I spend a lot of time lately thinking about what Austin would have done, how he would have grown up. Each time I hear the song, "Who You'd Be Today" I cry because I think of time lost. However, I am continually amazed at who Austin was and how much he lived in his 14 short years here.
From the start, Austin was a very independent boy. They say children grow up fast but he just seemed to zoom by, passing all the milestones well before his time. Even as a toddler he would carry on conversations with adults and understand so much more than he should have. So many times in his baby book, I wrote "you taught me so much" -and he did.
Austin always wanted to be doing something, learning something new - exploring. And as a mother, it brought me such joy to experience his firsts. Although "why" was a constant word in his vocabulary, I appreciated it and answered him with such amazement. You could see him just soaking everything in. I remember one day while we were walking, he stopped to see an ant hill. To see all those little ants marching, building, carrying, excited him so much. I can still see him squatting down to their level and me to his as we watched this new world to him.
When you send your children to school, you feel like you're losing the baby in them forever. Austin started preschool at 3, so I really struggled with how quickly he would grow up. I knew though how much he'd enjoy the interaction with other kids and most of all the learning. He did mature so fast though.
Age was never a factor for Austin. If he saw something he wanted to do, he did it. It didn't matter if most considered him too young. He started playing baseball before he was really even big enough to hit off the tee. Because he wanted to go deer hunting with his dad, he took a gun safety class while he was still in grade school. Through the Gifted program at school, he was able to attend some classes at college. While he wasn't really attending college classes (just sessions held at the college), in his mind he was. He was so proud to go to the campus and had such a great time exploring and creating in their science lab.
Sometimes, I worried as a Mom, that I was letting him grow up too fast. I hesitated in letting him do some things because I thought, "he has his whole life to do this" and "he needs to be a kid now". Seeing the joy and excitement in his face was all it took though and looking back now I have no regrets because he lived so much in his life!
Austin was honored with a beautiful eulogy that captured the essence of who he was. As I listened to Doug list his accomplishments, I was amazed. Some of the things, even I had forgotten about. I'll try to list them all but even as his Mom, who wrote and logged most of his childhood, I may not remember it all because Austin did so much!
He was an athlete - playing baseball since he was two or three years old. He loved the sport and outside of playing it, he was a follower. He collected hundreds of baseball cards and could tell you the stats on just about any player in history. Baseball season was his favorite time of year and he would sometimes use multiple televisions to watch all the shows he wanted. Seeing the game live though, was his favorite. In the past year, his passion moved to wrestling. It was a mixed martial arts - UFC type of sport and he loved it. He watched it on tv, researched it on the internet, and went anytime the club was open and he had a ride. He was still in training so we never got to see him in a match, although I witnessed many moves between him, Tim and Noah - and that made me nervous enough!
He was a coach - Austin coached Upward Basketball with his Dad. I was initially concerned about it, because he was young and didn't know if the church would even agree. However, it was a deal breaker for Tim and if he couldn't have his sidekick with him, he didn't want to coach either. They coached Noah's team, which also worried me because you know how brothers can be. However, it was the perfect season. I was so touched by how generous and motivating Austin was. The boys enjoyed having him and learned so much that year. Austin continued to "coach" Noah for any sport he played. He was always there on the sidelines, rooting for him or pushing him more because he knew Noah could do it.
Austin was a musician - He played both the trumpet and french horn in band. I didn't think he could learn two instruments his first year playing but he did. Although he set out to play trumpet, after learning that the band director needed another french horn, he jumped right on the opportunity. Outside of the band, he had a guitar here at home he was learning to play. And although it might not qualify to some as music, he was Rock Band King. He could do it all but loved the drums most. Austin, Noah, and I spent Christmas Break 07 playing some killer tunes on those games, and making great memories.
He was a scientist - anything and everything to do with science, Austin enjoyed. From an early age he wanted to know why, how, when, what. He loved making experiments with his science kit as a young child and then later his own ideas (with the help of the internet). Many times, I didn't know about something until after the fact, which was probably good because it scared me enough past tense! He loved collecting rocks and had shelves of them. He knew what each one was, where it came from, what made it unique. We found a rock store once while on vacation and we could have cancelled all other plans, and just let him spend more time there. He saved the rest of his spending money on that trip to stop in there before we headed home and make one last purchase.
Austin was a prankster - he loved to make people laugh. April Fool's Day was one of his favorite day's of the year. Salt in our coffee, water in our coke cans, were both common jokes. He was quick-witted and could always come up with a cute attack. His dad was the butt of most jokes but it was done in a sweet spirit. I think his brother, Noah, is picking up right where Austin left off.
He was a volunteer - if someone needed help, Austin was right there. Whether it was organized or not, if there was a need, Austin found it and dove in head first. He absolutely loved high school because of all the opportunities. In the few short months he attended, he never failed to volunteer at something every week. He was so excited and proud to have been selected to work ER at the hospital, though he never got the chance. Relay For Life was an instant passion for him. I never pushed him to do it because that was my job and I didn't want him to feel like he had to help but he wouldn't have it any other way. Once I gave up being a team captain for our family team, he jumped right in, not wanting to see our team fizzle away. He was only 8 the first year he did it and I have to say, he did a better job at organizing it than I ever did! He was also a huge advocate for us, especially regarding tobacco. I was so impressed with how he carried himself at our Lobby Day last year. Austin could sometimes come across as shy but he wasn't intimidated at all to speak to the politicians on our behalf. He wanted a smoke-free Kentucky and I know he'll be smiling down on us when we get there.
He was so much more but I'll end for now with him being a firefighter. I think it was the thing he was most proud of. Tim's been a firefighter for over 25 years so it was all Austin ever knew. He sat in the cab of a firetruck before he could walk so it was only natural, I guess. My kids never tired of being at the fire station and sometimes I think Austin would have lived there. The day he officially joined was one of the happiest of his life. He was so proud to be Unit #210. If he'd been old enough to take all the classes, he would have been certified within the first year because it was all he wanted to do. We had to pace him because as a 14 year old, there were limits to what he could do. He didn't understand and it was hard for us as parents to put enforce those restrictions when he was so eager to help. I joked sometimes that I don't know why I bought him any other clothes, because a fire shirt and blue jeans was about all he ever wore. He spent many Friday and Saturday nights down there, sometimes not coming home until after midnight. I let him stay later down there because really, there were far worse places a teenager could be. I knew he was safe there and had great role models to learn from; however from talking to them, I think now he might have taught them a little more.
I think I could write for days about who Austin was. I could fill a novel and he was only here 14 years. Such a short time but he sure made the use of every, single day. When I think back to where I was at his age, there is no comparison. He truly lived his life, lived for every moment and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a lesson I certainly have learned from him. As always, he teaches me. I hope he teaches you some too.