In April of 1958, in his 58th year, my Dad got sick and went to the hospital. No one in his family ever went to the hospital except to have a baby or to die.
He was in a corner of a large ward, enclosed in an oxygen tent. I remember trying to reach under the tent to touch his hand. He told me to “Gowan home.” It was the last thing he said to me.
I don’t remember ever telling my Dad that I loved him. Not that day. Not ever. I know that I did love him, and I was always sure that he knew it. As little ones, we were expected to kiss our parents good night. I remember once refusing and stomping upstairs in a snit. Dad followed me up the stairs with vigor and discipline.
When our voices changed, the boys shook his hand, and occasionally we men could hug each other or punch a shoulder affectionately.
All that changed for me when I married Pauline. She had buried two brothers, both parents and a grandmother, and she knew the value of loving people and saying so.
In due course, she even nudged my very proper and reserved mother into saying, “I love you, too, dear.”
So you can understand that as we reared six children, watched them marry and welcomed their spouses and the nineteen grandchildren they have spawned, the phrase “I love you” has been a commonplace expression that knows no age, gender or geographical boundaries.
All of which is by way of telling you that as I acknowledged and celebrated the 87th anniversary of my birth there has been a tsunami of greeting cards, emails, text messages, tweets and face book postings in which all of my wonderful relatives augmented by their multitude of friends, not to mention the few of my own who are still living, which have unabashedly expressed warm affection for this old judge and wishes for his continued health, happiness and good humor.
This blog, then, is by way of expressing thanks to all of you.
I have told this story before, and I’ll tell it again. Some years ago, I was in the airport in Newark, New Jersey, walking from one gate to another at some distance. Coming toward me on the concourse, I saw a young family, Mother, Dad and a little boy who could not have been more than two or three.
They stopped me and greeted me warmly, the husband saying that he was a graduate of Cooley Law School and was happily and successfully employed, I seem to recall, as general counsel for a department of the New York State Government.
He was effusive with praise as he introduced me to his wife and his little boy, who looked up at me wide eyed and obviously impressed with his father’s words of appreciation and admiration.
We chatted for a few moments, then said goodbye as I was about to continue toward my gate. But just as I turned to leave, the little boy looked up and, in a most endearing bit of childish talk said, “I wove you!”
It was an encounter I shall never forget.
It has reminded me so many times in the intervening years of the importance, indeed the necessity, of expressing our love for other human beings.
So now, as I stack up the cards, and file away the emails, text messages and phone calls that lifted my spirits yesterday and helped to remind me that 87 isn’t 90, so I don’t have to hang it up just yet; I simply want to say to all of you my dear ones; Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much for all your good wishes and your “I love you’s.”
I love all of you and I love each of you.
You are in my thoughts, my prayers and my heart, now and every day the Lord gives me on this beautiful Planet.