“I Love You.” Other than to my wife, why is that phrase so hard for me to say to people, particularly within my own family? As a Japanese American, I suspect I am not alone with this quandary. Even though I am a Yonsei, in my family, I never heard the phrase, nor did I see any hugging or kissing. So, why do I bring it up?
Marion and I were at a dinner in a restaurant the other night with friends from church who go out each week to various restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.
The subject of expressing ourselves to our loved ones came up. Barbara, a Sansei, whose mother in Hawaii has been in declining health the past few years, said that for the past year or so, she has told her mother at the end of their frequent phone conversations, “I love you.”
This brought to my mind how my daughter in Albuquerque has started to use the phrase at the end of our conversations. It was then I realized the phrase did not come easily in my reply to her. After what Barbara said about using the phrase with her mother, the significance of what my daughter was saying to me dawned on me.
I am 77 this year, and Marion will be 74. At our age we can appreciate this gesture of love from our daughter. We are both in good health, but the interchange I had with Barbara at the restaurant made me realize how good it feels to receive and return the phrase “I love you.”
I share this story as a 77-year-old Yonsei Christian. Love and its expression are a central part of the faith. Perhaps in Buddhism expressing affection in words or actions like hugging is not an issue. Marion is a Nisei. Her father and mother were Buddhists. She said she knew by the way they looked at her and treated her that they loved her. They did not have put it into words. Maybe it is a generational thing. Perhaps with today’s mass communications, young people are exposed to outward expressions of affection, and their parents have the same exposure and have no problem in expressing it.
What do you think? My address: [email protected]
Phil Shigekuni can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.