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.