I kept thinking all month, “I have to get Dad a birthday card,” but then I remembered that he was gone. He always liked cards with a boat or a fisherman or a lighthouse. He loved the Jersey shore.
Today is his birthday and he would have been ninety-five if he had lived twelve more years.
My dad, Bill Wunsch, Sr., was a Camden guy. He was born here, went to school here, married here, worked mostly here, raised three kids here and died here.
He served in the CCC’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps where he fought forest fires in Montana. Then, he again served his country in World War II, laid cable for radar in New Guinea jungle. He came back home to North Camden with his hair blond from the sun and his skin yellow from malaria, my mother told us.
Dad worked at Magnetic Metals in Cramer Hill and he retired from there. He worked in annealing and then in shipping. He left early for work, about an extra half hour, because he never wanted to be late. My mom did the same when she worked for Bell Telephone.
My mom is ninety, ninety-one in September. She’s napping in the next room of this brick split-level row house that they bought, brand-new, in Cramer Hill in 1961 How proud my dad and mom were! We left our tiny row house in North Camden for the big time.
No one here has mentioned Dad’s birthday. Maybe they forgot or they just don’t want to mention it and upset my mother. She took good care of him when he got Alzheimer’s—he called it “Old-Timers.” He used to say, “I can’t remember that—you know that I’ve got that “Old-Timers.”
Sometimes I remember the evening he was at my house next door, petting my cats who always ran to him and jumped in his lap. My Rottweiler-Shepherd, Cookie, tried to get on the sofa, too, and nudge off cats to sit on his lap. “They all love me so much, I think, that they’re jealous,” he said and grinned.
He also told me that night, out of the blue, and he was a man who didn’t say much about feelings, that he loved my mom and didn’t want her to die. He added that he didn’t want to die, either. He died three weeks later in the hospital.
Aw, Dad. I miss you. Happy Birthday! Maybe you’re fishing in heaven.