Here at Baptist Village a van  goes each Thursday to Walmart, and several of us climb aboard to buy all the things without which we can’t possibly live another day. Usually, I make the journey about every fourth week, and last week was  my coming-out time again.

I was glad I chose to go last Thursday because immediately on  entering the store, I saw red, literally as far as the eye could see were suggestions on what to get your true love. Stuffed animals, bright colored and huggable, flowers, both cut and plant varieties, jewelry, candy — particularly calorie-filled chocolates were in prominent spots along the front aisles. I was reminded of my comment many years ago to my husband, George.  “You always get me something nice for Valentine’s Day, but I don't always find anything for you.”

He said in a surprised tone, “Valentine’s  Day is a girl’s day. Men don’t need anything for that holiday”  

“Oh, Okay,” I said.  I could live with that.

Last Thursday though, I started thinking.  Maybe there ought to be an expansion of that day for me. I’m at that stage in my life when I’m  missing the one true love in my life, but I’m grateful for many friends who show their affection, or at least toleration, for me in many sweet, thoughtful ways.

I began recounting to myself all the many things my friends do for me on a regular basis.  Last Saturday, my walking buddies, Bette and Vestal Cole came out and picked me up, took me to a delicious lunch at Chili’s. When they brought me home, they came in and visited with me for another hour or so. Since they were starting on Monday for two months of free tax preparation  under the auspices  of AARP, time was a precious commodity for them. 

Then, there’s my dear friend, Ruth Ann Taylor, who does most of my grocery shopping for me  (which is why I ride the van to Walmart only about every fourth week) plus devoting a full half day to me every couple of weeks while I get my nails filled and filed. We manage the financial end of her shopping for me by my writing her a check for $300.  We refer to the cash she gets from it as our “Trust Fund.” She keeps my money separated from hers by storing it  in a brightly-colored, sturdy envelope.   When the envelope goes flat, I realize she doesn’t trust me anymore, so I do a replacement.

There’s Dave and Jodi Jackson who  take me to  New Bethel church twice on Sundays and on Wednesday evening for mid-week prayer meeting. Jodi is also part of the trio that comes out every other Friday at noon and takes me to lunch, then spends that afternoon playing Skip Bo  with me.  The others are Pat Henley and Lynda Dixon, all of whom have been my friends for more than 30 years.  

If one of my long-term-friends can’t come that day, we draft Rita Roberts or Dee Hutson,   

Marilou and Ted Gardner’s friendship also goes back more than 30 years to when we all were employed by the Byng School system, and Marilou and I did lots of traveling together.  They are always available if I need them.

A newer friendship is that of the Rev. Dale and Tonya Dunagan and their son, Matt. They stayed many weekends with me before they completed their house in Ada. Tonya lived with me several months while she was a nurse at the veterans’ facility at Sulphur, so the Dunagans moved from friendship to extended family a long time ago. Dale is still undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer, but he has already exceeded by several  months the doctors’ predicted life expectancy for him. The Dunagans do all sorts of things for me — like bringing me a couple of pieces of pizza when they have a feeling that I’m having pizza cravings. Matt has also taken me to doctors’ appointments. I have learned that one can get along without an automobile fairly well if one has friends  whose heads nod only in an affirmative direction  and who are great at sensing what I need without my having to ask.

The  closest I come to actual family in the area is the Richard Barrons.  

Abby is the widow of my youngest son, Paul. I told her when he died in 1992 that she had become my adoptive daughter.  When she married Richard more than eight years ago, I informed  Richard that he had become my adoptive son-in-law. They have maintained their assigned roles admirably.  Abby’s health has been rather frail in recent years, so it was often Richard who did my yard work when I still lived at Byng and who comes by the Village and picks up my column for The Ada News.

I never expected to be so dependent on so many people, but since I am, I’m surely grateful that so many dear friends are  gracious about all they do for me.  I hope all the other senior citizens across the nation  have an equally loyal group of family and friends. There are more and more people who are living longer and becoming less able to do everything for themselves, so  there are more people who are not full-time caregivers but who do much to provide a stimulating and interesting life for their less able friends and family members.

When I made my pilgrimage to Walmart last week, my first thought was “You’d think Valentine’s Day was a national holiday, wouldn’t you? The more I thought about it  and the more I counted the many friends who watch after me so well and go way above and beyond the call of duty, the more  I determined that there ought to be a special day honoring the MF (Milligan Friends). Until the Powers That Be designate a  Friendship Day, I’ll just take a little nibble out of Valentine’s Day and tell all those people again how much I love them.  I may not be able to buy a colorful stuffed animal or a big box of chocolates, but I can say a hearty thank-you and “God bless you.”

Dorotha Stiles, who lives at the Village  was taken by ambulance Monday morning to a local hospital. According to an unconfirmed report she has a broken hip and an injured shoulder.  Dorotha and her family were long-time Byng residents and both their sons were graduates of Byng High School.  Dorotha has been a very active resident, and most agree that she’s one of, if not the best, cook in the Village.

Another Byng resident is  now calling the Village his home.   Richard Kirby, one of my former students for at least six of his 12 years of school, moved in last month.  He went directly into the Navy after high school and served 20 years.   He received medical disability as the result of a stroke.  He appears to be in good physical condition and promises he’ll teach some of us to play Mexican dominoes.