Their yearly retreat was due. The car was packed and the clothes were tucked.
“You’re leaving next month. Let’s make this a good’un” said his dad.
Brian got into the car, realising that his dad was correct. This was his last time he would be living in his parent’s house before he moved to go to university next month. He was the first one in his family to do so, and it was a source of great pride to his dad.
They left early in the morning, before the sun had risen, and were already up the hills by the time it started coming up
“Look at that,” said his dad, “why travel when the sun gives you that each day? You just got to be willing to see it”
The journey took a few hours before they reached the campsite. It was a slow burning summer morning, it was warm, but there was a cool breeze.
“Go set up over there Bri” said his dad. Brian got to work constructing the tents with all of the tools taken out of the car while his dad went for a stroll.
By the time Brian had finished setting everything up for him and his dad, the sun was just leaving the highest peak. Brian’s dad returned with a bottle of water from the cabin shop a half mile distance from where they were.
“Put some of that on your neck, I’m assuming you didn’t put the lotion on this morning”
Brian laughed, he hadn’t.
Brian set up a fire and pulled out a pot to make baked beans with. He opened the tin with his Swiss Army knife his dad had given him a year before on this same trip.
“Good to know you’ve still got that” his dad said after seeing the knife
Dinner was light and Brian was sleepy. He couldn’t stop rubbing his eyes at every opportunity.
His dad, who was lying down for most of the evening on the grass drinking Heinekens, sat up to look his son in the face.
“I can tell that you are tired son, so I’ll keep this quick and then I’ll let you sleep”
“What is it dad?” asked Brian, still rubbing his eyes
“In case I don’t get chance to tell you this before you leave, I’d just like to say how proud I am of you, me and your mum, but me especially. You may just see this as a part of growing up and all the usual malarkey of what you have to do and all that, but believe me son, we, and me especially, are proud of you. I just wanted to say that where you go from here is on your terms. The man you are going to grow to be will be on your accord. You don’t have to move back here when it’s all done, I’ll understand why you wouldn’t as there’s not much here for you I suppose. But visit when you can. Go further than I ever could, will you? You’re a smart kid Bri, and I want you to have a good life. A lot better than mine. Get that degree so you don’t have to do work like I do. Play the system. But yes, I feel like I’ve spoken too much. If you need anything son, I’m here, okay?”
Brian had a tear in his eye. His dad rarely gave speeches. Brian nodded to ensure that his dad knew he had heard his heart cry.
“Get some rest son, I’ll see you in the morning”
Brian went to his respective tent and his dad did too after blowing the fire out. The night was cool so the fire was there for the food only. They slept.
Brian’s dad woke up first, just as the sun was rising and went to check on Brian. He went into his tent to see he was still asleep, lying on his back facing the roof of the tent. As he exited the tent, his dad had a striking thought and turned to Brian. He watched him for a few more seconds before going onto his knees and touched his son’s arm. The arm was cold.
“Bri, Bri” his dad said as he touched him again and grabbed his wrist, putting his fingers on his wrist.
“Brian…” he muttered with tears down his face.
He called an ambulance which arrived 30 minutes later. Brian was pronounced dead on the scene. He had suffered an aneurism during his sleep.
Brian’s dad called his mother, broke the news to her on the phone and hearing her screams made him break down in the campsite car park as he watched his son get loaded into the back of the ambulance.