Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Uncomfortable Conversation...

My Three Sons!
"How many kids do you have?"
"Are they boys or girls?"
"All boys."
"How old are they?"
"Um... my two younger ones are over there, ages 11 and 13. And, well, ummm... my other son would be 22, but unfortunately he passed away last year. In a motorcycle accident."
"Oh, I'm sorry".... followed by an awkward pause with the speaker not sure what to say next.
"Yeah, just one of those stinking things in life. So, yep, I am surrounded by boys in the house. How's your son liking football, anyway?"....

This is the conversation I dread when I meet someone new. Inevitably, if we are at a function involving our kids and meet parents for the first time, this type of dialogue will occur. Ever since I lost Austin I find myself avoiding asking other parents one of the first questions usually asked, "How many kids do have?" or "Do you have any other children?" Because, I know if I ask this question it will be answered, followed by, "How many do you have?....."

I had this dialogue, not once, but twice, this past week-end, at one of my boys' football team's party. I can always see the question coming, and want to say, "Uh, you don't want to ask that one." But, instead, I just smile, inside knowing what's coming and knowing they will soon wish they had asked a different question.

Occasionally, when I know I probably won't see the person again or am low on energy, I answer the "how many kids do you have?" with, "My two youngest, that are still at home, are 11 and 13," and then ask a question to switch the subject. They don't realize what I've done and I have avoided an awkward moment.

I don't I feel bad for myself, when I have this conversation, but rather the recipient of my "news". I can see the surprise in their face (if only for a split second),  followed by the awkwardness of not knowing how to respond. I want to say, "It's OK. I'm not uncomfortable answering this. It is part of my life and it's OK to ask.. In fact, I'd love it if you asked more about him, even if you ask about the accident. I don't mind talking about the accident or Austin. Actually, I love talking about Austin. I always have, from the second he entered this world!"

While I'm divulging my secrets, I have a confession to make.... even after having lost a child, I, myself, don't always know how to react when I speak with someone who has also lost a loved one. Some people are very private and would rather not 'talk about it', while others want to and/or need to share their story. I am the type who has no problem talking about it, even if I do shed a tear while doing it, which then can add to the already uneasiness the recipient is feeling. But, I don't want to assume that everyone deals with their loss the same way, so I also feel uncomfortable when responding to one's loss. However, I now have an advantage, as I can simply respond, "I am so sorry. I also have lost someone very close. I lost my son last year," which breaks the ice and I simply follow the lead of the other person, as to whether they want to talk more about it, or leave it as is, knowing we now have a little more in common.

As I reflect on "talking about Austin" to people I've just met, one more thing comes to mind, but it's in regards to people who already know about Austin. I am ever so grateful for my friends who don't hesitate, when we are discussing characteristics of our children (or any other time), to ask me, "Did Austin do.... or did Austin like....?" I want to grab them and hug them, saying, "Thank you! Thank you for recognizing that, although Austin is not here with me today, all my memories of him are present, at the forefront of my mind, and just as I reminisce of how my other two boys were/are at certain ages I still (and always will) reminisce how Austin was. And just as I talk about how my other two boys were/are, I still love to talk about how Austin was. So, "THANK YOU!!!! Thank you for not being afraid to mention Austin's name, to ask about him. Thank you from making my day!"

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal." - from headstone in Ireland

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Settling In

"Ohhh, Austin." I say quietly, with a sigh, as my throat tightens and tears well in my eyes. I shake my head, take a deep breath and walk on.

This process is repeated frequently through the day, especially when thoughts of him come to mind, or when I walk by one of the many pictures of Austin I have throughout the house. It's been almost 14 months since Austin's accident and I still have "Austin on my mind" in everything I do. But, it's different than a year ago, or even a few months ago. My emotions are settling in.

After I take that deep breath and begin to "walk on" I slowly exhale, letting the "feelings" settle deep in my soul. A year ago the feelings were brand new, raw and excruciating. Today, these feelings have morphed into me, become a part of me, set their roots and made their home.

I was looking at a Dinner Plate Hibiscus I bought the other day. It needs to be planted, so that I don't have to remember to water it every day. At first it will need a little TLC (tender loving care) and extra watering, but eventually the roots will grow and take hold and only on scorching hot days when it hasn't rained for a while, will the plant require watering. It will have to be trimmed here and there, with the dead leaves pinched off, a little fertilizer added occasionally, and mulch laid down in the spring and late fall. But other than that, it will grow and grow and produce beautiful, rich and vibrant flowers every summer.

So it is with my life after Austin. In the very beginning I needed to tend to my emotions on a regular basis (sometimes hourly). They required watering (aka tears). As I did this, the roots of my new life started settling in, taking hold, and growing. Occasionally, I still need to give myself a little extra time, to weed out the things I cannot change and let the memories and thoughts of Austin settle in, grow roots and warm my heart.

I have a beautiful Weeping Cherry tree in my front yard that was given to me last year, in memory of Austin. I watered it and watered it and watered it last fall. The winter was harsh and cold this year, but in the spring the tree bloomed beautiful flowers and reminded me that we must also weather storms, but once we have we will blossom again. Austin is with me everyday, all day. In everything I do, every conversation I have, he is there. And as my life continues to grow and bloom, he will always be rooted in my heart, soul and mind.

The Austin Tree

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

On the anniversary of Austin's accident my best friend gave me a card that summed up life....

Two steps forward, one step back...
Two steps forward, one step back...
Didn't know you could dance so well!
Keep dancing.

What a beautiful reminder that life is a dance, where we take two steps forward and one step back - but the entire time we are moving and growing and becoming.

Yesterday and today were both one of those "one step back" kind of days, reinforcing the fact that even as I'm moving forward there will be days, where out of the blue, memories come, tears sneak out, and I have to let them flow - those darn "Sneaky Tears" and "Sorrow Tears (see "Who Opened the Dam?" 9/16/10 blog).

Everywhere I turn thoughts of Austin pop up and I'm reminded how much I miss him. Perhaps it's because I went back home to visit, this past week-end, and Austin was not there. Even though he wasn't present physically, so many memories were, and my soul was reminded that something was missing - something will always be missing.

So today, I will let the memories soak in. I will remember the life of Austin, that while not here physically, will always be here in spirit. And I will continue to dance the dance of life... two steps forward and one step back.

Side note: As I was typing this blog the sound of a loud dirt bike flying up our quiet neighborhood street was heard through my window.... a reminder that Austin is everywhere.