How to say “I Love You” for those of us who can’t

I was laying in my bed reading, with my head facing the entrance door to my room. The lights were on and the room was silent except for my own voice as I tried to whisper the words of the book.

I heard my little brother leave his room, which was my room when I was younger, to run downstairs. Then a few moments later, I heard his pattering feet come back up and then his door open and close again. I assumed he went to get a snack. Not long after, he quietly walked towards my room. I turned my head towards the door, expecting him.

He opened the door slightly, peaked his head in and caught my eye. Then we laughed. I asked him “what’s up?”

He responded “I thought you fell asleep reading so I was coming to turn off the lights.”

Some hours before this, he had brought two plates of food with similar portions upstairs. He asked me which one I wanted. I asked him which one was smaller, so he left the bigger one with me and took the smaller one to his room. I yelled for him to get me a Gatorade as he left, and he said no, because he didn’t feel like running back downstairs. I took a few bites of the food and went to lay in the bed to read. As I was reading, he ran downstairs and came back up, opened my door and said “do you still that Gatorade?”

When I turned around, he throw the bottle to me.

These aren’t individual cases. He comes into my room every night to see if I have fallen asleep reading and to turn off the lights. Some nights I’m still awake but remain quiet to validate his labor. Other nights I stop reading and invite him to watch a movie with me.

When I had my knee surgery in 2010 and was bed-ridden for months and on crutches for even longer, he was my savior. He helped me with every rehab exercise. He wrapped and helped ice my knee three times a day. He walked me up and down the stairs. Brought food and sometimes fed me when I was woozy from the effects of the painkillers, and generally attended to every small, annoying need/want that I had.

After I recovered, and when I was leaving to travel to a different country to play soccer, he left a note in my bag that said: “I hope you do well, don’t forget us!”

We’ve never said “I love you” to each other, and we probably never will. It seems redundant coarse to reduce it to words, even as a writer. But I have never doubted it for a second, even beyond the familial ties that we were born with, I know there’s a deeper friendship and bond present.

I don’t think this is reserved only for family as well. Often with me, and with others I know, small gestures of affection say the words that have to me, lost all meaning or otherwise never had any to begin with. The issue being that the expression is mostly used in a selfish way, which I think many people reveal when you ask them why or what they love about you. It turns into a stammering of things that you do for them and how it makes them happy.

Those words can never compare to a genuine “Hey, how are you?”

“Please drive safe.”

“Wear a coat.”

“Here’s an umbrella.”

“How can I help?”

These are much better expressions.

Side-note: I recently teased a girl for asking me to text her when I got home after she pretended to not care about me as much by asking her what my safe journey home meant to her. Then laughing and obnoxiously repeating that it’s a synonym for I care about you.

Anyways, I take my little brother to as many places as I can, making sure that he can experience the world more than I did. We talk and laugh about any and everything: just two days ago we spent three hours outside developing and acting out an action movie where Diego (Dora the Explorer’s cousin) becomes the ultimate super-villain after hearing tales of human brutality from his animal friends.

Many nights — since I’m an insomniac and he actually falls asleep way before I even begin thinking of it— when I’m coming upstairs after grabbing a snack, I’ll go into his room to turn off his computer and set him into his bed.

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