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Nolan Nefzger calls Terry and Donna VandenBos his “Granny and Grampie.” Nolan enjoys spending time with them–and learning all sorts of new skills, like driving the VandenBos’s riding lawnmower.

Valentine’s Day is a reminder to express fondness and appreciation for those we cherish whether they be sweethearts, relatives, best friends, or people who serve us such as teachers, pastors, and service personnel. Who is your Valentine and why?

Like a lot of folks in North Central Montana, Erika, Randy, and Nolan Nefzger found themselves here far from family members when Nolan was a tiny baby. They rented a home from Terry and Donna VandenBos who naturally found themselves keeping close contact with the Nefzgers. 

 “Nolan was a lot of fun, so we bonded and kind of adopted him as a grandson,” shared Donna. Nolan calls Donna and Terry, Granny and Grampie.

Terry and Donna grew to be close friends with Randy and Erika and became Nolan’s Godparents when he was baptized. The relationships have grown over the years.

Nolan spends a lot of days with Granny and Grampie after school. “I’ve been a tough grandma,” confessed Donna. First, they do homework. After that there is time for cards and lots of games – the kinds of things grandparents do with their grandchildren. 

It isn’t all playtime, though. Learning farm and ranch skills are some of the life lessons Nolan receives from Granny and Grampie VandenBos. Recently, Terry bought a riding lawnmower with a zero-turn axis and Donna taught Nolan how to drive it. He then graduated to operating a skid steer while helping Donna clean up branches around the ranch. 

Donna will tell you there are a lot of ways to show love or make a “love connection.” She will also say she doesn’t feel worthy of recognition and she isn’t doing anything special, but this grandma knows better. 

With grandchildren of my own far from family, it’s reassuring to know there are people out there looking out for them, too.

Perhaps you have some special Valentines of your own who have come into your life unexpectedly yet play a special role in your well-being. Or perhaps, you are that Valentine for someone else. 

Love isn’t bound by genetics or geography. Love is bound by shared experiences. That is how it finds us.

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