In Loving Memory

  • Remembering my beloved child, Austin, who passed away at the early age of 14. He lived more in those 14 short years than most and is an inspiration to us all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

7th Birthday

I'm going to rewrite below what was written in Austin's 7th birthday baby book entry:

I can't believe this will be your last birthday entry! You have grown so fast. You are such a special young man who amazes me every day with your wit, humor and care for others.

We had a backyard BBQ/pool party this year. You told us "thank you" when it was over and that we did a good job. You said several times that you had a good day.

You knew how much money you had, including ball money you had saved. You told us you knew what you wanted to get - a swing/canopy for the backyard. You said, "It's $77 dollars, on sale, and I would still have some left." You are so sweet!

I do remember how sweet Austin was at this age, always thinking of others. He had overheard Tim and I discussing wanting that swing. We were so touched he'd want to spend his birthday money on it. Of course, we didn't let him but it just showed the kind of kid he was.

That summer, we took the boys to Evansville for a day of fun. We visited Mesker Zoo, went to Chuck E Cheese and out for ice cream. At the end of the day, Austin said, "This has been the best day of my life!"

He also did great in Little League this year. Tim coached his team and Austin played 3rd base. He hit lots of home runs that season and paid attention so well, considering his age. He was elected to play in the "All Stars" but chose not to, as he was ready to enjoy what was left of his summer.

Austin was in 2nd grade at the age of 7. He continued to do well in school, making the PAW award and getting a "Good Behavior" award.

We moved our letter to Beaver Dam Baptist church when Austin was 7. He enjoyed their youth programs, was active in Wednesday night missions and Sunday School.

This was the year Austin first asked to join our Relay team. He helped at the car wash and asked door to door. He would say, "I am on the Relay For Life team to help people with cancer. Would you like to donate? If you don't want to give cash you can write a check to the American Cancer Society." We were very proud with how well he carried himself.

And my last entry in his book:
I can't believe you are 7 1/2! You grew so fast. You are quite a kid! Just now beginning to care about what you wear. You like to spike up the front of your hair with gel now.

I look at you and try to imagine the person you will become. You are funny, quick-witted, smart, full of life - ready for the next adventure. You love to play games, listen to music, read, ride your bike, play with friends.

You are pretty good with Noah. You watch over him but you don't always have a lot of patience.

I will miss writing about your milestones and recording how much you grow. I love you, Austin.

6th Birthday

Austin wanted his 6th party at Dairy Queen. At that time, they had half their back room as a "ball box" - the big rubber/mesh box with the plastic balls kids love to play in. We filled up the entire back room, plus most of the restaurant for his party.

Austin with his cousin, Bub

The gifts reflect the things he was interested in at that age: Pokemon, music cds (backstreet boys & NSync - which I'm sure he'd been embarrassed about today!), and lots of WWF toys. Tim and I bought him a new bat and glove and a robot dog. I do remember that little silver dog. It was pretty "high tech" for the time and would walk around, talk, do tricks, etc.

At this age, Austin also loved video games, action figures, cheese pizza and ice cream. I found a "favorites sheet" in his keepsake box at this age and he wrote that he loved WWF, tacos, GI Joes and the book Green Eggs and Ham. I remember reading him that book over and over and even making him eggs with green food coloring, which he thought was pretty cool.

Austin was in a Little Miss & Mr contest with his cousin, Haylea. They both looked so cute dressed in their western attire.

In the fall of 2000, Austin joined Tiger Cubs (a young version of the Boy Scouts) and Tim was the Den Leader. It was a great activity for us to spend with Austin, as Noah was a baby and there were jealous moments of this new addition. Tiger Cubs gave us many opportunities with just him. We took field trips to the Wal-Mart bakery to make cupcakes, the police department, and did a food drive for the local Food Pantry.

Austin did really well in 1st grade, making the honor roll each quarter. He received a Gold Medal and Super Star awards, for outstanding work and good behavior. His teacher commented that he was a model student, always willing to help and ready to learn.

He was excelling in Tball at this age. We offered him $1 for each base he made and $5 for any home runs...and he nearly broke us that season!

Austin was excited to be on the news that Winter, being on the morning segment "Weather Wonders" for a local TV station.

This was also the age where Austin began to get bored at church. He was too big for "Children's Church" and getting too old to be occupied by toys and books during the sermon. One Sunday, he asked me why we had to go. I explained to him that needed to go to thank God for all he gives us. Austin sighed and said, "Can't we just send him a card?"

Friday, June 26, 2009

5th Birthday

We had moved to a bigger place by the time Austin's 5th birthday rolled around, so we had his party outside in our front yard.

The theme was Scooby Doo and I remember fondly watching that cartoon with Austin on the couch. I loved Scooby Doo as a child too and Austin thought it was cool (and kind of funny) that the dog had been around on tv that long.

Austin was also into Tarzan that year and one of our presents to him was a Tarzan costume. He surprised me by putting it on, while everyone was still there, and pretending to swing from the trees. He also got his first bike this year and many of his presents from others included items he could use for it, such as a siren and turn signals.
The "big gift" from us that year was a bb gun. Target shooting and hunting quickly became a favorite father-son activity for Austin and Tim. Of course that would come later in years but the bb gun was the start of many fond memories for them.

Age 5 was another changing year for us. Austin started kindergarten and it was our last year to have Austin all to ourselves and vice-versa. (Noah was born in January 2000, when Austin was 5 1/2.)

The best part of kindergarten and most exciting for Austin was that he learned to read. I remember how proud he was when he brought home his first reader. From the start he made the "honor roll" (or PAW award at that time). He was always praised for how hard of a worker he was and his good behavior.

Austin was excited for a new brother or sister and would gently place his hand on my belly to feel him kick. He even offered his own piggy bank money when he overheard us discussing buying a baby bed and other items. Austin was always a sweet and giving child. He also told us after Noah was born that he'd give him all his toys...if we'd just buy him new ones!

Austin was very protective of Noah from the start though. He'd taken a Big Brother class at the hospital and knew all about hand washing and supporting the head. He was sure to correct any visitors who weren't doing things the way he thought they should.

I would often find Austin talking to Noah as he slept or bending down to kiss him. He told him one day that he was going to teach him everything he knew - and he did.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

4th Birthday

Austin's 4th party was again held at our local Fire Department. (We outgrew our little house and yard a couple years back!)

The theme was Godzilla, apparently something he was into at that time. I remember this being a huge party, with lots of kids and family. We were excited the weeks leading up to it because of the gift we were giving him. It was hard to wait until his party to let him have it.

On that day, we parked the jeep we'd purchased outside and wrapped only his key. It was planned as the last gift we let him open. Austin was a little confused at first, as to why he only had a key, until we told him it was like Hide-N-Seek. We told him the key fit his big gift but he had to find it - and off he went! He searched the bathrooms, the bay of the station and then headed outside.

I still remember how happy he was, so excited to have a "big boy truck" and something he could drive. He immediately grabbed his friend Sara and buckled her in, then took off. We learned that earlier that day Sara told her mom she and Austin were getting married someday. I think Sara was Austin's first girlfriend. It was cute to see him riding around with her, careful that she was safe but having fun.

We ended the party with a firetruck ride and even his great-grandma Coons climbed on top. It was wonderful party and day, celebrating his 4th year.
4 was a funny year, as Austin was growing up so quickly and coming up with the cutest things to say. The famous phrase "you're getting on my nervous" was coined this year. We still use it to this day and Austin would always blush, remembering.

We tried to teach our children manners at a very young age. I remember getting compliments at restaurants and other activities on how well-behaved Austin was. One day, Tim and Austin were doing something and Austin had forgotten his manners. Tim asked him for the magic word and Austin said "Abracadabra!'

Austin was quick-witted and fast to come back with cute remarks too at this age. I asked him one night while we were having dinner if he liked it. He looked at me, like I was dumb, and said so frankly, "I'm eating it, aren't I?" As if he would have otherwise!

He was 4 1/2 when we learned we were having another baby. Austin asked me which kind I was going to pick.

He also started playing baseball at this age, which later became his favorite sport. At one of his first games, he hit the ball and made it to base. He turned to me in the bleachers and yelled, "See Mom, told you I could do it!" His team, the Cromwell Reds, won their tournament that year. Austin was last to bat and got the winning point.

Age 4 was the last of any baby phase, as he started kindergarten the next summer. It was a neat year, watching him grow before our eyes into a little man.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

3rd Birthday

Austin's 3rd birthday was "Tigger-ific!"

The department was decked out in orange and black and his cake had both Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger. At three, Austin had formed new friendships so many children attended this party, in addition to family.
(I did not realize we put him in the same shirt two years in a row!)

At one point, while I was taking pictures, I asked him to "turn it around" so I could see what he got. He took me literally and turned the toy plus himself all the way around!

Austin's big gift from us that year was a swing set which lasted for years and years. The swing set moved with us from house to house and held up long enough for Noah to play on it as a toddler too.

3 was a changing year for Austin. He started preschool that fall and so quickly my little baby became a little boy. Austin loved school though and making new friends - and girlfriends! He had his first crush at this age and back then he wasn't embarrassed to talk to Mom about her.

When we took Austin to get his 3rd birthday pictures made, we discovered he loved posing for the camera. However the photographer positioned him, he would "freeze" that way until she moved him again. It made her job very easy.

Austin used this charm to his advantage too. He learned to bargain at three and if he wanted something, he'd hold his fingers up to say "just a little bit".

His imagination ran wild at this age. Every day he was a different character from a cartoon or book. He loved to role play and tell me who I had to be and who was going to be.

Austin's prayer at dinner at this age was: "God great, God good, Thank you food. Amen!"

We started giving Austin his first allowance during his 3rd year. He would earn money for cleaning his room or helping set the table. Little did I know, this tradition and work ethic would carry him through to his teens. Austin was always eager to work and loved to save money for big purchases of things I wouldn't splurge on.

And my favorite - something he told us every single day (and did up to his last day with us). He would say I love you, but at this age it sounded like "I Wub You!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2nd Birthday

For Austin's second birthday party, we decided to host it at our house. We only invited family and our tiny two-bedroom home was quickly filled. Better to have a crowded space with company though than a big empty house.

During this time, Austin was obsessed with Barney. He watched him daily, his room was decorated in the purple dinosaur, and we never went anywhere without the stuffed animal by his side. When the Barney song would come on, Austin would make rounds to whomever was at the house at the time and hug them, telling them he loved them too.

While he was napping that day, I decorated the rest of the house with Barney, as that was the theme for the party. When he woke up, he started screaming, "B! B! B!" all through the house. If we didn't buy him any presents, he would have been thrilled to just have Barney balloons and paper plates that year!

The kitchen table was designated as the kid spot and his cousins and Aunt Raven and Uncle Andrew (both still little at the time) joined him there. His cake, was of course, decorated with Barney too.


Some of his toys that year were Barney movies (obviously!), a tool set and bench, pool toys (being a summer baby), a medical kit (just like Dad), and a vacuum. That vacuum, from my Grandma Coons, ended up being one of his favorite toys. He loved to help me "clean the house" and vacuumed his room every night. That phase didn't last long though!

We bought him a plastic picnic table that got many years of use. It was initially meant for outdoors but that little table was often moved in for snack time, coloring, etc when he had friends over to play, or during the winter months.

His second year was a fun time. Austin was becoming more independent, smarter by the day, and brought us so much laughter. He was imaginative and would act out things he saw on tv or mimic Tim and me.

His speech was very cute at this age, but a frustration for him. He would say things like "I'm tick" (sick) and need some "doop" (soup). Or he'd come up with cute phrases like, "hey baby!" and use them throughout the day.

We got our first cat when Austin was two and he would chase the poor thing around the house, barking like a dog.

Austin also had just recently potty-trained before he turned two. My mom, living on a farm, allowed him to pee outside on trees, which excited him and helped him train faster. This was ok until our first trip to Holiday World that summer. At one point in the pool, Austin decided he needed pee and like the independent child he was, got out and relieved himself on the fake palm tree. And he didn't pay a bit of attention that it was in front of everyone there.

He was certainly "All Boy" and we loved every ounce!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

1st Birthday

Austin's birthday is next month and the only way I know how to deal with it is to write. I know it will be an overwhelmingly hard day to face without him here. And instead of counting down each day with a deepening sadness, I'll focus on each year with him and the happy memories of his birthdays.

I'm thankful that I chose to write a piece about each year in his baby book because it helps me reflect back to that day. Even though it has been nearly 15 years, I do remember his first birthday clearly.

Tim and I were so excited to celebrate his 1st and planned his party for weeks before. Although we lived in Hartford, Tim was a member of the Cromwell Fire Department (our hometown) and we chose to have the party there.

It made it easy to decorate and prepare, as Austin was still a baby and just beginning to walk. He was too little to understand what we were doing, so he could be present as we hung streamers and balloons.

He actually gave me a present on his birthday. We'd worked with him for weeks on walking and he chose this day to do it with wobbly perfection. Because of this new found freedom, we placed him in his playpen, while we hung balloons and bear decorations throughout the banquet hall. We chose bears as the theme because we called Austin "our little Blair Bear" regularly.

I dressed him in a cute, bright green and white jumper. We sat him on top of the present table so that everyone in attendance could see him. And because we'd brought him an individual cake to tear into, we opted to let him open gifts first. Tim helped him open each one and I manned the camera. One of the presents we bought for him was a little red wagon and it became the holder for all the gifts as he opened them. At the end, Tim placed one of the balloons on his head and it stuck because of the static electricity. Austin tried to shake it off. Of course everyone in the room laughed, which tickled Austin and made him perform even more.

The little cake we had special made for him said "Blair Bear" and it was his first taste of real cake and icing. Austin dug in and loved every bite, licking his fingers and smiling through the whole thing.

When the party was over, everyone clapped, which again triggered a performance and Austin blew kisses to the crowd. It was a wonderful celebration for a child who'd changed our life in the past year, for the better.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Best Dad...by Austin

Father's Day is nearing and I'm praying daily that Tim will make it through it with little pain as possible. I know Mother's Day was one of the hardest for me yet. Father's Day also falls on our anniversary this year so I'm hoping it will be a needed distraction from hurtful memories.

In honor of Father's Day though, I wanted to post a story that Austin wrote for school. My boys were blessed to have a wonderful father. Tim poured his heart and soul into our kids and losing Austin has taken a piece of him that will never return. In reading Austin's story, I know how much he loved his Dad though and I'm thankful for the time they had together, however short.

- - - - - - -
My Dad and I are best friends. We do everything together. We love to hunt, fish, play baseball, and play horseshoes. When we do anything we try our best at it.

Last year, we went fishing on a bridge and we haven't been catching much fish when I saw my dad's bobber go straight down. The pole started to get this bit and the started to bend, so I ran to grab the pole and it started to bend. As I ran to get the pole my dad tried to get the pole too and we started to see some of the fish. Then the pole snapped in half. My dad's face was a mixture of anger because he just bought the pole that day, and amazement that it just broke.

Another thing we love to do is play and watch baseball. This year we went to a reds game on my birthday. Even though they lost it was still fun to watch. If we are not doing something, we love to play or watch baseball. If we play baseball we work on catching, hitting, and throwing.

We also love to play horseshoes. My dad is the one who has taught me. Even though I know how to play he still teaches me new tricks. He has taught me was a ringer, a leaner, and how to get a point.

Like I said before, my dad and I are best friends. Anything we do we always try our best and never give up.
- - - - - --
I pray Tim is filled with peace this Father's Day and that the memories that come to him are happy ones of the 14 years he spent with Austin.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Day with Mamma B

I found this story within papers that were sent home to us after we lost Austin. It must have been written for some assignment but I wanted to share it, mostly with my Mom, but for others to read too.

I know there are so many people hurting because of this loss. As a parent, you are consumed in your own pain and that of your other children. I haven't been able to be there for Austin's grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and so many more who hurt daily and miss him just as we do.

Austin was my Mom's first grandchild. Because of that, they formed a special bond. He loved spending time with her and I usually had to make him come home when spending the weekend or time with her during the summer. One of Austin's favorite activities were our family breakfasts at Mom's, complete with wasting the day away playing Rook and spending time together.

I can't say it any better than Austin's story on how much he loved her so I'll post it below.
- - - - - - - - - - - --- - - - - - -
My mamma should be the "Grandparent of the year" because she is always there when I want to talk to her. Like the time I was nervous about a test. So she asked me what the test was about. I told her and she worked some of the problems out with me, so I would understand it better. She always talks to me and ask me questions about how my day went and if it was a bad day. Then she always tries to make it better by talking to me about it and showing me the good points.

She always spends time with me in a lot of different ways. Some ways she spends time with me are: riding the 4-wheeler together, going on picnics, she takes me swimming, we play board games and other games. She's the only family member I see who knows how to play chess, which is one of my favorite games. She also plays horseshoes with me, and because of that I've gotten really good at it.

Holidays are very special to my mamma. For example, Christmas and birthdays are her favorite. For Christmas, she always as a huge live tree. Mamma's whole family, kids and grandkids go to mamma's house. After we're done opening presents at our own home, Mamma fixes a Christmas breakfast of fried ham, homeade biscuits, gravy, fried potatoes and eggs. Then on our birthdays, we play games and open presents.

Mamma always tries to make our birthdays special because she says it is our special day. For both holidays we open presents, eat and spend time together.

Sometimes, it feels like she's lecturing me, but it helps me know she cares. She influences me my telling me not to smoke, drink alcohol or have anything to do with drugs. She explains how they could hurt me.

My mamma has taught me not to let mistakes I've made upset me too much. She says we learn from our mistakes. This is only a few reasons why I think she should win the "Grandparent of the Year."

by: Austin Blair, Southern Elementary

Friday, June 12, 2009

Austin's Legacy

I'm flooded with bittersweet memories this morning as I pack and prepare for Relay. It seems so unreal that our team has done this, without him.

I didn't know if our team would even come together this year. As much as I wanted to, I knew it was going to be hard. Austin had such a passion for Relay and he was always the one to get us motivated. Could we do this without him? Would the memories hurt too much?

Instead I found it healing. Each act, each fundraiser, each meeting, kept him connected with our family. We honored him through our actions. People stopped me during the roadblocks to comment on my son. They recognized him at a community festival, at which we held fundraisers. He was remembered!

Now, I'm surrounded by bags, boxes and baskets, looking over my shoulder for my big guy who would typically carry it all out to the car for me. Because our team is mostly women and Tim always has to work, Austin was our arms and legs at Relay. You didn't even have to ask; if he saw one of carrying something, he was there, lifting it out of your arms to help.

Last night, we would have stayed up late together, trying to advance our sleep schedule. We would have made last minute plans and decisions, ensured everything was packed and ready. Instead, it was a relatively quiet night. Thunderstorms took out our power so we sat in the candlelight, playing board games and watching a movie on my laptop.

As I'm doing with Noah, I would have let him sleep in this morning so he would feel like staying awake all night tonight. Really though, it is not necessary to alter a teenager's sleep schedule. When aren't they able to stay awake all night? Austin was always the one who held out the longest at Relay. I don't know that there was ever a year he fell asleep. Instead, he'd be there laughing, helping, enjoying the night and pushing us along with him.

And so, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. The first Relay event without him. Instead, we have a spirit stick made from his baseball bat and fire department caution tape to remember him. We have a banner, in loving memory of him. Our team will all be wearing t-shirts, remembering him and recognizing the legacy he left behind.

Everything we do tonight, as has been the way all season, will be to remember him and his passion. Our team, "Austin's Legacy," will be recognized as a Silver team, meaning that together we were able to raise over $5000 to help fund a cure. It is the most our team has ever raised. We did it all for Austin. I know he is smiling down on us, with that sweet smile I can still close my eyes and see. I hope we've made him proud.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Unwritten chapters

I have friends with babies who I think sometimes stay away because they are afraid seeing their child will upset me. Austin wasn't a baby though and while I treasure that time with him, what is hard is seeing a teenager.

When I see a teenager, especially a tall boy with dark hair, that is when it hurts. I am frozen in time for a moment, wanting so much for that boy to turn around and be him. I see his friends out and wish that he could be there with them, playing, growing, living life. I see a mom and her son out to lunch and I long for that, just one more day to spend like that with him. It is so hard. In the faces of the teenagers I meet, I wonder, what could have been.

Austin had so much potential. He was a bright, loving young man who had such a passion for life and for helping others. The world suffered a huge loss when he left this earth. Maybe I shouldn't dwell on things but it is hard to not think of what he would have done, who he would have been, how much good he would have brought into the world.

He wanted to be a firefighter, a scientist, an oceanographer, a fundraiser. I can only imagine the changes he would have made, for the better, if he'd lived longer. Look at everything he accomplished in his fourteen short years here!

I struggle with it, the "why" because it just seems unfinished. It is as if you've just sat down a wonderful, beautiful movie and the film stopped short. You are left wondering, how would it have been? What would have happened? They are unwritten chapters of life we'll never know.

I dreamt of him last night, as I often do. They were actually many small dreams, just regular life, Austin with us and his friends. In the end though he came through the door and I grabbed hold him, hugging him tightly. I said, "I miss you!" and he replied the same, hugging back. It was a wonderful dream, I just wish wish it were reality once I woke up.

In the end, I know it isn't. I know he can't come back through that door and I know I won't see him again until my time here is finished. As hard as it is, I have to trust God. I don't understand it - and I don't agree with it - but we're not expected to understand everything. Tim said something the other day that has made me think a lot about how Austin left.

We can be thankful that he left us peacefully, quickly. It wasn't at the hands of someone else, it wasn't traumatic, he didn't suffer. He wasn't sick, he didn't hurt. To this day, there still is no explanation. Maybe that is for the best? Maybe it is God's way of just saying it was his plan.

Austin certainly lives on through all of us who choose to carry on his legacy. He continues to inspire, motivate and change us. And I will forever tell his story.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

moments

We played cornhole tonight, as a family, for the first time since losing Austin.

I painted the boards this spring; we even had a cornhole tournament in his memory, but playing together was too hard. We played often, as it was one of Austin's favorite games. The game takes four to play and it was a visible memory of his absence.

Noah has asked to play for weeks and every evening, I made up some excuse. But as I sat on the deck this afternoon, something just told me it was time. Austin wouldn't have wanted the boards to sit in shed and not be used. So, two of us would play and the other would take the winner. As I sat on the steps of our deck, watching Noah and Tim, I couldn't help but think of Austin. Every funny thing that happened, I could imagine him with us, enjoying the moment.

I don't even know where we first played the game but Austin loved it from the start. As with any "sport" he took to it naturally and improved with each match. We purchased a set last summer and would play in our driveway. Austin played the most though down at the fire station.

The station purchased a set the same week we did and I painted them bright yellow, the same color as our trucks. Austin would drag out the boards anytime we were there to play with whoever was around. Inevitably, if the boards came out, the guys showed up. Most of the games however were played in the evenings.

Austin would ask every afternoon to go the station, to hang out with others on the department and to play. We let him go down there nearly every weekend either Friday or Saturday night. I thought it was a much safer place for a teenager to be, and I knew he had good role models there. He would stay out sometimes past midnight and one of the firefighters would always bring him home.

His uncle, also on the department, would often be there too and they would team up against others. With so much practice, Austin got pretty good. Of course, the next morning I would get to hear about who they beat, the scores, and any other funny thing that happened. One of Austin's favorite songs was "Shook me all night long" by AC/DC. He had the song on his phone and would turn it on at the station to get pumped up before a game. It soon became the theme song for their all-night tournaments.

When Austin passed, I was touched to see many of his friends and fellow firefighters add that song to their profiles on MySpace. I know the boards weren't used at the station for awhile, as it was hard for them to play without him. But, like us, they eventually built up enough courage to carry on. I've been told by many, it isn't the same there without him. We know that all too well.

Nothing will ever be the same. We try to move forward, remembering him, and his love for life. It is hard to laugh and enjoy a moment without him here but I feel closer to him when we do.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

the clubhouse

When Tim and I purchased a small shed a few years ago for our backyard, we didn't realize it would bring so much excitement to the kids.

It was actually installed while we were still in the hospital, recovering from our wreck. We had ordered it weeks before and didn't realize we'd have to tell them over the phone where we wanted it be placed in the yard.

Because Tim and I weren't physically able to get to it for awhile, Austin took it over as his own personal clubhouse. It was empty for months, except for a small card table, lawn chairs and a fan. Austin, Noah and other kids would play cards, drink cokes, and hang out in the new hot spot of the neighborhood.

Even after we healed and began to fill it with odds and ends, the table remained and Austin always had a shelf of games, a radio, etc. ready for the next club meeting. I don't know how many arguments I broke up because Noah, younger than the rest of the group, didn't understand why his membership would get revoked. I'd have to occupy him and give the bigger kids some time alone; however, I knew Noah would gladly go break it up to do any snooping I needed from time to time.

Austin and his friends played in that shed all year long, using a fan in the summer and a space heater in the winter. There were times when Austin tried to talk us into letting him put a bed in there. Our shed has a partial loft on both sides and he was convinced that would make a dandy bedroom. I chuckled, remembering asking my mom to let me move into the bathroom one summer, when I wanted my own space.

As Austin grew older, the clubhouse changed and he began to enjoy the time out there with his Dad. They would spend hours out there, building shelves, painting, and organizing. (He never had that much excitement in cleaning his room though!) They'd create projects to work on, turn on the tunes and just be. I can imagine the father-son talks they had out in that shed. I know that Tim misses him as he works out there now.

The shed now contains fun memories. Shelves of decorations that Austin always enjoyed helping us put out. Containers of pool toys, yard games and sports equipment. We enjoyed spending time with the boys in the yard, whenever the weather would support it. Tim would play basketball in the mornings with them, waiting for the bus. He'd be met with a smiling Austin, glove in hand, as he pulled into the driveway at night.

I'm glad that a simple shed, meant to organize and hold all the extra junk our house couldn't, also held so many happy memories for Austin - and for us.

Friday, June 5, 2009

An empty room

School is out and summer break is here. I find myself wondering what Austin would be doing now, if he were here.

He would have completed his first year of high school and I'm sure he would've been ready for a break. He would have looked forward to late nights, playing xbox and watching tv, talking to friends on the phone - and to sleeping in until noon, or whenever I woke him up.

I walk past his door, wishing so much that I could open it and see him on his bed. He used it as a couch, for watching tv, doing homework and of course, sleeping. As a teenager, he spent a lot of time in his room, with his door closed and either the stereo or tv on. The room is so quiet now but remains the same, except it is missing the best part. I haven't been able to bring myself to change things. I think we all find comfort in going in there, when we need a little piece of him. His scent is still present and everywhere you look, it is Austin.

His rock collection welcomes you when you open the door. To me, just various shapes and sizes of rocks but to him, so much more. The walls are covered in baseball memorabilia. From posters, to his prized Cardinal's frame, to team photos of him as a kid to a young man, they are memories and collections of his favorite sport. Taking up nearly half a wall is his entertainment center, where he was spoiled with his own television and DVR, complete with surround sound. I remember the year Tim installed it, well before we purchased one for ourselves. It was a birthday present and Austin couldn't have been more excited.

In the corner is a bookshelf, full of his favorite books from birth to teenage years. I never let him throw any books away. Some he passed down to Noah, some I boxed for his closet, and he chose his favorites to keep on the shelves. And along one wall, are shelves filled with boxes and books of baseball cards. I couldn't even guess how many hundreds of cards he has. And even though the stacks were sometimes a mess, he knew right where every important card was.

So many things that made him who he was. So many memories that now just sit and collect dust. I wish that I could turn his doorknob to find it locked, peck gently and wait for him to open it. He rarely did so without giving me a hug, regardless of the time of day. How I wish I could fuss at him, nag at him to pick up his dirty clothes and take out his trash. Now there is nothing to clean up, no mess to fix. How I wish I could sneak in and peek at him at night or before waking him on sunny mornings, to see him sleeping, arms and legs hanging off the sides because he was growing so fast.

But I can't. Instead the room is empty, full now only memories, much like my heart.
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