Naw. I’m not talking about romantic love here. I’m still mulling over the whole friendship subject.
I have a friend who is pretty much in my category. She told me once, “If you make friends with me, you’re stuck with me for the rest of your life. Seriously!”
So one afternoon, she came over for a rare visit to my house and we were talking about everything under the sun – as I am wont to do (I get it from my dad, I think) – and she mentioned an article that she had just read about the different ways that people communicate without using words. The article apparently used the example of people who bring food to others. “It’s their language of love!”, my friend explained. People who grew up with family who expressed their love and appreciation through the baking of cookies and cakes, who made family members their favorite meals to please them, who would buy an ice cream cone to cheer up someone who’d had a bad day, who would bring them soup when they were sick or would bring a casserole after a funeral – those are the people who ingrained these acts into their communication of love. I think that many, many, if not most, families had this type of habit in their homes and carry on that tradition. Let’s face it, food is a universal subject that has endless meanings the world ’round. Using food to comfort or to aid or to celebrate is a normal human tendency.
Then there are those who express their love and affection with money. They may come from a culture where the more gold you bestow upon someone, the more it shows you cherish them and want them to be prosperous and respected. They may come from a family whose parents would buy them as much as they could to make them happy or comfortable. This isn’t necessarily a bad sort of way to show love, but if you are never able to give a hug or to express love with words in addition to material things, then…. well, I can see where that would lead to many problems. We happen to have a member of our family quite like that. Only, the money and gifts come along with caveats and the hugs have only recently come into play and those are very awkward indeed. And, inadvertently, this person has made all communication with them centered around money this way. The grandchildren, when younger, associated this person with things. “Oh look! They’re here!! What did they get us??” Hello, Santa. (You can see, I’m sure, how unhealthy this is to a relationship, yes?)
Some families have always been more physical in showing their affection. They are constantly touching or doing something physical together. Rough housing, bonding over sports, lots of hugs and kisses, holding hands or being arm in arm, exercising together in some way. So, with friends, it’s pretty much the same. I think most families have this element in their language with each other. At least, I hope they would.
My own family, though, as I was growing up, didn’t show love through food, or money. The physical, yes. We were/are huggers and kissers. We talk a lot. But, my family mostly has shown how much they care for you by being there when you are in some sort of bind, be it physical or emotional. My dad once told me about how my grandfather, his own father, would be willing to put himself into debt to help out someone he loved. And trust me, my father’s family was poor to begin with! He said that my grandfather, and my grandmother too, especially if it involved children, would, if you were in some sort of trouble, do everything in their power to get you out of it.
My dad has certainly carried on this tradition. If there is some sort of conundrum, he will think ceaselessly about it until he’s found some way to solve it and help you out with it. It doesn’t matter if you are states away. He was the one that his friends and family – as well as my mom’s – would call at midnight to discuss things and my dad never turned down a call. He would stay on that phone until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes, I’d wake up and I could hear him in the kitchen on the phone with someone…laughing with or reassuring them or sympathizing with them in some way. He’s still like that.
My parents once took in a friend of my mom’s and allowed her to live with them when she was in a troubling situation. She lived with them for months. They took in my cousin when he needed a place to crash. They’ve done that for several family members at one time or another. In fact, when my cousin and his brother were little and in a pretty bad family situation, my parents discussed adopting both of them from my uncle and aunt. They didn’t end up doing it because my father’s mother decided she wanted to.
Once, while I was in college, my parents flew a dog I’d managed to rescue down from Wisconsin to Texas. They kept him, despite the fact that he was a troubled dog. Distances were nothing to my father. Maybe he got it from his days in surveying in the Pacific Northwest or from his time in the Air Force. When he was dating my mom, he would drive miles across Oregon to see her, and miles back after taking her out.
So, I guess my own style of friendship was written by my folks. I won’t bring you food. I won’t shower you with gifts. I’m not gonna exercise or go muddin’ in the woods with you (look it up. I think it’s mostly a Southern thing). BUT, if your car breaks down in the middle of the night outside the city limits and no one else can come – call me. If your dog runs off in the middle of a freakish storm, I’ll jump in my car and go driving through it to canvass the neighborhood with you. That’s my language of love.