Two important days happened for me last week. Sunday was, of course, Father’s Day, and Monday was my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Both of those events were just right for a “Mondays with Mom” article so let’s start with Dad. On Father’s Day, many people took to social media to brag about their dads and confess their belief that each has the best father in the world. Truth be told, I have the best daddy in the world – Dwight Bunn.
I’ve mentioned Dad often in these articles, but you may not know much about him. Most of the details I know have only come second hand since I didn’t enter his story until he was almost thirty-nine. Even then I was too young to remember much about him before we moved to Clarkesville. I was ten that year and I have vivid memories of building the house and other adventures that spring and summer.
Dad was the firstborn of a young mother. She had two daughters after Dad, Suzanne and Sandra. My granddaddy was a highway man and worked a lot. I adored him. My grandmother, Neila Belle, is hard for me to understand. She was bright and shiny and pretty, but she didn’t care for her family like she ought so Dad took on much of the “mothering.” Many times Dad was often left to care for his younger sisters, Suzanne and Sandra; he says he remembers caring for Sandra alone while she was still in diapers which meant he was only eight or nine.
As a teenager, Dad often worked with Granddaddy on the roads of rural eastern North Carolina. In 2012, I went east with Mom and Dad for my uncle’s funeral. As we rode around Zebulon and Wakefield, Dad told story after story of his adventures. His voice was full of energy and pride at the work he did with his daddy.
I called my Aunt Sandra for more childhood stories. She laughed and shared some great tidbits I’d not heard. Every Saturday, Dad would go fishing at one of the local rivers with his parents while Suzanne watched over Sandra in the car. According to Sandra, Dad was considered the fair-haired boy by the ladies of the neighborhood. He taught Sandra to drive on the football field at the local high school and bought her “Cherries in the Snow,” her first tube of lipstick. He was truly Sandra’s first love. Her best friend didn’t have an older brother, so she adopted Dwight Bunn as her own. He conducted hymns at church on Sunday at church. He kept the rumor of Santa Claus going for his sisters long after they should have quit believing.
Dad joined the Air Force instead of going to North Carolina State as he’d planned. It was September of 1948, and rather than be drafted by the army, he signed up for the Air Force. He met Mom in 1950, but she didn’t recognize him when he asked her out on a date later. On March 6th, he took her to the movies to see “South of the Border” with Gene Autry. To read more on their love story, click here. They travelled the world together, had four children, did lots of traveling for fun, and went to see children and grandchildren during their retirement years.
Dad was a strict, stern man in my youth. Of course, my siblings say he was much tougher on them than on me! He became a softer, gentler man once his grandchildren started coming along. Nothing prepared me for the man he has become with Mom during these last difficult years.
I was very concerned at first that Dad’s famous impatient streak would hinder his care for Mom. Although he has always been kind, once she started slowing down physically, I could see his agitation level rise when we were out together. Many times it was better for me to hang back and walk with Mom while he plunged on ahead wherever we were going. As Mom has become more homebound, Dad has become more patient with her. He’s begun an understanding of this disease’s limitations and has become so gentle when dealing with her.
These days, Dad has a fairly strict schedule that he keeps: breakfast with the newspaper, exercise, shower, devotion, and a trip out and about for errands or to see friends. He eats lunch at home – hopefully with Mom in the front dining room – then retreats upstairs to read or watch a movie. He relieves the caregivers around three or four and stays near Mom the rest of the evening. They watch a ballgame and listen to music, and he feeds her dinner or a snack of some kind. At eight or nine o’clock, when the night-time caregiver comes in, he goes upstairs to read and get ready for bed.
My favorite moments are when he snuggles up to her and puts his head on her stomach or shoulder. He tells her how much he loves her, and most of the time, she’ll respond “thank you” or “I love you, too.” It is precious and it reminds me what a great daddy I have. He really is the best!