I Love You Elisha | Tzemah Yoreh


I Love You Elisha

I love my son Elisha to bits, but does Elisha love me?

I don’t know.

There is nothing that I want more in the world than for him to say those words to me… and to mean them.

When Elisha was four, I trained him to say I love you, as I dropped him off at preschool. With some prompting he would give me a hug, and say I love you in Hebrew. He dutifully repeated those words to me daily in a toneless voice, looking away from me, and then he would go play with his firetrucks.

I don’t ask him to say I love you anymore.

Elisha’s younger brother B, a precocious little demon, knew the power of this expression from about two years of age. He regularly let me know that he didn’t love me, or that he loved his mother more. As a literalist I can’t tell you how painful it was to be a victim of B’s growing rhetorical acumen. As an erstwhile stay-at-home father, I had wiped his hind end and had ministered to his absurdities more than his mother, and told him about twenty times a day, how I loved him more than anything. It is not fair.

In one of my favorite films, Forrest Gump, there is a dialogue about love that spans the film. It is so simple and so profound. I won’t ruin it for you, please watch the film.

The gist, though, is that love is most evident in interactions spanning a lifetime, even when the words are not always there. And then there is unconditional love… in the last scene of the film Forrest says goodbye to his son as he climbs on to the school bus. He tells his son, I love you, and his son answers I love you too Dad.

That school bus departs, but another comes to our home every day.
Each morning, my son Elisha eats the same breakfast, cheerios with maple syrup, avocado with salt, and oatmilk. As the clock draws close to seven he is full of excited energy, his bus is coming! He gets dressed fast, and for a few minutes we sit together on the steps outside, just father and son holding hands. We identify the birds chirping and read some of the traffic signs. Then the bus is here, we walk together until the door of the bus and he climbs on, I wave goodbye, but he is not looking at me.

I don’t say I love you.

At 4 pm he comes home, and I am waiting of the stoop. He steps off the bus with a beautiful smile, and I ask him how his day in school was. He says ‘yes’ still smiling, and we come back inside.

Elisha do you love me? I ask silently. He says, yes.

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