelle,
      I think it is great that you do that. It is important. It is not easy for men to do it, but I think we are slowly learning.

  8. SensibleMoms June 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    This post has a flow and a coherence that drives your point home. Death rarely is how it is supposed to be, but we have little control over it. We can give those 3 little words freely, though. I am so sorry for your losses.  Ellen

    • TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm

       @SensibleMoms Hi Ellen,
      Thank you. At the risk of repeating myself all I can say is that I am doing my best to learn from these experiences so that I don’t make the same mistakes again.
      If I do that then I can look at these experiences and say something positive came from it. It is hell of a way to learn, but…

  9. erin margolin June 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I love this post. I love that you wrote it. I love that you talked about AIDS and death and being gay and children dying and how we need to say things instead of not saying things.
    thank you for this.

    • TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      Hi Erin,
      When I look back at the experiences I mentioned in this post I think of how hurt I was because I didn’t share what I felt. It is not as bad as dying or the loss that my grandfather, father and the parents of my friend went through.
      But that didn’t mean that it didn’t upset me or that I couldn’t learn from it. I suppose I should say that I was a slow learner, but better late than never.
      If possible I want to avoid being in that position again. Thank you for your comment. Hope you had a good day.

  10. TheDoseofReality June 13, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I do think it often takes death to remind you of the living and how important it is to tell them while they are here. When you can actually say it, not just to the heavens. Very well written.

    • TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm

       @TheDoseofReality There are people who are really important to us and if we don’t make the effort to tell them we run the risk of missing out.
      It is a very hard lesson to learn and one that I hope my children don’t have to learn.

  11. rdopping June 13, 2012 at 3:25 am

    So true @TheJackB  My wife and I are very good at exchanging our feelings but I have trouble doing that with my parents and brother. Skeletons, ya know? Don’t know why but my wife is always telling me that I better get on the bandwagon because life is never as long as you want it to be. There’s always time is BS .
    Thanks for the reminder.

    • TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

       @rdopping Hi Ralph,
      Don’t know why, but it is clearly harder for men to do this than women. You are wife is definitely correct- time is never as we wish or want it to be.

  12. TimMancuso June 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Great post -thank you for sharing this. A sobering reminder that we only have ‘now’ to appreciate and show gratitude to others. Check out the 30 days of gratitude challenge. Send 1 heartfelt card, per day, for a month – words of gratitude to someone…anyone… while they are still here to receive them. You’ll be amazingly Blessed + it’s the right thing to do. Info on facebook at ( / RelationshipMarketing timmancuso 

    • TheJackB June 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm

       @TimMancuso  I like that 30 days of gratitude challenge. It sounds like a wonderful way to help remind ourselves about what is important and valuable.

  13. heidi June 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Thought-provoking and powerful post. My dad didn’t say “I love you” until I lay in a hospital bed after a serious car crash. In my family It was shown, so it didn’t need to be said. But, I think it needs to be said. It’s important to hear and say those words out loud.
    But, how could you have known any of this at such a young age? You loved him. You loved each other. Even if it wasn’t said.
    I’m glad you’re taking the opportunity to tell your dad.

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      Hi Heidi,
      That must have been really scary for you and your father. I am glad that you are ok. I agree with you that it needs to be said out loud. it makes such a difference.

  14. TheMommyMess June 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I am glad you’re taking that chance to tell your dad you love him. This is a powerful reminder!

  15. The Outlaw Mama June 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Powerful post here. THe grave of a young child is a horror.  And saying I love you is such a good reminder. Thank you for your beautiful words. You are a generous writer.

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm

       @The Outlaw Mama The grave of a child is a horror and one I wish to never see/experience again, just awful.
      Thank you for your kind words. I just try to share what I see and hope it resonates with people.

  16. KDillabough June 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Easy to say. It’s how we end every phone conversation, every time someone leaves the house for the day, before we go to sleep at night. It’s said with meaning, and I have no problem telling friends and family that I love them. Not in a perfunctory, dutiful way. In a meaningful, sincere way. That’s just how I roll. Cheers! Kaarina P.S. I hug too:)

  17. Vanessa June 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    In my family we don’t say these 3 words often either, but we do show each other it is in our hearts.

  18. juliecgardner June 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    So my parents didn’t really say “I love you” often and we certainly didn’t say it back.
    We’re Swedish. Demonstrative of deed, not word.
    You SHOW your love, you don’t say it, right?
    Somehow (I don’t know how) I got the feeling I should say it to everyone. And I do.
    I’m good about saying I love you. To everyone except my mom and dad and sister.
    Even though I do. Love them. A lot.
    Why is it so hard to say?

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm

       @juliecgardner I don’t know why it is so hard to say, especially to those we care most about but for some of us it really isn’t easy.
      Although I have found that if you do it frequently it gets easier. Is it just me or does that sound silly. 😉

  19. Erin F. June 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I struggle to say “I love you,” even though I know how important the words are. I know I want to hear the three words. I’m guessing other people do, too.

  20. Delilah June 12, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I try to never leave anything unsaid that is meaningful. I’m not a naturally emotional person so it’s hard but I know it’s important. Great piece!

  21. Frank_Strong June 12, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Wow, pretty powerful stuff.  Think there’s a line in “The Sunscreen Song” which I quote at nauseum, but it’s so good, that goes, “Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.” 
    Here’s a link to the song, which is based on a commencement speech from years ago:

  22. bdorman264 June 12, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Never leave words like that unsaid; don’t assume you will always be able to do it. 

  23. mayorgiac June 12, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Good for you! We overuse “i love you” in my family, to the point where it loses meaning. It’s actually quite annoying.

  24. Gina June 12, 2012 at 5:55 am

    You are right. As we get older, we can’t pass up the opportunities to say it because we don’t know if the chance will ever exist again. Great reminder today.

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

      I suspect that given your situation it feels more poignant today. One of the things that I love about dogs is the love they give. We could learn from them.

  25. SocialMediaDDS June 12, 2012 at 4:48 am

    Hi TheJackB  I love stopping by your place and being carried away by the words that you sculpt with.  This was just beautiful and a reminder that is so profound, it needs to be shouted, repeated, pasted on bathroom mirrors and practiced on a daily basis.  Age has “taught” me to be more generous with my feelings.  There have always been people that I have loved in my life but had not told them those three words.  That has changed.  Maybe it was my Dad’s passing a number of years ago, maybe it is the wisdom borne of age or maybe I just don’t care if it’s “weird” to say those three words.  I say them.  When I mean them.  And I’m so glad that I do!
    Thanks Jack…as always, a beautiful post!

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 7:53 am

       @SocialMediaDDS Hi Claudia,
      Thank you. Part of the purpose of my blog is to remind me to do things like this. I have had more than a few experiences that have led me down this road so I hope that I have learned from them.
      I always say that I have few regrets but those that I do are big and it is true. The people who didn’t hear these things from me, well it sucks when you lose the opportunity. Not very eloquent, but true.
      Hope you are well.

  26. CrossBetsy June 12, 2012 at 4:45 am

    I always have to say I love you first to my dad. He just doesn’t think of it. So, years ago I got over it and started telling him I loved him every time I said goodbye. And I never expect a reply. At first he was a little shocked. I could tell he said, “I love you, too, Bets.” with an “of course” tone of voice. You see, I knew he loved me. I don’t need to hear it. But I need to be free enough to say it. I don’t even know if he hears it the way I mean it. Maybe they’re just words. IDK. But it feels so good to say “I love you”  to him!!

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 7:49 am

       @CrossBetsy Hi Betsy,
      I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t think or feel it. My daughter tells me that she can see me thinking and complains that she can’t hear the words because I am not saying them out loud. Makes me laugh, but with my kids I have always made a point to say it.
      I can appreciate what you are saying about the freedom to speak. It provides another level of comfort.

      • CrossBetsy June 12, 2012 at 8:05 am

         @TheJackB My dad had a stroke 20 years ago. Something happened to his ability to process well. And he’s VERY honest. I’m so sure he senses that I’m saying it sometimes just for me. And that’s when he answers, “Yup.”
        My computer is so slow today and I sat looking around at this page for a while til it loaded. I thought, “Where did Jack come up with TheJackB? Was is because TheJackA was taken?” I got myself laughing! Sorry…at your expense. But It was really funny to me because I rarely even swear in my head!! LOL!

  27. Cathy June 12, 2012 at 12:04 am

    I agree. Sometimes it turns into a pride issue, besides <i>you know I love you and you’ll be here for ever anyway, right?</i>

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Hi Cathy,
      It is hard not to think that we are going to be here forever, especially when you are young. You just don’t believe that anything can happen.

  28. Alison June 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I know I don’t say these words enough, especially to my husband and my family. Thank you for the reminder.

  29. CarrieSieffert June 11, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Oh yes. It’s so true. Those three little words are spoken so much less as we get older. Of course being a woman I have a sort of liberty to say them whenever I choose, and so I do. But for most men I think its harder. Something about being strong and acting like “a man” causes the male of our species to clam up.I’m glad that you will be opening up your shell and speaking those words to your dad. He will love to hear them.

    • TheJackB June 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

       @CarrieSieffert Hi Carrie,
      It is definitely not something that is natural for most men I know. The guys and I have sort of broken down that wall a little bit, but it didn’t really happen until we all hit our forties. I don’t think it would have been part of our lexicon when we were younger.
      But we have all lived a little bit and seen some things so we just don’t take it for granted any more.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You may also like