I Love You

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These three words, when strung together, are probably the most emotionally moving in the English language. Delivered correctly, they can make you feel better than you could ever imagine, and when delivered incorrectly they can completely destroy a relationship beyond repair. They have started wars and ended lives. They carry an enormous amount of feeling and power. As we all know from our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. You have to be careful of how, when, and to whom you utter this magical phrase. You must also be aware of how often you say these words, or you run the risk of not only saying it to the wrong person at the wrong time, but also of diminishing their incredible power.

Scott Drotar Father's Day
My dad is a man of few words, but that means when he talks, you should listen.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking that there is nothing wrong with telling people you love them as often as possible, and that it is actually beneficial to do so. I don’t disagree with saying this phrase in general conversation or to end a phone call. I also don’t have a problem with saying it about objects or events. For example, I love my car, and I love bacon more than any human should, and I will shout it from the rooftops. What I am talking about being judicious with is something much deeper. I am talking about those moments when you look someone in the eye in silence for a few seconds, feel that tingling sensation in your belly, and utter those three little words. If you do this too often, you risk taking the meaning out of the phrase. It is basic supply and demand. If you flood the market by saying it too much, the desire people will have to hear it will go down.

I was first exposed to this idea by my father when I was probably 10 or 11 years old. As anyone who knows him will attest, my dad is a man of few words. He also is fairly reserved and plays his emotions close to the vest. This combination, coupled with the fact that he is extremely intelligent and well read, means that when he speaks, you should listen. One day, out of the blue, he asked me to take a walk with him. We were walking along for a while, not saying much, and he began speaking. He said, “Scott, I know sometimes it seems like I am angry with you when you struggle to do something because of your disability. I want you to know that that is never the case. I am angry at the situation, because I have to watch you struggle and suffer and there is nothing I can do to help you. I love you. I know I don’t say it much because I think it takes the meaning out of it, but don’t ever forget that.” I said ok, as what he had said hadn’t really sunk in yet, and we walked back home.

Scott Drotar I Love You
My father taught me to respect the power and meaning of the words, “I love you.”

I have thought about his words countless times over the years, and what they mean to me. I of course always knew that he loved me, but there were times in my childhood when I felt guilty for causing his frustration and anger. After this walk however, I never had those feelings again, and I could think about his words and know he loved me. If he had told me every day that he loved me however, this powerful message would not have carried nearly the same meaning. His cautious use of those three words is what makes this touching memory so special to me, and allows it to provide comfort to me every time I think about it.

As I have grown up and thought about what he told me that day, I have come to agree with his philosophy. Outside of my family members, I have only said these words to three people, and two of them I know without a doubt loved me back and said so. Even within my family, I rarely say this phrase. There is only one moment when I always say it. When I get really sick, and I am in the hospital, when I get scared that I might not make it, instead of saying so, I will take my mom’s hand in mine, look her in the eye, and say, “I love you.” This is our little code for her to know I am scared, and it also comforts me to know that I told her how I feel about her one more time. Since I so rarely say these words, it makes these emotionally charged moments that much more powerful and memorable.

Even if you don’t agree with my thoughts on this meaningful phrase, I hope that you will at least think about what these words really mean, and how often you say them. It is very important that you say them enough that your loved ones know how you feel, but if said too much they will lose all meaning. As with everything, it is all about finding the right balance for your life. Also, remember that you can often portray how you feel about someone much more effectively through your actions than through your words. Perhaps by showing them you love them, you won’t have to tell them as often. At any rate, keep in mind your use of these powerful words, and make sure you use them in a way that truly illustrates how you feel.

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3 thoughts on “I Love You

  1. Scott, I loved reading your writing of your thoughts and motivation to stay strong and keep focusing on the your future. I am now 81 and as I look back I continue to see God’s intervention in my thoughts, feelings and ability to cope with life as I continually express my thoughts of how God intervenes with power and acceptance as we submit ourselves to God’s thoughts and the power he extends when we ask. God’s power of His Word and plan to bring peace and motivated to take on a big project to accomplish an internet presentation of Psalms, Proverbs, James which you can read what I paraphrased. It gives me a lot of strength. My husband died a year ago and I’m starting to adjust a little bit. Hope you enjoy when you might have time to read: http://www.psalmsproverbsnurture.com. Scott I will always remember the little discussions we had meeting in the hallway or different places we have talked. Never will I forget your courage, your drive and the excellent mind you were given to prepare you for life and life to come! Your mother and dad have shown total dedication they have made to you, your mom always smiling, always ready to do the best for you! (I say to your dad also, but I saw your mom on a daily basis) I send my love to you, pray you will be strengthened by His Grace, the big smile you bear in spite of the trial!

    Marilyn Lightfoot

    1. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement about my work and Roll Models. It means a lot to me that you still remember me this many years removed from my grade school days (hard to believe it has been over 15 years!). I am glad you have found value in my words. Thanks again!

  2. Dear Scott,

    I just happened on this exchange between us. I have recently moved to a retirement home in Carmel, IN due to some health problems. I can’t believe what a beautiful place it is (The Barrington at Carmel) with opportunities to meet new people, not so much hard work, but of course just like life is–an adjustment. My family pushed it rather than being alone in our big house in Plymouth. And I am adjusting! Thanks to my belief that it was God’s guidance and He has a purpose for me here, just like He has done for you. I am younger (82!) than most residents but take plenty of time to be encouraging and helpful to those who have more problems than I! Hope you’re feeling well and can be active like I’ve seen in you. And don’t forget we are both Notre Dame Graduates (I received my M.A. there). Marilyn Lightfoot

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