Happy Camping

It was Saturday night.  A different kind of Saturday night than usual.  We were having a memorial service of sorts just for the kids.  A traditional funeral wouldn’t be meaningful enough for someone who was 8 and lost their dad, or 4 and lost their favorite uncle.  No, they needed their own.  Something they could relate to.  The church had a room with a fireplace.  Perfect.  Camping.  That was us.  The ceiling was even tall enough to put up our tent.  I just needed some camp stools.  They were in the camper.  Made a mad dash out to the in-laws to pick them up.  Unlocked the camper, shone the light inside, and time stopped.

“Happy Camping.  Love Dad”

The note.  Staring at me from above the camper sink.  Unmistakably Jeff’s messy handwriting.  Are you kidding me?  “Happy Camping”?  I’m going to your memorial service and you’re telling me “Happy Camping”?  How could he expect me to have “Happy Camping”?  My gut told me to tear it down and rip it to shreds.  My brain said I should wait on that one.  I left it there.

We went camping once last year.  I took the note down and saved it.  I didn’t hook up the water.  He’d drawn a diagram for me.  It was the morning he was to go to the hospice house.  He asked for paper and pen.  And he proceeded to draw a diagram of the water system in the camper.  It was winterized.  He wanted to make sure I’d know how to hook it back up.  He figured Bart would probably know, and he figured I could probably figure it out, but he wanted to give me the drawing.  He wanted to make sure.  He wanted us to live.  And camping was always a part of our living.  Gotta have water when you’re camping.

His mom was helping me bake pies last night.  She asked me if Jeff had gotten me new cookware for the camper.  No.  Well, that is what he wanted to spend his last Cabela’s gift card on.  He never made it that far from home after Christmas that year.  I never knew his plans until last night.  We spent the gift card on an outdoor fire pit.  We sit around it, telling stories and pretending we’re camping.  Maybe we’ll do it for real in the mountains this summer.  Maybe.

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