Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Horse Boy Moment

@MySpyderWeb, a powerhouse Kansas City blogger, sent me a Twitter direct message in mid-March about pre-ordering The Horse Boy book with a link to the documentary clip. I knew nothing about the book or documentary.

After watching the clip, I understood why @MySpyderWeb sent me the link. She had been experiencing little 140 character glimpses into our family's autism journey and our new joy with horseback riding therapy.

My husband and I began reading the book and nodding our heads with Isaacson's (@TheHorseBoy and yes, the tweets are from Isaacson, not a ghost twitterer) first few chapters on their family's experience with Rowan's tell-tale autism signs: the tantrums, the loss of focus, the loss of words - the feeling of losing your child more and more each day into the autism world of blank stares.

For us, the first part of The Horse Boy brought back a lot of raw emotions and an appreciation for the long, hard fought journey that got us where our family is today, but that story - our story - is another post.

A few Thursday ago, I was suppose to be flying to Chicago for the SOBCon kick off with the Chicago Social Media Club. For some nagging, mother's intuition reason I decided to book a Friday morning 6(gulp):15 a.m. flight instead.

So Thursday morning, I'm driving to meet my husband for lunch, listening to NPR and Isaacson was being interviewed by our local station, KCUR, about The Horse Boy. It just so happened he was in Kansas City promoting the book and speaking that evening at Unity Temple sponsored by a local bookstore, Rainy Day Books.

It was too late to get a sitter for the evening, so my husband and I decided I'd go alone to see Isaacson. As I was leaving, our 10 year old, autistic son "L" asked to join me. I'm not sure if my husband or I was more shocked by L's request. We explained that it was going to be an hour of the author telling the audience about his book and it would be all adults. We explained it might be boring. What we didn't know is our son had looked through The Horse Boy focusing on the pictures documenting the Isaacson family trip to Mongolia.

Our son, L, said, "I'm suppose to help Rowan. I need to go meet him."

We explained most likely it would only by Rowan's dad, Mr. Isaacson, and our son shrugged and said, "The dad will do."

So our 10 year old, high functioning autistic son and I headed to Unity. We talked on the way about autism as he flipped through the book. L told me he wasn't happy about all the "not nice" terms that some people have about autism and all the "stuff" that is associated with it, and that people think it needs to be cured.

I told him that our family felt so amazingly blessed with our autism journey and didn't see autism as needing to be cured. We just wanted to make sure he has every opportunity to live life to the fullest.

On one hand, I felt sad that he understand the label baggage but on the other I thought he's moving toward typical acknowledgment.

When we got to Unity, I said a little prayer that the evening would go ok. Ya just never know what L is going to say or do.

I was picking up our Rainy Day book before we walked into the Unity temple auditorium. Our son spotted Isaacson and walked right up to him and started talking and they conversed for quite a bit before I came over and introduced myself as L's mom and asked L to introduce himself.

"Hi, I'm L and I'm autism. I'm here to help your son."

Isaacson looked at me.

"L is high functioning and was diagnosed at 2 1/2. He's 10 now. Looks like L and Rowan have a lot of similarities. And L loves horses as well."

Isaacson talked with us, well actually he and L chatted about horseback riding, Mongolia and their family journey. Isaacson (looking at me) asked L if he'd like to bring his family to their family horse camp outside of Austin. I nodded.

L said something about it being too hot in Austin in the summer but absolutely in the fall. Isaacson agreed, with a smile, that the fall would be much better. It appeared that he had become just as smitten with L as we are. I just stood back and watched our son's magic and took in the moment.

We broke away so Isaacson could take the stage. L asked a few insightful questions during Isaacson's talk. Afterward, we went to stand in line to get Isaacson's autograph in the book. L asked why we needed another book and I said we would give it away. Then I realized I hadn't taken any pictures so I began looking in my bag for my camera not noticing that L was writing in our book.

L said, "He's giving away all his books, he needs a book."

Still digging through my purse, not looking up, "No, really, hon, he has plenty. This is what an author does...signs the book he wrote for his readers."

"Um, Mom, I'm giving him this one. I wrote him something."

I look up, "Let me see"

L had scribed (and I wish I had written it down so I could get this exactly right):

Trust in
your son
Trust in
your heart
your troubles
will be

The search for my camera went bye-bye and I just tried to keep my eyes from welling up, "Ok, son, I think that's a great idea."

When it was our turn, L very proudly handed the L inscribed book to Isaacson, "This is for you."

Isaacson, "Oh, L, will you sign it and I'll give this to Rowan."

"Good idea because I'm here to help Rowan."

Isaacson asked for contact information so we could stay in touch. He said he only knew me as L's mom. I handed him my business card, showed him my twitter handle and put my personal email on it.

L and I walked (or I should say floated) to our car as L was on cloud nine...I think I was on cloud eleven. He was talking a mile a minute about how he was the only one that gave the author a book and how cool that was and how much the author needed that book and how he was going to help Rowan. We called my husband and L went on and on about the amazing time we had. After about five minutes of chatting, L handed me the phone and the tears started coming, "Oh, hon, I wish you could have been here to see our son. I can't talk now or I'll start crying (and added for L's sake) happy tears."

L said, "Mom, I agree with Mr. Isaacson"

"On what, sweetie?"

"Autism is an adventure."

And that - those four words from my son's mouth - that's why I needed to stay in Kansas City that Thursday night.

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Jeff Shuey said...

What a fantastic story. Your Mothers Intuition proved to be correct. It sounds like L and Rowan will be friends for a very long time. Thank you for sharing this story and this intimate view into your life. I hope your riding in Austin is everything L expects it to be and more.

autismfamily said...

This is a great review and what an event L and you had with the author. I saw a tweet on this review from someone and now I need to RT this to the autism community.

I agree with what you told L in the car on the way to the book signing

What an impressive young man.

GeekMommy said...

I was so blown away when you told me this story in Chicago - and it still made me smile and tear up here.

I'm so glad you shared it where the rest of the world can see it... and not getting to spend Thursday night with you? Totally a small price to pay. You made the right call and sometimes? You just have to go with that mother's instinct.

Can't wait to hear how things go at the camp!! :)


Amy Stewart said...

Unbelievable! That whole story is truly amazing and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

JustinG said...

Wow, I always thought of using my blog as a way to talk about how social media can tell a story and change the way people think.

But what you did hear is much more powerful than that because instead of talking about social media, you simply used it to change the way people think and inspire them.

Just one more reason why you rock. Your son sounds like one-of-a kind. We would all be wise to try and see life through the same lens he does. Thanks for the inspiration and perspective. What a great story!

Btw, I'm sure you and yur son have heard of J-Mac (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngzyhnkT_jY)? This would be a great story to somehow send his way. He and 'L' should meet :).

Chris Shouse said...

That is a beautiful story just magical.

hellokittiemama said...

Wow, this brought me to tears this morning. Thanks for sharing this.

I have the book and haven't read it yet.

Spyder said...

Wow! I guess my job in the blog world is done! If this is the only good thing to come out of it I'm blessed. I'm so glad you & L got to meet him. Hugs!!!!

Warren said...

What a beautiful, touching story. You have inspired us all!

Zena said...

Thanks so much for the support everyone! This was a really tough post for me to write...going personal is a big leap.

Calum Maclean said...

Wow. I lost it about half way through your posting. I have 3 kids and there have been times when I have found myself unable to leave their side but this,,,,, I don;t have the words.

What a great story thank you taking a leap of faith and sharing.


hardygirl said...

My daughter too who is autistic is drawn to horses. I have been searching for a camp for her because I have heard that not only is she drawn to them, but that horses are therapeutic. I'm gonna search for her for the summer and get it going for her. She too is high functioning, understanding some things better than others. I wanted to just say thank you so much for sharing and let you know how much this post truly touched me. Even sitting here writing this I am still crying. "Autism is an adventure"

jennbailey said...

I'm drying my tears. My son, high-functioning Aspergers, also loves to ride, loves animals really. I saw Rowan's reaction to the horse as very similar to my son's. I desire to connect, body to body. My son loves what he calls "the weight" of the animal, the warmth, the power, feel. Thank you for sharing. Love it when the unlooked for plan falls into place and rewards us with such insight.

Elise said...

Zena - hello. I'm Beth's good friend here in Omaha. We've met at her bridal shower last year. Anyway - our daughter has Angelman Syndrome - so we're on a similar "adventure" as L puts it.

I'm glad Beth shared this with me. What a wonderful child you have.

Have a good weekend.

Doyle Albee said...

Zena: Thanks so much for writing this. Whenever someone asks me "what's this social media thing all about — I don't really care about what others are doing" I like to have posts like this to send them to. Life is a series of day-to-day wins and losses, struggles and triumphs, and if we're lucky, moments like this. If we don't tell our own stories, who will?

When I first became a parent, a very wise person told me the key is, simply, listen to your children. What L shared here is wise beyond his years and should remind all of us to listen to our children.

Thanks again for writing.

Lisa Qualls said...

What an incredible moving story Zena...and you brought me to "happy tears." How proud you most be of your amazing son. Sounds like he has something to be proud of as well...two loving and giving parents. Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration to all of us mothers!

Mark Logan said...


What a great story. Thanks so much for making the leap and sharing it with us.


Silverzippo said...

Zena, I really was touched reading this story. Thanks for sharing. It's moments like these that give life its meaning.

Karen Piero said...


Thanks for sharing this story with everyone. It truly touched my heart.

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