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Philip Maramba: Here's to the lucky couple

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - I was probably a teenager when I read a "Dear Abby" column asking how a father should set an example for his children.

I expected a to-do list, but Abby's reply was surprisingly simple.

In her response, she said that the most important thing a dad could do for his kids was love their mother.

Her answer was neat and reaffirming in the way that a kid could brightly perk up and say, "I've got one of those!"

I've since learned in the 30-some years since I read Abby's advice that what I had was a treasure indeed.

Mom and Dad will have been married 50 years this weekend, and I can safely say they've made it that long because Dad loves Mom - and she, him.

I've always believed they were the luckiest couple in the world. Throughout their marriage, it seems they caught the right breaks at the right time.

First of all, that Dad got Mom to marry him in the first place always struck me as fortuitous.

My father comes from a staid, stoic farming family; my mother's clan is gregarious and ebullient. I think my dad, whom his sisters teased as "Pretty Boy," had the good sense to liven up the family tree with the lovely, model-thin girl with an eye for style.

After medical school, Dad took the opportunity to train in the United States as an exchange student at a Catholic teaching hospital, where he completed his internship and residency in internal medicine.

Our little family was well cared for by the nuns in the administration. While his paycheck was modest, all our medical expenses were covered. The bonus for Mom was the number of single female interns who were happy to help babysit me.

Mom became a homemaker on the fly. A chemistry major in college, she turned her mind to the recipes formulated by my grandmother to bring a little bit of the Philippines to their new home. And to help stretch her budget, she taught herself to sew dresses for herself and clothes for her children.

When Dad interviewed for a cardiology fellowship, the first thing the department chief asked was if Mom knew how to make lumpia - a Filipino-style fried eggroll.

"The best," Dad replied. He then hurried to the hospital, where Mom was recovering from an appendectomy.

"Do you know how to make lumpia?" he asked. She did. Dad got the position.

The two made a great team.

But whereas most partnerships are sealed with a shaking of hands, Mom and Dad's was evident in the holding of them.

My father is unabashed in showing his affection for my mother - and not in the huggy-kissy kind of way, although you could always count on him for big, affectionate smooches when the occasion called for it.

No, it was always the simple act of clasping her hand in his that made an impression on me. Unassumingly, almost absently, reaching out to hold her hand while cruising down the highway or ambling along a city sidewalk demonstrated something deeply understood: I am yours.

Fifty years, four kids and 10 grandkids later, the two have been my models of selflessness, caring and love. I pray that my own wife and I are setting such an example for our own children.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. May the good Lord bless and keep you both.

Contact writer Philip Maramba at or 304-348-1248.


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