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The only way I know how

“He checked the air in my tires, the belts and all the spark plug wires. I couldn’t hear it then but I hear it now: He was saying ‘I love you’ the only way that he knew how.”

That’s the hook line from “A Father’s Love,” a Bucky Covington song that explains a concept that fascinates me: the concept of love languages – the ways in which we hear and say “I love you.”

We are all wired differently when it comes to communicating love. We can try to tell someone we love them and end up hurt when they don’t hear us. We can feel unloved because someone is saying it in ways we can’t hear.   

“I love you” goes WHOOSH, right over our heads, WHOOSH right over our hearts.

I’m still overwhelmed by the way someone recently said they love me. It was the clearest I ever heard it and said in the language I understand most.  They said it with a song.

I’ve spent the past 20 years telling people I love them with songs.

I sang “I love you, be with me forever” to my wife.  I sang “I love you, I miss you” to my brother who stayed in Nebraska when I moved home.

I’ve sung sad ones to say, “I love you, I’m sorry for your loss.” I’ve sung funny ones to say “Let’s laugh until we love each other.”

I’ve sung it hard as I felt it while holding back tears of gratitude to simply say, “I love you so, so much.”

A special thing happens with song love. It makes a way to allow me to not only say “I love you” to one person but to many through me.   

The song I just wrote for my friend lets her I say “I love you” to her grandmother. It also lets her grandmother say “I love you” back.

The song makes a way for me to tell my own grandmother I love her, too.  If I did my job right, it will make the same way for anyone who hears it.

At some point, I will be on stage singing “I love you” to my Mamaw James in Heaven. At the same time, I’ll be musical middleman for a stranger in the crowd to get in their feelings and say “I love you” to someone in Heaven I’ve never met.

Crazy, right?

During Father’s Day breakfast, my son came into the kitchen holding his great-grandfather’s guitar. I couldn’t believe it. After all these years of singing, “I love you,” to others, someone was going to sing it to me.

I watched D brave through his nerves and begin. His fingers found the chords. His voice followed the melody. I sat at the table listening and fighting back tears. I listened, and I heard him.

He was saying “I love you” the only way I know how.

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.