Whenever my parents read us the stories of Peter Pan, they would always end it by telling my brothers and me to ‘never grow up’. They told us to stay as childlike as possible and that we would never stop seeing the world's magic. Every Summer, my father made it a point to take us camping to new places. We would camp by the beach, in the forest, on a mountain. My brothers and I longed for the family camping trips to escape city life's monotony. Sitting around the campfire, my father would tell us fantastic stories, and the world around us would come alive. The sounds of the waves crashing were the sirens' songs, and the trees surrounding the tents were treefolk guarding us against the mischievous fae, while the sounds of the wind whistling through the crags were the sylphs playing in the sky. The day my father died was when the world lost its magic.
My father worked as a bookkeeper for a large fishing company. He would often come home late, working overtime most nights. It was summer vacation, and the weekend we had planned to leave for our annual escape was right around the corner. I was about thirteen then. Old enough to realise the stories were just fantasy but still young enough to believe in them. My father was taking his regular route home, passing the orange groves where he used to live. It was there where his life was taken from us.
I woke up to my mother bawling, telling us to get ready. My older brother’s face told me something terrible had happened to Dad. I jumped out of bed to wash my face, brush my teeth, and grab my jacket before racing to the car and buckling up. My mother always followed the law to the T, but that early morn, she drove like the devil was after us. My heart was racing with confusion and fear flooding my mind.
When we arrived at Redview General Hospital, the air was filled the cries of the sick and injured. A lump formed in my throat as if I had swallowed a stone. My dad’s coworker and best friend met us in the emergency room lobby. They grew up together as boys, went to the same schools, dated the same girls, and even got the same job at the same company. My Uncle Noah was like the brother my father never had. He was in the passenger’s seat when a drunk driver ran a red light and ploughed straight into my father’s side. Uncle Noah was fortunate enough to still be with us, but my father felt the entirety of the impact.
The adrenaline must have been flowing through his body. He was barely patched up as he met us in the lobby. There he was, pushing past the nurses struggling to keep this unit of a man from moving. The sight of him bruised and battered had shocked the sleep from my eyes. He was frantically shouting at us and the staff when a petite Asian nurse appeared from nowhere and said something that calmed him straight down. She promptly turned towards us and began talking to my mother. The world was going mute and blurry. It was as if cotton balls had been stuffed into my ears, and oil-filled mason jars were set over my eyes. The fear turned into panic.
I was holding tightly onto my brothers' hands. My older brother Eric was to my right, and my younger brother Jonas was to my left. The three of us stared intensely at the conversation before us. I couldn’t hear a single word spoken, but I could hear the loud droning of the lights. The sound reverberated through my skull like a moth caught in a jar. It bounced and echoed louder and louder. The rest of the memory is a blur. Each moment blending into the next. I remember we were there for several hours. Someone constantly reminded us they were doing all they could to save my father. Then, it was all at once, silent.
The next two years, the family trips had lost their magic. Mom really tried hard to keep the spirit of my father going, but the lack of wonder and wander were hard to replace. On my fifteenth birthday, Uncle Noah drove me down to the lake where my father and him became friends. He told me that my father always dreamt of becoming a famous storyteller. He popped open the trunk, and inside was a trove of loose letters. He shuffled the papers into piles, and hidden underneath was a book. "Your father wanted you to have this on your eighteenth birthday, but I think you need it more now."
The book was called, "The Neverending Adventures". Uncle Noah dusted it off and handed it to me saying,"This is the only published copy of your father's stories." As I flitted through the pages, I recognized some of the stories as the ones he told us. The sirens, treefolk, fae, and sylphs were all there. But, there were plenty more that I had never heard. Tales of a hairy giant covered in moss and algae that stomps around the lake. Tales of a flying puff that needed to make a child laugh to become a real fairy. Dozens of stories my father never had a chance to breath to life.
My Uncle grabbed the closest pile to him and handed them to me saying, "The rest of these were stories your father couldn't finish. He had hoped to finish them one day and make a second book for you boys. He told me that you loved the stories the most. His wish was that if he never finished these stories, that you would give them the endings they deserve."
I looked at Uncle Noah not knowing what to say. He just smiled, placed his hand on my shoulder and nodded. The magic of summers lost, now found.