|Doctors gave up on a cast after he removed two|
As we grew, we continued to mount the falls, scrapes, bruises and breaks. I was training intensely for gymnastics, and Austin played various sports. We also spent free time playing with our friends on the land around our house, traipsing through woods, and generally making mischief. I broke the growth plate in my elbow and spent almost a week in the hospital with an infection after surgery. I sprained each ankle, wrist and knee more times than I can recall. But I was pretty tough, and kept getting up when I was knocked down. Austin was even tougher. He was playing football in the yard when he heard a pop and had intense pain in his knee. He was only about 8, but by now we all knew how tough he was, and when he cried about his knee day after day, there was no doubt something was wrong. After pushing doctor after doctor to find the problem, he finally had surgery which gave him a few years of relief. It turned out that he had more serious lasting knee issues than we realized, eventually in both knees.
|A few days after surgery|
Just to prove how tough he really was, he decided to fight a strand and barbed wire and lost. But no worry, he never cried, even as they decided that he must have nerve damage since the damage to his face was so severe. He wasn't quite as emotionally tough we learned though, because the few tears that did fall were because he heard Dad might have gone fishing without him.
As a teenager, Austin's knees had reached the point of needing more surgery, this time on both. One of mine had also reached it's limit, and we each had surgery, just days apart from each other in hopes of finding some relief. That was the most painful time of our lives, as we were also coping with the recent separation of our parents, and our first Christmas away from Mom. We had a pretty rough holiday, in physical and emotional pain, and unsure of what was ahead. I was in college and didn't like leaving him when that break was over.
During the next several years, we faced the family challenges and dealt with the pain, sometimes together. But Austin was always a private person, so the glimpses into what he really felt didn't come often. The knee pain grew (as did mine, I eventually had one more knee surgery plus a few others), and he became more private.
Sometime around 2005, Austin and his girlfriend were hit while he was driving her car. Their injuries weren't life threatening, but for a guy with so much joint and general pain trouble, it was bad. When Austin's knees went into the steering column and his back took the impact it did, I believe a dark time began. Soon after, the girlfriend broke his heart, and the the pain continued to grow. He didn't find much relief from the emotional or physical.
Austin had a job he loved, in a field he had been going to school for. He had people around him that loved him. But the pain was too much. As the physical pain grew, so did the emotional, and trying to cope with both was too much. We might never know how deep or real that pain was, and we may never know how we could have helped, because though we did try, he kept it hidden.
I'll forever have pain over losing him, that can never touch the physical pain I've ever felt. His whole life, Austin could take any pain, which leaves us to wonder even more, how bad it really must have been.