Monday, June 26, 2006

The ruby years

Published June 29, 2006

Forty years ago this week, my parents were married at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in South Sacramento. Over the decades my parents built a foundation on which love, sacrifice, tears and joy were sculpted. Looking back 40 years I see a legacy set in stone, a ruby to be specific.

Dad was able to secure a job with a good insurance company and was trained to be an insurance claims specialist. He worked for the same employer for over 35 years. It was his one and only job and he managed to provide for everything my mom, my sisters and I would need. He worked hard at his career while my mom worked hard making a home to raise us. His hours were long and sometime his commute was perilous. He patiently endured his company’s changes in management, mission statement and budgets. There were days I am sure he didn’t want to go to work, but he hardly took a sick day in all those years he worked to provide for us. My mom never had a day off, not until we all moved out.

They took out one mortgage on their first home, and paid it off in 30 years, right on schedule. They also put all three of us girls through private schools and then encouraged us to go to college. We were encouraged to work when we were teenagers, so that we could learn that “nothing is free”. I attribute the success of these lessons to my mom’s management skills. She took his paycheck and made it work. They didn’t have any debt, other than their mortgage, and they didn’t buy a lot of “stuff” when we were young. The cars my parents drove were not purchased new. Dad knew how to do bodywork on vehicles so he could turn a “wreck” into a new car and then turn around and sell it. This supplemented their fixed income. I am sure they had months which were leaner than others, but they didn’t rely on multiple mortgages and credit cards to see them through. The whole idea of sacrifice was a tenant of their marriage.

Mom and Dad’s personalities are completely different, but as the years got on, they started to look like other, act like each other and assimilate into a single person who loved to do the same things. Whether it was tennis, golf, reading, crossword puzzles, travel, dancing, parties and projects, Mom and Dad’s interests intersected more than I thought they did, now that I look back over the decades, I see that they both are creative and analytical. It’s funny to see how even their political leanings became one and the same as they melted into their marriage. It’s really true when they say that the purifying effects of a long marriage are that the two become one flesh both figuratively and literally.

When I look back on the decades of my parents’ long marriage, I see peaks and valleys, but mostly, I see rubies. Like two rough, unpolished stones in 1966, my parents have worked at, suffered in and happily sustained their marriage in order to achieve perfect brilliancy forty years later, in 2006. No example is more perfect than to see how my mom has taken care of my father over these nine months, since his complicated surgery in November and it’s aftermath. Even though my Dad is not yet walking, my Mom has become his legs. Her heart has fed him, nurtured him and sustained him towards getting well again. Doctors, therapists and nurses were not able to do this, but the love of a wife of 40 years can make miracles.

The ruby starts out as the mineral “corundum”, and is a sapphire of red color. The color red has always symbolized sacrifice. Rubies are extremely hard and durable and the ones that exhibit the finest quality have a rich clarity to them. Top quality rubies are rare and highly prized (much like a marriage that has lasted 40 years!) and in some cases where they are in large sizes, they are frequently valued higher than diamonds. When heated, their color is greatly enhanced and their hue is a rich and deep red color.

The ruby was said to be the most precious of the twelve stones God created when He created all things and a Ruby was placed on Aaron's neck by God's command. If it was good enough for the Lord Himself, it is something rare and priceless. As my parents commemorate their ruby anniversary this weekend, I will reflect on how precious and priceless they are to the whole family.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at


Anonymous said...

WOW, 40 years! Congratulations to Mom & Dad.
Love & prayers,

Tammy Maher said...

Thanks Kelly - The other two people I thought of when writing this column was Ron's parents and of course, you and Ronny.

Well, the years do purify us, now don't they!

Love, Tam

Erin said...

I read this and thought of my parents and all their years together. What a great article!

Tammy Maher said...

I have memories of your parents that remind me much of my own - thanks for that Erin!!