Jewish World Review June 14, 2002 / 4 Tamuz, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

The Ways a Father Says "I Love You" | When I was a kid, I thought my dad was like a big overstuffed armchair. You could climb on him, jump on him, sit on him, and even depend on him to cushion you when you fell. He was plain, durable corduroy, not some fancy brocade. He was as sturdy and reliable as the matching boxy ottoman, nothing particularly exciting like the leather La-Z-Boy recliner a delivery truck dropped off at the house across the street.

The value of sturdy and reliable did not become apparent until I began a family of my own. Only then did I learn that sturdy and reliable may be the greatest qualities a father can possess. In the business of fatherhood, reliability - showing up for the routine, the mundane, the day in and the day out - is often the measure of success.

My father the armchair has never been a particularly talkative man. Truth is, I have few memories of my dad saying I love you - but more than a thousand of the way he shows it.

My dad said he loved me when I was real little and he took a second job working at night. He pumped gas and cleaned windshields so the family could add onto the kitchen and have a few extras like a yellow parakeet and piano lessons.

I heard my dad say he loved me in kindergarten when he found out the reason I didn't want him to visit my class was because all the other dads had straight hair and his was a crazy mass of waves and curls. He heard the story and simply laughed.

My dad said he loved me when we took a vacation to Disney World beneath the searing summer sun. The smoldering pavement heated my rubber flip flops to the temperature of miserable, so my dad let me walk through the park on the top on his feet.

Dad said he loved his kids every Sunday afternoon when he'd stretch out on the floor for a nap. We'd twist the hair on his arms, lift his eyelids to see if he was still in there, and hold our fingers under his nose to feel his breath. He didn't chase us away, just pretended to snore louder and increased the laughter.

My dad spoke love when he would read something truly terrible in the newspaper, set the section aside, fold his arms and say to no one in particular, "I would count it an honor to catch someone in the act of hurting a child and rip them limb from limb." He said it and he meant it. And the world seemed a safer place.

Over and over, my dad said he loved us by dispensing sound advice: There's no such thing as a free lunch. Dress in layers, you're less likely to freeze to death. Never let the gas tank get below half full. It's not the problem that matters, but how you respond to it. When one door closes, another opens.

My dad said he loved us by the way he loved our mom, shoveled snow from the driveway and killed silverfish on the bedroom walls.

Of all the things a father teaches a child, the most important is how to say I love you.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman