Noah would describe Austin as the "Best Big Brother in the World" - and he was. From the start, Austin was so excited to have a little brother. (Actually, in the beginning we thought Noah was going to be a "Hannah" so he was excited to have a little sister.) He would gently touch my belly with his ear to see if he could hear anything. We would read together to the baby each night. Austin even took a Big Brother class at the hospital to learn how to wash his hands and help care for the baby. He waited with anxious anticipation for the arrival.
When Noah was born we were all certainly surprised but I know Austin was excited to have a little brother, instead of a girl. He proudly visited the hospital room and could hardly wait for us to get home. What he learned from the class stuck with him and he ensured anyone who came within a few feet of Noah had clean hands. They had to sanitize and wash, sit in just the right spot, prop protective pillows all around, and just when Austin felt it was safe and ok, Noah was allowed to be held by the visitor.
While he was thrilled to have this new addition to our family, he was quick to let you know he was still important. He had been an only child for 5 years so we were prepared for jealousy to occur. One evening, Noah had several visitors and we were in awe of this tiny miracle. Austin very loudly proclaimed, "hello! I am here too and you aren't paying me enough attention!" We quickly corrected this and tried our best to not let it happen again!
Throughout the first year, Austin continued his protectiveness and always kept a watchful eye over Noah. It wasn't until Noah began to walk and get into his things, that the butterflies and roses came to a halt. Now, he still loved his brother, but his things were his things and the battles began!
They had this love/hate relationship the rest of their days. Pals, hugging and tickling each other, that quickly changed to wrestling, which led to hurt feelings (or body parts) and usually ended in tears. Raising boys, I quickly learned that things change on a dime and good furniture is something you wait to purchase! However, no matter how big the fight, it never lasted long and by the end of the evening, they were always made up and playing, laughing and loving.
Austin's protectiveness over Noah never ceased. Nobody was allowed to touch Noah...except Austin. If someone hurt Noah's feelings, they heard about it the next day - or the next minute, if they lived within walking distance or had a cell phone! He was Noah's bodyguard and in his own words, "he was my hero!"
Sometimes Austin took his care to the extreme, trying to fill the "Daddy" role of the family, which didn't sit well with Noah or Daddy, if the timing was wrong. After school, he made sure Noah got straight to his homework and had a healthy snack until I got home to make dinner. I'm sure Noah felt at times like Austin filled both the roles of his Mom and Dad! I know he was certainly a help with Noah and I couldn't have trusted him in better hands.
My heart breaks for Noah when I think of the loss he has had. They say children are the forgotten mourners. People think of the parents and the child is often told, "Be strong for Mom and Dad." And Noah has been; however, I know he hurts. I cannot imagine the void he has. While he and Austin didn't share a room, it was not uncommon to see them both sleeping together. Noah has bunk beds and Austin would often sleep in his room, if Noah were scared or had a bad dream. Austin's room was right beside Noah so many times during the night, he went to him first instead of coming to us. Sometimes we'd find Noah asleep in Austin's floor on a make-shift pallet they made in the middle of the night.
Noah looked up to Austin and tried so much to be like him. He wanted to watch the same shows, wear the same clothes, play the same games, just like his brother. He wanted a cell phone because Austin had one. And most of it wasn't sibling rivalry, it was sincere admiration. He just wanted to follow in his footsteps. I can't think of better feet to follow and I hope he continues to follow the path Austin left behind.