EDITOR’S NOTE: Donna Fielder is on vacation. The following is a repeat column that she wrote to honor her dad on Father’s Day.
They were married on Groundhog Day, 1946. Dad had just shipped home from World War II, an unwilling tourist in Africa, Italy, Germany and France.
He had seen all the world he cared to, and after that he never went so far from Callisburg that he couldn’t get home by dark.
He and Mom grew up neighbors in Callisburg. His father helped build the old rock Vilott Baptist Church. His mother taught Sunday School there. Mom’s mother ran a library in her home for the WPA.
Mom was a twin, and Dad always said he flipped a coin to see which girl he would date.
But he told me a few years ago that wasn’t true; it was always her for him.
The night they got married, their friends showed up at their house for a “chivaree,” banging on pots and pans and singing and yelling to wake them up. They pushed Buck and Nan around in a wheelbarrow in their nightclothes.
They were embarrassed, but back then you weren’t considered really married until you had been “chivareed.”
Buck and Nan built a house on Campbell family property, next door to his parents and the house he grew up in, with his sister and her husband on the other side.
Dad and his brother-in-law opened a garage within walking distance of their homes. Later, he needed his pickup truck to travel the mile to work at the county precinct barn and the road grader he drove to maintain the rutted country lanes.
He watched Mom with bemusement, and sometimes I think, frustration, as she commuted to Denton to earn a bachelor’s degree and two subsequent master’s degrees.
He didn’t understand why she needed all that education, or why she even wanted it. But she did, and when Nan wanted something, that was enough for him.
He was glad when she settled into keeping the library at Callisburg School, within sight of their house.
Each day Buck would come home from work and gather his family around him before dark. When Fred, my brother, played high school football, Dad proudly cheered from the sidelines. When I earned a degree in journalism he said he wished I’d majored in education. It was safer, he said, to teach than to be out on the streets at night gathering news.
They were proud of their children, and watching her pleasure in our success was enough for him.
But it was her that his life revolved around. She was his sun. She was the light in his eyes and the smile that lit his face.
When she fell ill, he rarely left her side. Sometimes she felt a little smothered by all that love, I think. That last year, as she lay in a coma in a nursing home, he spent every day just sitting and watching her breathe.
She died 10 years ago and I thought he’d soon be gone too. But he stayed. His sun had set. The light was gone from his eyes. He left her clothes in the closet, her toiletries on the bathroom counter.
The day before he died he asked for her.
We buried him beside her in the little cemetery under the stone that bore his name for 10 years before he was laid to rest there.
He’s with her now, and that’s all he ever wanted.
Most people aspire to more than the piece of ground they were born on, life in a village and attending a rock church your father built. Most define themselves by their accomplishments, their travels, their awards. It is a rare man now who marries only once.
For him, Nan was enough.
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.