Romance Fiction posted August 5, 2021

This work has reached the exceptional level
An elderly Irish couple look back at their lives.

A Good and Loving Life

by Richard Frohm

As I looked out from our kitchen window, I saw the rain had stopped, and the clouds had begun to make way for the sun. The tea kettle began to whistle just as I finished buttering my cinnamon muffin. Sitting next to me, waiting for any crumbs to fall, was my little girl Kerry, our chocolate lab. "Sorry, girl, no crumbs today. You know your mom has been on me about my messes in the kitchen." Her tail started wagging, and she gazed at me with those big brown eyes. "You are just like your mother. I cannot say no to her either when she looks at me with her deep green eyes."

"What's this I hear, Peter? Seems to me you have said no to me many times over our fifty years of wedded bliss."

"Kerry, it looks like I am in a bit of trouble."

I poured two cups of tea. "Kathleen my dear, would you join me on the patio?"
"How can I say no?"

As I opened our rear door, there was a knock on the front door. "Peter, I will answer it." Kerry led the way to our patio. I just finished drying the table and chairs, when Kathleen came out holding a small package. Kerry ran towards her smelling the mysterious package wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

"Kathleen, did your brother send us more of his crappy homemade preserves?"
"No, mister wise guy. My sister in Galway sent it to us. I spoke to her just the other day and she never mentioned sending us anything by post."

We both sat down with Kerry at our sides. She seemed as curious to see this mysterious gift. "Well, Kathleen are you going to open it?"

I watched as she untied the string and pulled the brown wrapping paper away from the box that it surrounded. Pulling off the top and tearing the white tissue paper aside. She reached in and pulled out a picture of us on our wedding day.

Kathleen cried as she looked at the picture. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pulled her tightly into me and whispered into her ear. "That was the greatest day of my life."

She sighed, "Mine too. My sister remembered this coming Sunday will be our fiftieth wedding anniversary"

I said, "What a glorious Irish morning it was that day. Spring had arrived, the flowers in your parent's garden were in full bloom giving us their beautiful fragrances. The clouds opened just enough to let beams of light shine on the ocean below. As we looked to the ocean the sunlight just seemed to dance across the waves making each sparkle."

Kathleen sat her cup down. "Peter, remember when my aunt said our cottage here in Kerry was her wedding gift to us."

I looked at the smile on her face as she spoke. "I will forever remember that day. I thought you were going to squeeze her to death."

"I was a bit excited. I had gone there so many summers with my brothers and sisters. We could walk down to the beach and swim all day. Then when we came back, Aunt Hannah would have supper ready for us."

Kathleen's eyes sparkled as she spoke about those days at her aunts'. "Aye, those memories were good, Kathleen, but do you remember the day we first walked in?"

We both laughed. Kathleen smiling, "How could I forget. My aunt had not lived in the cottage since my uncle passed ten years before. The dust was as thick as a boot sole."

"Do you remember the smell? It smelled like sheep piss."

Kathleen took a sip of tea as she looked out to the ocean. "Yes, but we were young and in love. As we walked around holding hands, we did not see those things. We saw a stone-washed cottage overlooking the ocean and the life we were about to start and the children we would have."

With the sun shining and the sweet-scented smell of our flowers, it was the perfect day for an old married couple to sit and talk about their past.

"I can still see your face Kathleen when we drove up the road towards the cottage after our honeymoon in Donegal. It looked like everyone's car was parked along the driveway."

"Yes, as we got closer it looked like the cottage was painted, and the grass roof looked new. There were even flowers in the window boxes. Something was up. I knew for sure when my Aunt Hannah came out by herself to greet us."

"Yes, and the old girl was moving pretty quick with her cane."

"Her smile and the hugs and kisses she gave us made me feel something was going on."

"When she took your hand Kathleen, it looked like she was dragging you inside. Do you remember when I told her that I was going to get our luggage from the boot of the car?"

"I do. I have never heard my aunt use such profanity." We both started laughing so hard that we woke up Kerry. Who was none too happy.

"How could I ever forget the look on your face Kathleen, when we walked inside and saw all of our families standing there. Then the roar of surprise."

"Peter, I have never been so shocked in my life. It was only after everyone was done hugging us that I finally could look around and see that there was furniture, the walls painted, and the floors cleaned and polished. There was even some peat burning in our fireplace."

I looked at Kathleen. "I smelled that sweet aroma as soon as we had pulled into the driveway. Remember your brother Jimmy came up to us with a bottle of Jameson in his hand."

"The big bear of a man hugged me as gently as a fawn. Then he handed me the bottle and said." "This is my gift to you since you threw mine on the ground your wedding night. Now you owe me two." He laughed and then told us. "You might notice a few changes to this old cottage. All of us worked our arse off while you two love birds were having a romantic honeymoon up in Donegal. We cleaned the old girl, painted her, and fixed up anything needing repair. We all know Peter cannot tell a spanner from a screwdriver." "With that, everyone broke out laughing, especially your father."

"Well, I must admit, he was right at that time, but over the years, I have become quite a handyman."

Your brother Jimmy finally spoke up. "Kathleen and Peter, our families love you both and know that if there was ever a couple married in Ireland truly made for each other, it would be you two. Now let's all of us fill our glasses with the world's finest whiskey, Irish whiskey, as I have a blessing for the two of you."

"We didn't even have to move. My sister and her husband brought our glasses. Jimmy stood in front of the two of us."

"Before, I make this blessing. I want to remind my brother Declan it was his job to read this at your reception. It seems Declan and Ciara, your bridesmaid, had run off to parts unknown. So, it is my job to carry on our family's wedding tradition, which is over two hundred years old. I ask all of our families to raise their glasses."

Jimmy pulled out a tattered piece of paper from his coat pocket. "Kathleen and Peter, will you join hands."

We took each other's hands and looked at Jimmy.

"A McGrail cannot be officially married until the oldest brother reads our family blessing." We watched as he clutched that tattered paper in his hands and softly spoke.

"May whatever path your life takes you. Know you will never walk alone. When the sunrises turn to sunsets, may you have the memories of all those years together to warm your hearts, and bring you smiles, knowing you have led a good and loving life."


With that, everyone in the room swallowed their whiskey and shouted. "Slainte."

I looked at Kathleen; her face seemed to glow in the sunlight, and her smile could not be any wider. "Oh, Peter, what a night that was. Our families made our cottage home look as it did when it was built by my great-grandfather."

The party lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The last to leave was Jimmy and his wife. "I still remember them walking down the driveway, using each other as support. Thank God they only had to walk around the corner, and they were home."

"Peter, what a magical night that was."

"Yes, it was Kathleen. But it was fireworks we enjoyed that night in bed that I will never forget."

Kathleen reached over and took my hand, and gently squeezed it. "It was nights like those that led to six children."

"Peter, it looks like another Irish day. Sunny, nice, and then rain." Dark rain clouds were filling the sky. We grabbed everything off the table and sprinted to our rear door, with Kerry leading the way. We made it inside just as the heavens opened up.

The house felt chilly, so I tossed a peat briquette into the fireplace. "Peter, the fire smells so good. Do you mind waiting on lunch? It would be nice to sit by the fire."

"Lunch can wait, as long as the love of my life sits on the sofa next to me."

"Why Mr. Twomey, I would love to sit next to you. How about I get my love a glass of whiskey?"

"Mrs. Twomey, I would love a glass as long as you have one with me."

Kerry found her usual spot on her rug in front of the fire. She curled up and went to sleep. I sat on the sofa; the heat from the fire made the dampness fade.
Kathleen handed me my drink and sat our wedding picture, still in the box, and the brown paper under it on our table.

Cuddling next to me. "Peter, it has been a while since we talked about our wedding."

"Too long, my sweet." I raised my glass and looked at Kathleen. "Here is to the happiest couple in all of Ireland." "Slainte."

As it grew darker the light from the fireplace just seemed to brighten our room. We talked about our years in our cottage. Having six children, three boys, and three girls. How we managed all of those years, with only three bedrooms and one bath, neither of us knew. But what we did know was the love we had for each other the day we married grew stronger each day that passed. It was that love that carried us both through life's ups and downs. Raising three boys, praying they would make it to adulthood. Praying our three daughters would survive until their twenties, without killing each other.

I started to laugh. "Those years are long gone, now they all are married with children of their own."

"Yes, Peter, now we laugh every time one of them says to us." "We weren't like that when we were their age."

As we sat in front of the fire, we both looked above the fireplace mantel at the embroidered family blessing that Kathleen's, Aunt Hannah made for our first wedding anniversary.

"When the sunrises turn to sunsets, may you have the memories of all those years together to warm your hearts, and bring you smiles, knowing you have led a good and loving life."

I kissed Kathleen and whispered in her ear. "We have led a good and loving life."

Flashback Fiction contest entry

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I did writing it. My wife and I spent six months living in Ireland a few years ago in a home similar to the one in the story.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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