How Love is Expressed: A Short Story about Dads and Daughters

Cat Li Stevenson
3 min readOct 2, 2020

At 7:30am this morning my daughter sat in her dad’s lap with her forehead pressed against his, her two little hands cupped around his face — eye gazing. Then they silently moved from eye gazing to looking at the little scars on their bodies, and touching them with their fingers. And she finished with pressing her two fists up against her chest — what I imagine her fetal position was in the womb — and then tucked herself to fit perfectly in the crevice of her dad’s chest and belly, and rested.

I sat, nearby, on the other end of the couch, sipping on a cup of tea, marveling at the physical intimacy between them. And how snuggly and affectionate our daughter is — and how she definitely did not inherent that trait from me.

As I watched, I saw what a beautiful expression of love they have, and my mind wandered to think about the relationship I had with my dad. How we never had that kind of physical connection, but I always felt that he was very loving. It was expressed by an every-single-morning big, welcoming smile and an enthusiastic and simple, “Good morning Catherine, how did you sleep?” Followed immediately by his eagerness to be of service, “Can I make you some breakfast? What would you like — eggs and toast with orange juice?”

A few years before my dad passed away — I think it was 2014 — I was visiting from San Francisco and staying with my dad. My dad and step-mom would usually hang out in the upstairs computer room before bed, in their pajamas, browsing news and social media, chit chatting about their day. I remember I was awkwardly putzing around in that computer room, going through old photo albums, looking over at my dad here and there, waiting for a good moment…

He finally said, “Did you want to ask me something?” with a big smile.

I did!

I wanted to ask him deeper questions, but I didn’t know how — the expression of our love was through pleasantries and kindness and service, but not depth and questions. I took a deep breath, and entered uncharted territory. I came out the gate nervously with an: “Um, did you feel loved by your parents?”

He said, “My parents loved us SO much.”

I was so taken back by that answer — one, because I think it’s rare to feel that “SO” loved by your parents, and two, that my dad could answer it with so much gusto and confidence. And three, when he said that, I pictured my grandparents in my mind and — to me — they didn’t exude “so” love to me. My grandpa seemed abrupt, my grandma very reserved. So then, I found another ounce of courage in me, and I said “Um, well, how did they show it?”

My dad said, “Oh my mom loved us so much that she worked as a maid and raised all five of us. And my dad would make our lunches, put out our shoes before school, buy us candy. One day when I forgot my lunch, my dad walked in the snow to drop it off to me.”

I was touched by my dad’s humility, his unconditional gratitude towards his parents — and the wisdom of how he could so clearly see their expression of love.

This morning, as I sat watching Eli and Maya in their closeness, this story he told me years ago came full circle and some tears came. I saw that I, too, have adopted my dad’s expression of love — morning pleasantries or the “how was your day?” at the end of day —are my acts of love.

They’re so small, and yet they are my deepest expressions of love. I am seeing with my dad’s clarity on this hazy, smoky SF morning that love takes many different forms and has many unique expressions — and it’s quite moving… ❤



Cat Li Stevenson

SF via AZ. Explorer of the human journey, and waking up in Mamahood. I write about healing, mothering, grief, & love.✨