One of the best love stories I know doesn't include a guy in fancy clothes and a gal in a gown. It doesn't include a pair of youngsters who hit the genetic lottery and are smitten with each other at first sight.
It doesn't comprise a tale of families trying to keep their kids of rival clans from hitting on each other. Not even a billionaire and a secretary make this story. There are no time travelers, vampires or even a notebook.
In fact, this story involves chemotherapy -- and hospice care.
You see, a local acquaintance won't be celebrating his Valentine's Day at a concert, restaurant, romantic movie, dancing or any other place where thoughtful significant others often go to celebrate a great holiday. He'll be celebrating it at the local hospice care, while his wife receives chemo treatment.
Every picture on Facebook of the two of them, you see a series of nodes and sensors attached to her. Most times, she's resting, too exhausted to do the moves most of us take for granted.
But there are a few things you'll see that keep this from being a completely bleak picture, if you look close enough.
Her husband is always posting photos of beautiful sunrises. You'll see her smiling, when surrounded by the happy faces of her grandkids and nieces. And when she's sleeping, her husband has his hand on her head, and even sometimes plants a kiss. There's real love in these images.
There's also other signs of love -- purple flowers on a table, prayers from family and friends on Facebook, well-wishes from others. Love isn't just limited to a couple.
It's not the only local love story. All across our town, there are stories of people in prominent positions, showing compassion for spouses fighting cancer and other afflictions that attack us silently.
There's a couple and their kids caring so much for adopted son. Another couple and their daughter do all they can for a son who has never been able to move or speak a word on his own in his life. I know friends and colleagues going the extra mile for an elderly parent, dealing with the trials and tribulations of aging.
Sometimes these stories are missed by Hollywood, but shouldn't be.
These are the stories that should inspire us. Because that's what life is like. And many of us need that inspiration as we confront struggles of our own.
We have a myriad of elements that go after spouses, significant others, parents and kids where we're called upon to show our true colors in a way a film or television series could never capture.
How can we do it? The best way involves seeking help from others and a higher power, if that's your belief system. It also involves sharing our own stories of struggle with others.
You may not realize it, but those tales you tell can provide just the inspiration and dedication another person needs to confront what life throws his or her way, instead of bottling it up or trying to solve everything alone.
Therefore, happy Valentine's Day to all the real lovers out there, who taught me something about love I would have never received from popular culture.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.