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What My Father Taught Me About Love

My father has always been a quiet, introspective man. Though he says little, the things he says say a lot. His presence around the words he chooses to speak say even more.

But my father is a lot more than just quiet and introspective. He’s generous. He’s kind. He’s hardworking and he’s curious about the world. Ever a reader, my father, for as long as I can remember, spends his evenings after family dinner times in his study reading everything from The New York Times to Sky and Telescope to the latest psychiatry journal.

His curiosity about the world radiates inward to his relationships with us, his family, in how deeply he listens when a story is being told at the kitchen table or while preparing dinner. It seems to mediate the ever-flowing, fiery energy of my mother, who moves through her day expressing emotion and thought as easily as she breathes.

Their separate ways of being in the world seem to balance one another, just as much as they sometimes create strain. At this point, it seems like their marriage has lasted long enough (31 years) that it’s an institution of sorts and that nothing can ever break it, no matter how loud their fight is or how many times they’ve had this same fight before.

In a few months, I’ll be walking down the aisle and saying “yes” to a man I love with all my heart. While any lifelong commitment is liable to make anyone nervous, I feel rather calm about the whole thing (marriage, not wedding planning–which is not really my cup of tea). I’ve seen my father go through the worst with my mother and come out stronger on the other side. At this point, I’ve internalized the “If they can get through it, we’ll be able to manage” mindset.

But real love has never been about “just sticking it out.” Real love is some combination of quiet introspection on oneself, tenderness towards those one holds dear, patience and perseverance, small sacrifices to someone else’s happiness and the ability to listen for what the other person is really trying to say.

I am the oldest of four and am turning 27 in the fall. This Father’s Day will be the 27th Father’s Day we celebrate with him. Reflecting on both the length of his fatherhood and my impending marriage, here are a few things I’ve learned about love from my father.

Love is Patient: My father is an incredibly patient man. He’s taught me the importance of being patient through life circumstances and relationships. His patience has communicated to me that everything turns out the way it’s supposed to in due time. Even more simply, his patience has radiated through his ability to patiently listen to us (both his kids and his wife) and then respond with a well-crafted, perfectly-timed response that respects both what we want to hear and what we need to hear in any situation.

Love is Kind: My father is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard him say anything remotely mean. Because he’s so intuitive, he seems to know exactly when to say something and when he shouldn’t. Honestly, the most touching thing about my father’s kindness is how tender he is with my mother. He’s not a flowery romantic, but he can write a perfect card full of tender, meaningful romance and knows exactly when to give my mother a protective hug.

Love Protects: There is something heartening about going out into the world knowing you have a safe place to come back to. It’s also great being able to come back and know that your parents are safe haven for classified information. I always enjoyed the times I spent nestled in my father’s lap or in the chair in his office. His quiet, non-judgmental way of listening made me feel safe and protected always.

Love Is Not Boastful: My father was never one to boast about his achievements or accomplishments. Whether it was about some accolade he got at work or about being right in an argument, my father taught me humility and the importance of recognizing one’s own achievements without having to be arrogant about them out in the world.

Love Perseveres: My father is one of the hardest working men I know. Whether it’s in his career, with his family or with his marriage, he’s always willing to put in the extra work to get through whatever the times ask him to do. I’ve seen him and my mother climb out of really dark places together in their marriage, proving that if you put enough energy into something you can get through pretty much anything life throws at you.

As we approach Father’s Day, I feel blessed to have had him as a role model in my life–for marriage, for my relationship with my partner, and for how to carry myself with dignity and grace throughout my life.

My father’s steadiness, humility, perseverance and kindness have proven to be a pinnacle of real, lasting love, and it is with those guiding principles that I approach my impending marriage with a man who, blessedly, holds many of those same qualities.