My Asian household doesn't do feelings. We don't really say "I love you." You may be shocked, but don't think that we don't love each other because we don't say these three words. Instead, we show it in subtle ways.
My dad would be careful with his money but would always be there when we needed something. My mom would be cutting up some fruit, not for herself, but for us when we're studying. "This is good for the brain," she'd say or when I stayed home from school because of a cold, and my parents would come back from grocery shopping with lots of fruits.
I'm twenty-one years old and living in an apartment away from home for college, but I'd come back from visiting home I always have with me, bags of groceries. Dad would call to check up on my location, seeing that I'm 0.7 miles away from the apartment at 6:30 PM. Mom would insist on taking food after food back to the apartment.
As a five-year-old, I never really realized how big the world was. All I knew of the world was school, my family, this big tv set from the '90s (one of those CRT televisions- I actually looked this up) that would play teleseryes (Filipino soap operas) and kids shows, and the outside that served as our playground. I didn't have an idea of extravagance nor simplicity. I was just being a kid.
As a twenty-one-year-old, I saw values. I saw the gravity of simple things. I would fall in love with life through the lens of simplicity.
I never heard "I love you" in the household growing up, but I still felt the comfort and warmth of those words.
"I love you" poetically hid behind my family's actions. They were in "because you need it," in every "kumain ka lang" ("just keep eating") words a tired college student who missed home-cooked meals loves to hear. In that one lumpia in the center of the dinner table, in every game of Mario Kart, and in the home that sheltered us. I would hear them as my sister would cheer loudly for my name when I walked across the stage on graduation day. I would see those words written under the pseudonym "don't forget to pray."
I'm not saying that my family's the best or I was raised perfectly. We all have imperfections. We all have something we don't have but, if you've known me for quite some time, you'd know that my favorite quote is "happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light." These gaps in our lives are under our control: either leave them empty or do something about it. In this case, not having heard "I love you" means I got room to hear it under different lenses.