Editor’s note: Catalina Foothills High School graduate Isabel Kathryn Ball wrote this article about her brother’s best friend, who died last year.
At 13 years of age, the sound of giggling boys was an automatic trigger for trouble. Not just any boys, but the mischievous laughter of my little brother Mateo and his best friend, Austin FitzGerald.
I had been listening to the combined sound of those two hooligans since before I could spell my own name. On this particular morning at my childhood home in the Foothills, that sound tugged me awake as it sneaked through the cracks of my closed bedroom door.
A locked door was no barrier for Mateo and Austin as they finagled their way into my sacred teenage fortress within a matter of seconds. In my sleepy daze I watched them rush at me, equipped with boyish energy and two toilet plungers.
I yelped in disgust while their little feet jumped around me and their arms flew as they delivered toilet plunge attacks to my shoulders and head. At last my brother scurried away at the sound of my mother, but Austin stayed behind a minute longer to whisper, “Sorry Isabel! Love you!”
When Austin died on Dec. 3, 2013, after a 17-day battle with acute lung failure, I replayed this memory over and over again inside my head. Sometimes I wonder if had I dragged myself out of bed five minutes earlier, would I have saved myself from an onslaught of plunger to the face. And then I think, “I would not have had it any other way.”
Who knew that the moment that once sent me into a fuming rage would one day be the memory that now brings a smile to my face? Perhaps death makes us want to turn simple things into gold, but even in what seems like such a fruitless endeavor, we find comfort in the idea that we can remember and re-remember in whichever way we choose.
Please help Austin’s family and friends continue to remember and honor Austin by sharing his story and donating funds toward building the Austin FitzGerald Dog Park Memorial at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park, 3482 E. River Road.
The dog park will be a place where Austin’s two beloved huskies, Aoki and Zedd, will continue to play in the spirit of this young man’s life. Today — on what would have been Austin’s 20th birthday — a fundraiser will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the park. All humans and canines are welcome.