True, there were definite moments that tugged at my heartstrings. My baby shouldn't be surpassing his big brother, and yet he was -is. I'm grateful, but a part of me still wishes things would've been different. And there were moments of relief, release from the held-breath of a child-loss momma. Surviving beyond the mark that Austin reached doesn't prove anything, life's moments have no guaranteed timeline, but it is something that often weighed on this mom's mind.
Going into his birthday weekend, there wasn't much planned, an unusual change from the regular festivities Noah has known. Through the years he's had some "epic parties," or so he describes. This year though, he had one simple request. An acoustic guitar.
Noah's followed his mom in having a great love of music and it's always been his goal to learn to play the guitar. In grade school he was in a bluegrass class that allowed kids to stay after and learn to play musical instruments. He loved those afternoons. Not having the opportunity for that instrument after graduating to middle school, he sort of put the dream on hold. Occasionally, we'd pass a consignment store window and he'd remark about the stringed beauties on displays. This year he finally made his wish known.
Researching the price tags himself, he figured there would be no combining other events or activities, like we normally did. Mom and Dad were very fortunate and frugal shoppers but reality was, there wouldn't be much extra. And even though we knew he'd love the gift, I searched for something "more" to make it special.
Though his birthday didn't fall until Monday, we figured he'd enjoy having the guitar over the weekend so Tim and I began plans to present it Friday night. Talking things through a great surprise developed. I'm still in awe of how everything fell into place.
One of our favorite pizza places recently relocated and Noah had mentioned a few times of wanting to go there. We decided that would be the perfect spot to present his present. Tim stopped by there earlier in the day to see if they'd be willing to bring it out to him. And I had the idea of seeing if anyone would play it while singing 'Happy Birthday' to him. In asking, none of the staff knew how to play. But wait, there was a new guy starting that night who was from Nashville and is a singer/songwriter. Maybe he'd agree? Wonderful! Plans in place, we smile awaiting the big reveal.
We arrived and Noah had not a clue. Typical of their business, they were swamped and I stewed wondering if the timing would work out ok. At one point, near the end of our meal, I could faintly hear the strumming of a guitar and wondered if Noah would figure out the surprise, but he was too invested in their Reese's pizza to notice!
Once finished, the doors from the kitchen swung open and music began to play. I'd describe the rest to you but a video does his reaction better justice....
If that wasn't enough, the rest of his weekend was packed with special moments too. He spent Saturday at an archery meet with his Dad and a drive to his new favorite burger joint. Sunday our family filled two pews to worship with him and follow us home for simmering soups. We spent the afternoon playing his favorite games and hanging out together. Monday, his true birthday, was also a holiday and a no-school day so he got to sleep in, have breakfast in bed and an afternoon with his girlfriend who visited. We watched movies and ate his usual birthday meal request - shrimp Alfredo, along with a homeade butterfinger cake. All in all, I'd say he had a very special 15th.
And his big brother had some ways of saying hello, as he does, on his special day. As I was taking his cake out of the oven that morning I hit the timer and noticed it was 9:23, an Austin wink. That evening, as Noah was playing his guitar he stopped and smiled, turned the instrument over and said, "Look Mom, a sign from Bubba."
We bought the guitar from a friend and had not even noticed Austin's number.
In that moment I just felt Austin there, knowing he was watching over his little brother as he always did. And always will...