I only hear him leaving because his youngest son hears him first.

Hears his dad tip toeing quietly out at 5am so as not to wake the baby that finally fell back asleep at 4:30. The son I didn’t even realize was in the room. The son tucked into a blanket on the floor by the far side of the bed. By his dad’s side – the spot that he comes to claim at 2am when he’s trying to outrun bad dreams.

“I love you, daddy.”

He whispers it into the early morning air and I open my eyes in time to see his father framed by the window, a silhouette frozen by those words.

“I love you too, Micah. See you later.” And he’s gone. Gone to bus stops and transfers and metro rides and then the mile walk to his office.

Micah turns over and so does my heart.

This man of mine, I’ve known him since I was 21. I’ve known him since I still fitted into a dress size that seems inconceivable to me now. I’ve known him since that summer he spent all his savings on dating me.

He used to say his “I love yous” with flowers. With chocolate and river boat rides. With ice cream sundaes and Sunday lunches.

Now he says them in ways that the world tells me are boring but every wife recognizes as goose bump worthy.

The “I love yous” he says now cost him much more than flowers. And last much longer.

They come whispered with 5 am departures and two hour commutes so that I can have the car for the day. They come with an unloaded dishwasher and a desk and study tidied. They echo through two years spent living in South Africa and savings always poured back into plane tickets again. And again and again and again.

They sound like hours spent wrestling boys on the bedroom mattress when I know he’s still got hours of work waiting.

They are the willingness to get up at night and comfort sick kids right alongside me. No matter what time he went to bed or what time he has to get back out of it.

His “I love yous” now are the laugh that still spills out of him when I make up my own words to every other song, the ridiculous we both still find funny, and the books that line one wall of our house. The books that have made it through 3 international moves since we got married.

I hear it in the loud silence when we sink into the mattress that’s known us since we said our I dos and he manages to keep eyes open as I keep talking.

When he talks me down from mountains of my own making, when he rubs my forehead while he’s watching Sports Center, when he takes out the trash, orders Pizza delivery when he’ll be home late, or calls me out on my whiney-ness – I hear the “I love you.”

The longer we’re married the less we have to use words to say it.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
~Song of Solomon 6:3.

The lilt and lisp and romantic inflection of love comes from the serving and not from the saying.

Twelve years married and I am surer now than I ever was then that I am beloved.

Because in between the every day moments when we get it all wrong, there’s a man determined to love me right.

I hear it.

I can hear it in everything he does.