A Family Reunion surprise

I met Austin exactly one day after Michael Jackson died in 2009.  Yeah, there aren’t very many people I remember the EXACT day I met them!  Umm…. Yeah that Friday in June of 2009 was the day I met Austin because Michael died on Thursday, June 25th.

Let me back up by a few days.  I decided to attend a family reunion that was set to occur in Odessa, Texas in June of 2009.  It wasn’t for my DIRECT family but it was as close as you can get.  My mother’s sister’s kids had been having a family reunion for several years, every year.  Pretty cool.  I was invited that year (as I am often now) because my cousins are awesome and decided…let’s start inviting our other cousins!

I drove from my home base of Austin, Texas on Thursday June 25, 2009.  I didn’t hear about Michael until about the time I was driving into the hotel parking lot I was staying at in Odessa.  Michael Jackson died!  Holy Cow!  I was shocked.  I had to get to my cousin’s house that was hosting the reunion, so I could think about something else.

It was great to see some of my cousins and their kids.  Really great.  Actually my cousin that was hosting the reunion was and still is my favorite cousin (don’t tell anybody).  Her name is Paula and she is the youngest of my Aunt Ernestine and Uncle Tom’s five kids.  Tom and Ernestine have passed away but their kids (of course now adults and all of them have grandkids themselves) do this amazing reunion almost every year….to honor their parents and really to honor each other and everybody in their family.

One of them, my cousin Denise, of course, was at the reunion.  She was sitting in the living room on that Thursday evening of the 25th and said “Austin is going to be here tomorrow. He’s staying in Midland with his Dad.”  I thought to myself, “Who is Austin?” but decided not to say anything.  It didn’t matter really because Denise could read my questioning face. “Austin is my grandson!”  Oh.  Wow.  I thought I knew all the ins and outs of the dynamics of the family, but obviously not.

“Caroline!  You remember Austin!  He was at Dad’s funeral (my Uncle Tom) with Frank!”  Think Think Think.  I still didn’t know who she was talking about it!  “Caroline!  Amy had Austin the year mom died (her Mom being Aunt Ernestine).”  Think Think Think.   I remember Denise’s daughter being pregnant.  She was pretty young when she had Austin, so his grandparents took care of Austin.  Yeah Yeah Yeah…it was coming back.

I just can’t go into detail anymore.  I just have to say that it was a miracle that Austin came into my life.  Austin was only 14 when I met him and he was just a cute shy kid that just sat and listened to everybody at this reunion.  He was a fish out of water but was very blood related to this family.  I was a fish out of water and wasn’t near as blood related to this family as Austin was, but I was able to swim in the water because I knew these people so well.  Austin didn’t know them as well as I did but he tried his best to stay in and above water.  And he did.  He did just fine.  For a 14-year-old he seemed very polished and well-mannered and I was just so very impressed by him.  I could tell that whoever raised him, was doing a great job.

I decided at the reunion that I was going to try to get to know Austin and try to make him feel more comfortable.   I don’t know if I did make him feel more comfortable but we became friends even though there was at least a 30 year difference between us.   I mean…he was my cousin for goodness sake!   I didn’t know at the time but he technically was/is my 1st cousin twice removed.  Yeah, that’s it I think.  Yes, that’s it – I just checked.  My first cousin twice removed.

Austin and Me

Austin and Me – 2013 Downtown Uncorked – Bryan, Texas

Austin and I connected and talked allot and it was great.  I was so happy to get to know him but soon discovered something about him that was very troubling.  We happened to be at one of our reunion events on Saturday, at another home, and Austin suddenly was VERY sick.  I mean VERY sick.  It had come on suddenly.  Long story short…here was a 14-year-old boy suffering from a VERY strong migraine.  It was just horrible.  I felt for him so but I had asked him about it and he said that unfortunately he has them often.  Wow.  I mean no fun.  But Austin handled it okay and it was obvious he was used to dealing with this horrible malady.  He suffered at least one more migraine during that weekend.

Austin and Dawn

Austin and the fantastic woman who who raised him, Dawn

I told myself that I was going to stay in touch with this young man because I felt he was very special and was put on this earth to do good things.  I was proud that he was a part of my extended family and I barely knew him!  Fortunately Austin seemed to like our friendship too and was happy to get know another cousin (even if I was a heck of allot older).  And I couldn’t wait until he could meet my kids too.  They were a bit older than Austin, but I knew it would be another great connection.

Austin and John Ryan

Austin and my son, John Ryan – 2012 – 2nd cousins – I don’t know how many times removed! Mount Bonnell – Austin Texas

I remember when Austin was about 16 or 17 I asked him about college and if he was planning to go. He told me yes and it would most likely be Texas Tech, in Lubbock.  I asked him if he had ever considered Texas A&M in College Station and he said that he hadn’t thought about it much especially after college day at his school and the people representing Texas A&M really didn’t impress him.  I was pretty upset because I knew Austin would be a perfect fit for Texas A&M.  I’d have to work on that later!

Who would ever know that I would become close to one of my first cousins twice removed?!  But I have and it is such a special relationship for me.  Austin is 19 now and you know what?  He is an AGGIE and he LOVES Texas A&M.  (I knew he would, but he just had to figure out that for himself).

Austin had another medical challenge his first year at A&M…his lungs kept on collapsing. Can you imagine?!  He was growing so tall and fast his lungs couldn’t keep up.  This was called Pneumothorax.  He finally had surgery to make sure he’d make it as it was extremely dangerous to have your lungs keep on collapsing!  Fortunately one of the best doctors to do this surgery lived in College Station, Texas!  Oh, and yes, that is where Texas A&M is!

One never knows where a connection will happen.  Don’t ever take for granted someone who you meet.  Get to know them…ask questions…pay attention…listen.  You never know what that person will add to your life, or you to  their lives!  In this case, Austin, my first cousin twice removed, will forever be a favorite person of mine that has added a lot to my life, because I made a point to pay attention and learn about him on that special day after Michael Jackson died in June 2009.


About Caroline

Daughter, Sister, Mom... I think the best thing I've done is to be a mom, to give my kids my love but not my thoughts and to listen, observe, offer advice when needed.
This entry was posted in Family Memories and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Family Reunion surprise

  1. Gail Russell says:

    Nice story, Caroline.


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