Labor Day Blues

Yesterday was a holiday, the end to a much anticipated long weekend. A planned beach day, a fun day. But yet again we found ourselves in a familiar spot, the emergency room.

Michael’s chronic health issues have an impact on almost everything we do as a family. He avoids triggers during rough times and starts treating early. I know the cues and know how to manage his care the best possible. I should have a honorary nursing degree. After twelve years, it’s not something that’s okay but it’s something we manage.

I sometimes get concerned that our boys have to manage more than they should, that Drew must know too much about bad days and how to help when needed. But he also knows that dad always gets better and always comes home. He’s learning that though some days are bad, life can still be good.

He has to learn that lesson with a missing uncle and with an often sick dad. But we face both the same way, with honesty on a level he understands and lots of communication. Just like we need to let him know it’s okay to be sad and miss someone, it’s also okay to get tired and pray for change to the situation.

But it’s not okay to let it be an excuse. It’s not okay to believe every day will be bad. It won’t. His dad is a great example of not letting something bad stop him, just working around it. He shows them daily how to persevere and I believe that our boys will grow stronger and be more caring as a result of all they’ve faced. But I also hope they’ll be happy and believe in good days ahead always.



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Missing his Uncle

Drew was just two days past his fourth birthday when we lost Austin. I didn’t know what to say to him, didn’t even know what to say to myself at that point. Drew loved his uncle, and with Austin living with us, he was used to seeing him daily. He was expecting a fishing trip soon and wondered when they could go.

Early on we decided to be honest with him but on a level he could hopefully understand. It all seemed fun to him in some ways, as family was in town much more than normal and we started spending time in new towns looking. But he knew we were looking for Austin, that he was lost and needed to be found. He would ask people he didn’t know to look for “Uncle Austin” and they gladly told him they would.

We tried to keep things somewhat normal. I have a happy memory of the morning we signed Drew up for tball, so looking forward to what was ahead. Drew was so little and so cute and was ready to play. But that same morning we were having a prayer rally across the street from the field at our church for Austin.
So like many days of this journey, we left a sad event for something joyous and back again.

I think through it all, that’s how we’ve helped Drew. We’ve let him know that we’re sad and miss Austin, but also let him know he was safe and loved and had good things ahead. He has asked many times about him, and always said he misses him.

It’s now been four years, and our explanations have changes yet remained truthful. Drew now knows that we truly don’t know where he is and truly don’t know if we’ll ever find him. At 8, Drew has now lived longer without Austin than with him. But he remembers him, even tonight saw something that reminded him of Austin and he said he missed him. What sweet joy to be reminded that Austin was loved and is missed, even by someone that I’m not sure truly remembers him.

I don’t yet know exactly what we’ll tell Ben about the uncle he never knew. But I know we’ll make sure he knows the level of truth he can understand, and that he’s loved and safe too. And we won’t pretend we’re not missing part of our family, won’t pretend there isn’t grief.

And I pray that as they grow, they’ll never pretend things are okay when they aren’t, but will be able to also find the joy in the midst of any circumstance they face. And if they remember Austin, that would make me smile too.

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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.