Black woman laying on couch smiles at her phone as hearts emerge from the screen

Making “I Love You” a Habitual Phrase

It’s 9:00 AM when my phone lights up. “Good Morning, Mary Beth!!!!!!!” My dad’s text message is enthusiastic and seemingly filled with joy. “Lol. Morning Dad, I love you.” I respond.

Dad has gotten into the habit of sending me and my siblings morning love bombs. As soon as I wipe the sleepy dust from my eyes, I can expect to glance at my phone to see his unending affection on my screen. The ritual is comforting, giving me a constant reminder that my dad is looking out for me.

For those of us who live away from home, sometimes it's weeks before we hear Dad's voice. And I suspect that he started sending messages to bridge the gap in a quiet kind of way. He misses us, and while it can be difficult to voice those feelings, there are ways to close the distance.

Life is short

When someone you love has a disease like Parkinson’s, you constantly live with the reminder of time. It seems like we’re always looking at a finite amount of it. Not only do we visibly see Dad's loss of abilities. We also actively see him age, watching the minutes tick by, becoming fewer and fewer.

But it’s because of this constant reminder of our finite existences that I find our morning ritual to be essential. I don’t want to go a single day without telling my dad how much he means to me. And every day that’s spent living mindfully seems like a day well-spent.

Bonding with my dad

I also get a good laugh out of our morning ritual. It seems like Dad always has some sass lurking beneath the surface. And the extra enthusiasm tickles me. Sometimes his messages are just what I need to open up a large-scale conversation. We go from talking about the weather to solving the world’s problems together. A seemingly small moment turns into a fairly large one.

My older sister takes my dad’s messages and turns them into humor-riddled conversation. She makes jokes about the White House. My dad retaliates with a giggle. And with just a simple gesture, we find ourselves growing in closeness.

My mom's role

For a while, my mom became inspired by our ritual, too. But instead of messaging us first thing in the morning, she decides to send us to sleep with a: “Goodnight, my little dear.” We keep it up for a while. But she runs herself ragged every day, and by the time her head hits the pillow, she has nothing left to give.

While I love looking at my phone first thing in the morning, getting a reminder that I’m loved, I also know that everyone’s love language is a little bit different. And finding ways to say or insinuate another person’s importance in your life is a fun and fluid process.

Creating a new habit

Parkinson’s disease continuously causes disruptions in our lives. But there are moments when I’m grateful for the disease, too. Because, without it, would I have gotten into the habit of making “I love you” a  habitual phrase? Would I have looked at the moments of time ahead of us, and vowed to hold my dad a little closer?

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