Glance up at that headline, and let it sink in for a minute.
Those of you who have met me within the last five-plus years won’t be shocked by the words. For you, it’s a big “DUH!”
If, however, you knew me in my days as a high school or college student — and even in my early days as a teacher and coach — that headline probably elicited something along the lines of “yeah, sure you are.”
During my coaching career, postgame hugs with my fellow coaches and an occasional athlete after a big moment were part of my “makeup.”
But for years — both before and after — I was pretty emotionally distant…even with my own family.
When, in 2015, I reconnected with my fraternity — Delta Sigma Phi — I had nearly 100-plus new role models in how to truly “connect” with those you care about and love.
Over time, saying “I love you” became much easier for me as I watched these 18-to-23-year-old men saying it — and truly meaning it — at virtually every turn.
And, over that same time, a simple embrace became something far more meaningful. It suddenly was something that was backed by TRUE emotion…not simply a “going through” of the motions.
I’d like to believe my immediate family has appreciated the change. The “old dog’s new tricks” have been welcomed, and the hugs I get — and give — are longer and more packed with meaning than ever.
My friends from the past 30-plus years are still kind of adjusting, I think. There are a few of them who have received those hugs for the duration. But others, who I may have been more “distant” from are likely thinking “who the Hell is this guy?!?”
“This guy” is a 56-year-old who isn’t ashamed to say that he truly LOVES some of those 20-somethings who taught him how to express his emotions in a way far healthier than ever before.
I think I may have shocked a few of them in the process. They hadn’t seen an alumni member — or not many of them, anyway — who was so willing to say “I love you,” or to hug them like a member of their immediate family.
Fast forward to today. Last Tuesday, I laid off the remainder of our embroidery team at Laser Apparel. I said goodbye to 24 friends over four days as part of the Stay at Home order we are now under in Jackson County, MO, and the whole of the KC metro.
And then I laid off myself.
What hurt the most in laying off those employees was not being able to give them — because I was following social distancing — the hugs that I so wanted to be able to provide.
To add to the temporary pain, I’ve been unable to hug my own mom and dad — who are in that “greater risk” area for contraction of the virus, because of their ages. And that’s not to mention the fact that their retirement community has been closed to outsiders…including their first-born son.
Finally, I’ve been unable to see — or hug — the three to five current Delta Sigs (plus a handful of young alumni) who have become like sons, of sorts, to me. And, because they’re dealing with the new realities of their own lives — like online learning, quarantines, financial uncertainty and a myriad of other things — some of them aren’t even communicating with me.
When this is all over with — and the sooner the better — I’m going to be a veritable hugging machine. I’ve got a “hit list,” and many reading this are on it.
But in the interim, do me a favor: Let those you love know it…and let them hear from you. Over do it if you have to. Don’t let them be alone…even if they’re surrounded by family.
As a guy who is single, and is cooped up for 30 days with just his two cats, hearing an “I love you” is like having an injection of Red Bull-packed adrenaline.
Because, when it comes right down to it, it’s love that keeps me alive. And hugs that sustain me.
I’m a hugger. Really.