Although Uncle Ray meant a lot to me, I'm not sure I ever told him that I loved him. Love was a suspect word to me when I was young. Because my father was an alcoholic with a tendency to violence, a gambler, a womanizer, and by professional diagnosis a pathological liar, he devalued the word love with his behavior. He said he loved my mother and me, but he betrayed us repeatedly. Every time that he lost the mortgage payment in a poker game, he claimed to have done it out of love, hoping to get lucky so that he could give us what we deserved. When he did win, the proceeds invariably were spent on drink and women. As a consequence, I seldom said I loved anyone, until I met Gerda, who became my wife and who, by the nature of her heart, restored meaning and value to the word. Even my mother, who was a gentle and loving soul, seldom used the word love, as if the hostile atmosphere in that house caused in her, too, a perpetual allergic reaction, a kind of anaphylactic shock, in which expressions of affection stuck in the throat.