Valentine's Day is a chance to tell those you love most how you feel, including how thankful you are that they stood by you when you were busy making some of your worst life decisions.
Juan Garcia knows that all too well. He was a teenage dad in Denton with a marriage falling apart. And it fell apart completely on the day he found his wife with another man.
"It just went really bad," he said. "It just snowballed. I screamed. I was mad. Me and the guy got into an altercation and then I told her we're done for sure. We're done."
And by the time it was done, Garcia was convicted of breaking into her apartment and kidnapping. He was sentenced to seven years behind bars.
"And so yeah, I just did my time," Garcia said.
But it's time that his mother, Alejandra, essentially served, too.
"Difficult, very," she said.
Difficult all that time waiting for her baby son to come home.
But Alejandra Garcia visited her son in prison nearly every weekend for those seven years. And when he was finally released, she gave him the seven birthday presents she'd been keeping until the day he came home.
"It's a wonderful thing to have him back again," she said.
So how does a now reformed son say thank you for all that? He got help from an unlikely source.
"You get to choose a gift, a piece of jewelry," he said to his mom on a surprise visit to Geolat, a private jewelry store in Dallas. In association with the group Cornbread Hustle, which works to provide guidance, counseling, and job-search assistance to former inmates, Patti Geolat offered the Valentine's gift to several ex-cons as a chance to thank their moms and loved ones for standing by them during the toughest of times and the toughest of years.
"Oh wow," Alejandra Garcia said. "I'm overwhelmed!"
"Whatever you would desire, it would be our honor for you to have it for Valentine's Day," Patti Geolat said.
Alejandra chose a silver heart necklace, for the broken heart she's had these last seven years.
"To show how appreciative I am as far as her support and love," Juan Garcia told his mom. “And so for any opportunity I can to return it I will, and I have. And I always will."
"It means freedom to me. It means freedom of my guilt," Alejandra said of her fear that her life as a single mom might not have provided her son with all the parental guidance he needed.
"I love you," she said as the two embraced.
Several more ex-cons would get this same chance at Patti Geolat's jewelry store.
"And I just have to say thank you so much for always, never giving up on me," Jodi Udan told her mom Sherry Peyton. Udan is clean and sober now after several years of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Peyton chose a bracelet as evidence of her daughter's newfound promise to stay clean.
"I've waited for this for a long, long time," Peyton said. "Year, years to have my child, my baby back. She is my baby."
"My way of letting you know that I'm sorry for all of that. And my way of letting you know that we don't have to go back there again and you can sleep easily knowing where you're daughter's at," Jodi Udan said.
"I'm here to tell Jodi, how proud I am of her," Peyton said through her tears. "I just want her to know, she doesn't have to be sorry. Just know that, I believe in her and I know what she can do. It's a huge, awesome blessing."
A blessing on Valentine's Day from a kid to their first Valentine, their mom.
"I can guarantee her the future will be better. It doesn't stop. It won't stop," Juan Garcia said.
Because mom's love never stops, no matter how many years it may have been locked away.
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