If you’re angry at a loved one, hug that person. And mean it. You may not want to hug – which is all the more reason to do so. It’s hard to stay angry when someone shows they love you, and that’s precisely what happens when we hug each other. ~Walter Anderson, The Confidence Course, 1997
It’s a game my son and I play. I hold him and throw his arms around my neck, and he struggles to get away. Alright, so, he’s only 7 weeks old and it’s really just a game that he’s an unwitting player in. But I’m his dad and so I’m entitled to all the hugs I want, right?
I started thinking about hugs the other day, and that got me thinking about my dad.
My dad loved hugs from his sons. “Come here and give your dad a hug!” Of course, I never gave up hugs to my dad easily. In fact, I’d often run the other way instead of giving him a hug. It’s not that I was a bad son. We just didn’t have the greatest of relationships when I was growing up so I was reluctant to share that kind of expression of love with him. And so, outside of the obligatory birthday and Christmas hugs, rarely did I give in to my dad’s requests. I often didn’t notice, or chose to ignore, that pain in his eyes when I turned the other way. At the time I just didn’t truly understand the importance of those hugs.
It wasn’t until I myself became a father that I really came to appreciate that bond you feel with your child when you give them a hug. You’re letting them know that you’ll protect them from whatever is out there, and they’re letting you know that they trust you unconditionally. You’re sharing a deep representation of love that few other gestures can express. It leaves you with a feeling of joy to know that someone loves you enough to share that bond with you. And even though my squirming 7 week old might not understand it now, I find it important to hug him each and every day.
It’s amazing how grudges fall away and old anger seems meaningless when you find out someone you love is terminally ill. In those last nine months of my dad’s life, I let go of that anger and resentment I held onto for so long. I forgave him for how he’d made me feel. And most importantly, I hugged him. I hugged him every chance I got. I hugged him after his brain surgery to remove the tumor. I hugged him after his treatments. I hugged him when the cancer came back quickly and spread. And in those last few weeks as the cancer took him, even when he didn’t know it, I hugged him every chance I got. I wanted him to know that I loved him, and that I did feel safe in his arms and I was glad he was my dad.
It’s been over 2 years since my dad passed away, and it still hurts me to think about the way I turned away from his hugs. I can’t imagine how it must have pained him to see his son whom he loved so much not want to return that love. I know he knew I loved him, but I still struggle with the fact that I just didn’t express that love enough.
So do me a favor. After you’re done reading this, let go of any anger or resentment you might have towards your Dad. Give him a call, say hi, tell him you love him. And the very next time you see him, give him a hug. Because whether they say it or not…dads love hugs.