A Pair for Life

From the book, Stories from the Creekbank by Curt Iles
To learn more, visit www.creekbank.net
A Pair for Life

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 Creek. As we crawled along, I kept looking at the boys reminding them to stay quiet because I knew I’d heard wood ducks on the creek.
As we slid along up 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 were aware of something being wrong but couldn’t quite place where we were as they nervously swam in circles.
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 kept shaking my head no when they imploringly looked at me. We lay there about 10 minutes just enjoying watching them. Eventually the ducks swam down Dry Creek and out into the stronger current of Bundick… and then they were gone.

My sons upbraided me pretty bad about not shooting the ducks. I tried to explain that they were a pair. If my understanding of waterfowl was correct, they were a couple just the same and me and their mom. 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 62 years when she died. Throughout my memory, they only existed together… inseparable. During my childhood I always looked forward to their visits. I recalled summer weeks spent in Shreveport with them. Whenever and wherever I saw them, they were together‑ My Grandpa and Grandma Sid.

Now as I thought about it, they were no longer together. How it hurt my heart to see 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. And once again I could see the wood ducks swimming off together… and it occurred to me how long 62 years must be and how quickly 62 years must seem to pass. Then my grandfather’s words came back to me, “Well, if I’d had her 92 years, I still wouldn’t have wanted to have given 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 62 years worth, and then it must end sadly – and alone.

There is so much we just don’t understand but we must choose. We can concentrate on the happy memories and joy shared together… the intertwining of two lives wrapped together by love. Or we can dwell on the sorrow and loneliness that comes to us when “death does up part.”

I choose to think about those two happy wood ducks swimming off into the current together… and those wonderful memories of my grandparents together.

This was my first published writing. Without my knowledge, my mother sent this essay to Home Life Magazine and they printed it in their February 1992 issue. I naively thought “This publishing business is a breeze.” (I now have a thick folder of rejection letters to counter that view! I also have six books and best of all, thousands of new friends, made through my writing. I am most fortunate, and grateful to God, for what I get to do each day.)

The original “A Pair for Life” from Home Life Feb. 1992
Click on image for larger view/printable version

Coming next: The Evening Holler

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