I loved the song, “Leader of the Band” (Dan Fogelberg) when it first came out, because it described my own father - and my band and choir directors in high school. Whenever I hear that song now, my mind automatically jumps to the following lines:
"He earned his love through discipline: a thundering, velvet hand.
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand."
"I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough,
And, Papa, I don’t think I said, ‘I love you,’ near enough."
My dad never said, "I love you," while we were growing up, so I never said that to him growing up. I knew he loved us - and that he loved my mother indescribably, but he just didn't say those words. He wasn't stoic or anything like that, and he certainly wasn't cold or aloof in any way whatsoever; he just didn't say, "I love you," to his children. He also wasn't physically demonstrative with regard to his affections.
I say, "I love you," every day, generally multiple times each day, to my own children (each and every one of them individually), and I also am a natural hugger. I made it a point a few years ago to start telling my dad openly, "I love you," whenever we talked on the phone. I can't express how glad I am that I made that decision, and how wonderful it is to hear him say it back to me.
He had a stroke a little while ago (from which he is recovering mostly), and it was such a comfort to know that one of the last things he heard me say before that happened was, "I love you."
If there is someone in your life with whom it's been difficult to share your emotions, or someone who has been difficult to love, please consider the situation and see if you can find a way to discover the power of saying a few short words on a regular basis to them. Hopefully, before long, "I love you," will be among them.