This is the first of my stories to be published. My sweet Mom sent “A Pair for Life” to Home Life magazine in 1991. (See above).
Their decision to publish it was the first step in my realization that maybe someone in addition to family and friends might enjoy my stories.
I thought, publishing seems easy. I have a thick rejection folder proving otherwise.
Enjoy an audio reading of “A Pair for Life” by the author (that’s me).
A Pair for Life
From the books, Deep Roots and Stories from the Creekbank, by Curt Iles
Clay, Clint, and I crawled over the wet leaves to the bluff bank on the small stream called Dry Creek. We were just west of where the creek runs into Bundick’s Creek. Crawling along, I kept looking at the boys reminding them to stay quiet. Silence was needed because I knew I had heard wood ducks on the creek.
Sliding along to the cliff edge, we saw them—a male drake resplendent in the beautiful colors that make the wood duck my favorite bird. He was swimming along beside his drab‑colored hen companion. They nervously swam in circles, fully aware of something being wrong, but couldn’t quite place where we were.
It was a special moment in my life—one of my sons on each side lying on the high bank as we watched the pair of ducks swimming about.
The boys kept looking back at my shotgun, which was leaning against a nearby tree. I shook my head as they imploringly looked at me. We lay there about ten minutes just enjoying watching them. Eventually the ducks swam down Dry Creek, out into the stronger current of Bundick’s Creek . . . and then were gone.
My sons upbraided me about not shooting the ducks. I tried explaining how they were a pair. If my understanding of waterfowl was correct, they were a couple just the same as their mom and me. I just didn’t have the heart to shoot. I’m not sure the boys understood, but one day they probably will.
I thought about that pair of ducks when we buried my grandmother. As I sat with my grandfather at the hospital before her death and then was with him at the funeral, my mind kept returning to those two ducks in the creek—a pair for life.
Grandpa and Grandma Sid, as we called them, were married over sixty-two years when she died. Throughout my memory, they only existed together—inseparable. Whenever, and wherever I saw them, they were together—my Grandpa and Grandma Sid.
Sitting beside him at the funeral, I thought about how they were no longer together. How it hurt my heart seeing him alone. How lonely it must have been after spending practically every moment together over the last twenty years and sharing life together for over sixty.
I thought about my own wife, DeDe, and how close we are. And I thought about the loneliness one of us will one day endure.
Once again, I could see the wood ducks swimming off together.
It occurred to me how long sixty-two years must be—and how quickly sixty-two years must seem to pass. My grandfather’s words came back, “Well, if I’d had her ninety-two years, I still wouldn’t have wanted to give her up.”
There are so many things I don’t understand about life. Life is full of so much happiness and sadness. We live and love the same person for a lifetime of happiness, in this case over sixty years worth, and then it must end sadly—and alone.
There is so much we do not understand, but we must choose. We can concentrate on the happy memories and joy shared together—this intertwining of two lives wrapped together by love. On the other hand, we can dwell on the sorrow and loneliness that comes to us when “death does us part.”
I choose thinking about those two happy wood ducks swimming off into the current together, and those wonderful memories of my grandparents together.
We’re featuring reader’s favorites during the next week. What story(s) would you like to read/hear?
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