The Littlest Tballer

Once upon a time there was a tball player so small and cute, that even the parents of the other teams wanted to see him score.  He had lots of fun, smiled a lot, and was pretty tough.  Even when getting hit by the a pitch from the coach and breaking a finger, he kept on playing.  He was never the tallest, never the fastest, but he gave it his all and turned into a pretty good player.  That was Austin, circa 1986.

Fast forward 20 years or so, when Drew started playing tball.  It was just a few weeks after Austin went missing that Drew went to his first practice.  He was so little, and so cute.  I’ll never forget one coach trying to teach the young kids (and Drew was the youngest) about the bases.  He took them around, yelling out the base then asked each kid to repeat it back.  When they got to home plate, he yelled “This is home plate! Drew, what is this?” and Drew yelled back, “I don’t know!”  The coach repeated his part, but Drew yet again yelled “I don’t know!” and again the scene repeated a third time.  A memory was made.  Drew also repeatedly called “Time!” when he was in the catcher spot to ask for a hot dog, and that same great coach nicknamed him “Big Dog” which he loved.   

Austin never did get to see Drew play, or cheer him on.  I’m positive he would have laughed at the antics of Drew, who was definitely the littlest tball player in the league his first two years.  I know Drew would have loved to have another person cheering him on, congratulating him for big plays, but he would have especially liked to have his Uncle Austin there.  And so would we.  I can’t quite fathom, that as we come to the end of Drew’s time in tball, that Austin missed it all.  That in the four years of watching Drew grow and mature, watching him go from the little boy who didn’t know what home plate was, to the kid making game winning catches at first base, that Austin wasn’t there for a moment of it.

I’m sad some days for Drew, that he didn’t get to have that.  But I know he has plenty of people around who do cheer him on and do love him.  I hope Austin does too, wherever he is.

Wheels

Austin’s love of cars and trucks started at a pretty early age, and I think his favorite gift ever might have been the battery operated 4×4 truck he got when he was about three.  From that time on, his wheels were an important piece of who he was.

Austin’s first ride

A few years after that truck was outgrown, he upgraded to a go-cart.  We lived on 3 acres off a dirt road, a dream of a place for a kid with a go-cart.  I’ll never forget that Christmas morning, when Austin went plowing through our outdoor decorations, laughing the whole time.  He was on top of the world.  We just laughed with him.  Sometimes I realize I need to just laugh with my boys more, and not worry so much about the things…. I can guarantee you, those decorations wouldn’t have survived to today.  But you know, the memories of us all laughing that morning have. 

Austin loved Ford Mustang’s and everyone knew he’d have one one day.  When I turned 17, I had finally saved enough money for my parents to match and get a car.  They did better than match it, and I was thrilled when I was surprised with a 1988 Ford Mustang, only about 5 years old and the envy of my friends.  The funny thing was, I had never wanted a Mustang, but it was pretty, and Austin assured me it was the coolest.  I think he was just excited to get driven around in it, though truthfully he also loved seeing people he loved happy.  Not too many years later, he got his own.  Soon after, my mom had one too- a fast, great looking fire red convertible.    We were a Mustang family.

No one could beat him or his car, or so he thought.  I had recently started dating a guy who also had a history of speed.  And apparently I liked fast cars too, because I bought a Mitsubishi Eclipse Turbo.  Austin just knew that his car was faster.  We were hanging out at a friend’s house and everyone wanted to know which was faster…. I had no intention of finding out.  So, they sat on me, took my keys and everyone ran out the front door.  Austin had his car, and my new guy took mine, but suggested that I ride with him. He  promised he wouldn’t race with me in the car.  He lied.  I was in the backseat screaming as my car beat Austin’s down the road we grew up on.  When we got back to the house, everyone high tailed it inside, though the last words I heard as they did were “please don’t break up with him!”  I didn’t, and as a matter of fact, Austin was in our wedding the next year.

What may be even more bizarre to me than knowing that Austin is gone, is knowing that he left on foot.  Just about 10 days prior, Austin’s car had been impounded due to unpaid tickets and he was gathering the money to get it back.  He didn’t like relying on friends to get him to work, and we thought he had it figured out.  The last day that anyone who knows him saw him, he had called into work to go take care of the tickets.  The next day, when he hadn’t called work and didn’t show up, they knew something was seriously wrong.  It was about two months later when we learned what really happened, that Austin had taken a cab and gone to a pawn shop.  From there he walked on foot to a store to buy ammo and a duffel bag, then back to the shop to retrieve the recently purchased shotgun.  The he left.  Just walked away.  Almost four years later, and no one has seen him since.  He left everything including a paycheck, signed blank check, laptop, and even his car.  It just still makes no sense.  He should have been on wheels.