Monday, September 02, 2013

A Devoted Couple (by Peter Black)

They were our neighbours. My wife and I used to see them sitting together most days. Sometimes we’d hear them chatting quietly back and forth, and other times they’d remain side by side for long periods, not making a sound. I guess they were comfortable and content in each other’s company—obviously a devoted couple. 
The time came when they had a couple of kids. My, how they cared for them! Great parents they were, both sharing the responsibility. And work? Oh yes, they were workers alright, providing for the needs of their young family, preparing meals and feeding the little guys, and yet they arranged their schedules so that there was always one parent at home with them.
As with many of us who have raised a family, it  seemed no time at all before the youngsters began flexing wings independence. And then to our surprise, they were soon up and gone. With the freedom their empty nest gave them, the parents took occasional trips away, but it was never too long before they’d be back, enjoying each other’s company and their surroundings as usual.
And then, one day there was just one partner, sitting alone.
Alone one day, alone the next and the next . . . 
We missed those neighbours, a pair of mourning doves. I’m sure that one had fallen victim to a neighbourhood cat or racoon, or met with some fate or other. Whether the remaining bird was the male or female, I’m not certain. They’d been good company for us. I liked the simple musicality of their gentle mating call and soft cooing communication, which I fancied was lovey-dovey sweet nothings.
Many birds spend time around our back yard, but I think the lifelong monogamous relationship of doves is special. Their joint devotion to caring for their young mirrors that of committed, loving human couples.
I’m sure the male was our surviving dove. Day after day he appeared anxious and unsettled, shuffling restlessly along his usual perch. He’d launch himself into the air, circle a short distance, land on the old maple for several seconds, then take off and return to his perch. Shortly after, he’d go through a similar routine all over again.
I reckon he didn’t know what to do; he was mourning, lost without his mate. Grieving in silence. He didn’t make any calls or even soft cooing sounds. I felt sorry for him and reflected how some people who, having lost their life-partner, struggle with loneliness, many of them (especially men) grieving in silence—alone.
I’ve observed—and clinical studies have shown—that surviving partners who have several good connections fare better, whether family or caring friends. Although they may deeply miss their loved one and mourn, and might reminisce and talk about former good times, yet are less likely to remain stuck there.
Sharing and friendship helps them in time to move from mourning into a grieving that allows them to grow and look forward. How precious it is to have caring people in our lives, especially at a time of loss; let us not push them away in our time of grief.
Our lonely dove disappeared for a few days. And then, one morning I heard it again—that familiar soft cooing. There by his side on the old perch was a new partner. He was ready and had reached out, and another companion came alongside. He’s moving on.
Loving devotion raises my gaze . . . Heavenward.

Yours too?

Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing).
(Finalist -- Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X)
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.
Peter's current book project comprises a collection of 52 column articles.
The post above has been adapted from P-Pep! column article, published August 8, 2013.




Donna Mann said...

Thank you Peter - so thoughtfully and sensitively written. I just wanted to sink into the picture you presented and watch the activity. A great piece of life's changes and second chances.

Peter Black said...

Thanks Donna.
In a sort of projected way, I can appreciate why some of my widowed peers have seemed kind of 'lost' and lonely, until finally remarrying.
I'm aware that I have a great dependency on my life-partner, since she has practical skills that I lack. And so, I'm grateful that we've both been spared to see this time of life.

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