Valentine's Day is coming! What a perfect season to dust off The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman's best-seller from 1992. Initially aimed at married couples, the book's popularity continues today. There are hundreds of discussion groups and spinoffs including The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. Chapman's premise is useful in any relationship, including with our aging parent.
Chapman asserts that everyone has a primary "language" to give and receive love. Those are: acts of service, quality time, giving and receiving gifts, physical touch and words of affirmation. When we undertand our aging parent's primary love language, and give him what he needs, he receives a sort of electronic shock in his soul.
The key is identifying your aging parent's "language." If she gives love in a certain way, she will likely appreciate receiving in that same language. Here's how the love languages work in some of my family members.
1. Acts of Service: Grandpa Harley, a man of few words, mowed the church's lawn, tended to the flowers and quietly prayed for the pastor every Saturday night. He appreciated Grandma Lena's incredible meals and help with domestic chores.
2. Quality Time: My father-in-law enjoys taking friends and family out to lunch. He loves an invitation to our extended family dinners.
3. Receiving Gifts: Every chance she gets, my mother-in-law brings all of us homemade jam, soup and other goodies. She appreciates cards and gifts and hand-colored pictures from the grandchildren.
4. Physical Touch: Carolyn, our hugging relative, can't let five minutes go by at a family gathering before she corners the kids and anyone else within reach, giving them a bear hug. Obviously, she likes to receive them, too.
5. Words of Affirmation: Uncle Dale is a "connector." When he introduces people, he affirms each person with positive comments about their achievements. He appreciates the same.
Try to observe your aging parent. Can you guess their primary love language? Their secondary one? Tell us about it.