Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I love Pauline Greenhill - and others

How is it we can say we love someone? Someone we really don't know? You see that in concerts and other functions. The artist at a music show will yell out to the audience, "I love You!" Is love used so much that it has become a cheap word. One that is so thrown around to anyone that it means so little.

Do you remember that first time you told someone you loved them? What kind of love was it? The love you feel toward your parents, your siblings, your girlfriend, boyfriend? Was it to a good good friend. Someone who you felt that there can be no better friend in the world? I can remember the first time ever that I told my Mom I loved her. It was in the moment of an emotional, physical and spiritual event. I had just finished piercing at a Sundance Ceremony and my Mom was in the circle watching. I hugged her and told her I loved her. Only twice have I ever told my Mom I loved her. The second time was when she lay in the hospital bed, 3 days before she passed on from cancer.

The reason this is something that I remember is because we never ever said we loved you to anyone in our family. Never mind hug or shake hands. It seems almost obscene or perverse to touch your family. I remember about 10 years ago, my Dad started to shake our hands at New Years. This was the first time I ever saw this gesture from my Dad. Dad is 78 years old now. Both my parents grew up in the residential school system, that was run by Catholic nuns and priests. Me, my brothers and sisters all went to school there as well. I am not sure why we didn't touch, hug or tell each we cared or loved one another. It's not like we're cold fish, as a matter of fact we are all very emotional people.

I remember when I first went with my wife to her Mom's house. Her Mom hugged her and kissed her. What the heck was up with that? I saw that on television but really didn't think people actually did that. Families I mean. I know you hugged strangers and shook hands with strangers and acquaintances all the time. Going to A.A. meetings or Talking Circles you hugged and shook hands with people all the time. I know it's weird we can show closeness to people who mean little to us, but our closest family members we are afraid to utter the three little words. I am very fond of my wife's family. They are some of the best people I have ever met. I don't feel comfortable hugging them either. I guess intimacy is the key. Not intimacy in the bedroom meaning, but intimacy like you know them when they cry, laugh, are happy, are sad, are grieving and are just living. It's that intimacy that makes hugging inappropriate for me.

I try to make sure my kids know that I love them. I don't say it enough but I try to make it evident in how I treat them. I guess that was what worked for my parents. But I want my kids to hear it. It was strange to say it out loud to my kids, but I do it. I still have apprehension so I say "You love your Dad?" to the kids. This way it gets them to say it, and it's like I'm talking about a third person. I tell my wife I love her. When I tell my wife I love her, I use the word in many different ways. Many times she is my hero and my conscience. So I love her in that manner. Other times she is my best friend and other times my wife and the Mom of my baby.

Now getting to Pauline. Yes I do love Pauline. Not in the most intimate way, or even in a meaningful way, but in the way that I am in her debt and I am grateful that I got to meet her. She was very important to me with my education. She is a Professor and she was kind to me when I was in school. So I love her in that way, she was kind to me :-). She is one of those people, a Woman that you will remember always. She is funny smart and not very snobby (for a Professor) in the world of academia. So I love you Professor (That's Professor Greenhill, and not Ms as I had first called her).  Love is such a complicated word that it means so much and can mean so little.But hey coming from a guy that didn't hear that as a kid, its cool and groovy thing to say. 

A story from home: Swimming was part of our lives every summer. When we were kids we swam in the ditch. When we learned to actually swim we swam at the point on the river. When we could drive we went to the beach. My brother-in-law Smiley and I took kids to the beach. One of his nieces was out in the water about waste level. She was about 5 years old. We took lots of kids from our families to swim. Smiley and I were talking and watching this little kid. She kept getting out of the water and kept diving back in. I was thinking "holy, that kid sure can swim". Smiley later told me he was thinking along those lines as well. I think it was my daughter that yelled at me that the little girl was drowning. I guess she was trying to gain her balance and kept falling forward. We didn't tell her Mom that we almost let her baby drown, until years, lots of years, later.


  1. I enjoyed reading this. I agree, the word "Love" is used too casually at times and when it is said like that, the true meaning isn't there... but in the ways you described saying it in this post was interesting to think about. My family and I didn't really start hugging and saying "I love you" till I was much older. I'm so glad we do that now. It's something magical about it, you know. Thanks for the read.

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  3. storge, eros, phileo, agape. These old Greek words highlight how love can meaning different things. In English we only have one word for love, but it has so many meanings.

  4. In a way too, it is love to the rock star on stage. Try getting on a stage some time, and have 30,000 people all yelling happily, just because you're there. I've never been in a stadium that crowded when I was the center of attention, but even just being on stage in a play, when you get a standing ovation, its quite a rush of emotion. Like you said, we don't really have words for emotions that are similar to love, but the same as the kind of love you have for your kids...or your spouse. It wouldn't work very well if they shouted at the crowd, "I really like you a lot too!". ;)

  5. I guess that makes sense. But I think "I like you" is powerful too.

  6. I love Pauline Greenhill too!! Pauline and I met at a wedding. I hung out with her friend at the bar all night and drank LOTS of tequila. Then Pauline and I stuffed drink straws in the marriage bed to be tricksters. She's great.