Like many fathers from his generation, my dad was probably like many of the dads across America. His parents emigrated here from Europe at the turn of the century as did many; some from Italy, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Austria and other parts of Europe. Many had acquired trades in their home land as tailors, brick layers, butchers, plumbers, electricians or common laborers who built the great roads and bridges of our country.

Their fathers were hard working, blue collar men, not known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They were focused on going to work, caring for their families and putting food on the table. Although many of these men cared deeply for their children, they seldom showed it either in words or in the form of emotion. In their generation, that was not what a man was supposed to do.

So, that was the parental model for our fathers, for my father and that’s how many of them interacted with us. It’s not because they didn’t love us, rather it was about how they were raised and what they knew. They wanted the best for their children, yet they were comfortable with the emotional distance and the unspoken words between father and child. It was how their fathers interacted with them and so it must be how a father should behave with his children.

As a young child, I respected and at times feared my father. He wasn’t a great hulk of a man, not a drunkard, nor was he prone to any form of violence but he was stern and his word was law. He taught me how to catch and throw a baseball properly as most fathers teach their sons; how to choke up on the bat to make contact with a pitch. He taught me how to bait a hook and cast a rod off a jete at Point Judith in Rhode Island. I’ll never forget how angry my mother became with him when she learned that he had taught me how to make a fist and box, so I could protect myself in a fight if need be.

My dad was a big car buff. My favorite car was his 1957 Ford Fairlane, red and white with the fancy fins and the roaring V-8 engine. I was only five years old when he first purchased that car and I remember how sad I was five years later when he sold it. I always hoped that someday, that car would be mine. He was his own mechanic and so, he taught me how to fix a flat tire, how to properly wash and wax a car and tune the carburetor on the engine so it would hum.

He taught me how to do all those things, many of which I became very good at and was proud of. But, he never taught me how to say "I love you." As a kid, I never thought about it much, I mean, I never heard any of my friends fathers say "I love you" to their sons either, so it really wasn’t a big deal. He’d attend my baseball and football games when he could, although he always stood at a distance, away from the crowds and the hoopla. At times he would say, "good job son or great hit," but I don’t ever remember him saying "I love you."

When I was in high school, he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, which is kidney cancer. In those days, based on the lack of technology and the knowledge of cancer, most people only lived one year with such an illness. They would surgically remove the tumor and hoped for the best. My dad wanted to live, so he searched for a surgeon who would do something that they weren’t doing in those days, remove the entire kidney. My dad figured, what the hell, I’ve got two and if it increases my life expectancy, I’ll take the chance. He lived another twelve years after that initial surgery.

As a young boy, I was scared but I also remember this sense of great pride and admiration. As a result, I sat down and wrote him a letter when he was in the hospital, after the initial surgery. I told him how much I admired him and how much courage I thought he had; how I learned from him to not be afraid when life challenges you. I remember signing the letter at the end and saying "I love you."

The following year, I left home to attend college in Boston. We lived in New York, outside of the city, so it was far enough away, three hours, that I could only come home to visit on occasion. From the moment I left for college and with each and every visit, my dad still never said "I love you" but he began to do something that he never did before; he began to hug me. From the day I left for college, with each return visit until the day he died he would always hug me hello and goodbye. That was his way of saying "I love you."

And now you know "why I love hugs!"

Author's Bio: 

Larry Agresto is a Life & Success Coach and the founder of Peak Performance Coaching.
He is also a writer, author and speaker. His work and writings focus on change and transformation. His latest work “The Power of Magical Thinking,” is about empowering people to realize their “true potential,” enabling them to live the fulfilled life they’ve always hoped for.

Shifting from the “automatic pilot”behavior of negative past experiences and limited thinking, one becomes capable of being truly present once again. In doing so, we begin to experience the unlimited thinking of the present moment, which in turn empowers the opportunity for unlimited possibilities into our lives.

He has written several e-books; “The Principles of Success, The Journey, What’s Stopping You and The 21 Day Breakthrough.” His latest e-book is entitled “The Power of Magical Thinking.”

Think Magic

Larry Agresto
Life & Success Coach
Peak Performance Coaching
(978) 649-1020