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February 11, 2014

Mark Millican: Valentines for all my ‘sweet hearts’

It’s interesting sometimes how people perceive the meanings of words. For example, when a girl says she has a boyfriend, we assume there is a boy of the species she is enamored with or is heading full steam toward in that direction. Same thing with a guy if he says he has a girlfriend.

But if a woman says she has a girlfriend, we usually take for granted they are best buddies and one of them can say, “You go, Girlfriend!” But if a guy says he has a boyfriend, we would perceive that in a different way altogether.

When speaking to my wife, Teresa, I often call her “Sweetheart.” But in this week leading up to Valentine’s Day, my perception is I have several “sweet hearts” in my family who deserve homage.

Foremost, of course, is my wife Teresa. I thank God often for blessing me with her after a period where I felt marital love and happiness was just not in the cards. We’re opposites in a way but also enjoy doing things together — hiking, travel, spending time with the grandkids and going to church and being in ministry. Sometimes we just read books in each others’ company.

I am very proud of the work she does as a disabilities coordinator for Head Start in a six-county area of northwest Georgia. Her job can be frustrating since it’s federally funded and overseen, but she likes to say the 3- and 4-year-olds she gets to observe and interact with when she visits the Head Start centers are her favorite people.

That’s right around the age our grandsons are now, or are fast approaching, and I’ve seen her give common sense tips and wisdom to the young mothers in our families. Teresa is also a great cook and it amazes me how quickly and deliciously she can “whip something up” for supper.

My daughter Amy stole my heart one evening at church a few years back, all in the moment it took for her to sit on my knee and flash that little angel smile. She and Devin and their growing family remain too far away — even though it’s only north Alabama — and we yearn to see them more often.

My daughter Rebecca came into my life already beginning to excel in a career after finishing her degree in business at Dalton State College. She and her husband Michael live in the Dallas-Hiram area — still too far away — and we’re not looking forward to a career move on his part possibly taking them farther afield.

My daughter-in-law Elizabeth is a dynamo with a full-time job and two young boys. We’re grateful she and her husband Andrew live in Whitfield County, so we get to see them often. I look for more good things to come out of their marriage.

Last but certainly not least is my mother. “Miss Ann,” as she’s sometimes called, is a retired high school English teacher who continues to teach Sunday school at her church in Dalton even now into her early 80s. She is involved with other things in church and also delivers meals on wheels, still invites me to her “Keenagers” luncheons, and has grieved seeing many of her friends pass away — including my late father.

She stays so active it takes me two to three weeks to get a weekday lunch date with her.

Mom is a great cook and loves hosting family get-togethers. Truth be known, if not for her prayers during her oldest son’s darkest moments, I would already be toiling in the blackest regions of the netherworld. For that I am eternally grateful.

There are other family members who are special. I have several female cousins in Georgia and South Carolina — the latter where I spent a lot of growing-up time — who have excelled in their chosen fields and are raising successful families. One of my Palmetto State cousins was selected as the top oncology care nurse in the country last year.

I’m not trying to let on that our family is heads above others. We’ve struggled and continue to address issues such as divorce, family breakups and untimely deaths, and have been touched by addictions, just like other families.

But thank God these women have the “sweet hearts” that make life easier to get through. I’ll bet you know some, too — will you let them know about it this Valentine’s Day weekend?

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