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.