Last year on Labor Day, Isaac was in tears because the bus was not coming to take him to school, and we had no waffles in the freezer. It was an autism emergency. My husband Chris took Isaac to buy waffles. Upon returning home, Isaac had absolutely no intention of eating them. He felt calmer, though, when he put them in the freezer. (I understand. That’s why I have a chocolate stash.) We decided it was going to be a long day, so we packed up the van and drove to Dyersville.
Most importantly to my husband Chris, Dyersville is also home to Happy Joe’s, a yummy pizza chain.
This is how the story is supposed to go:
We went to the Field of Dreams site and had a wonderful time. We all smiled and said in unison, “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” We had lunch at Happy Joe’s. We all laughed. The kids had a ball. We went home. The End.
That’s never how the story goes with us, particularly when autism is involved. That's okay. We write different stories.
The Field of Dreams is located in the middle of nowhere, but we made it there without incident. Isaac wouldn’t get out of the van, though, once we were in the parking lot. He was in a foul mood. (Pun intended.) None of the kids were interested. Here’s why:
a) None of our boys had seen the movie.
b) None of our boys play baseball.
c) None of our boys own a baseball glove.
d) None of our boys have ever watched a baseball game.
e) A man was mowing the lawn, and it was very loud.
About fifteen years ago when Chris and I were in Omaha, a gentleman approached us at our restaurant table and said, “Sir, you remind me of someone. Ahhhh, who is it? Yes, I know . . . Kevin Costner!” He told me I looked like Janine Turner, the actress who was on the TV show, Northern Exposure. The guy was wearing glasses and most likely had some sort of vision disorder, but he pumped up our egos for years. It was the first time we had both felt like movie stars.
Isaac saw a house he couldn’t enter, a sprawling lawn without playground equipment, a baseball diamond, a cornfield, and families who were walking around with glazed eyes and smiles on their faces. It was a real mystery to him, I’m sure. Noah and Henry also wondered what the big deal was, but they played along.
We finally made our way to the baseball diamond. Chris ran quickly around the bases. Noah and Henry followed behind. “Wonder if anyone thinks I’m Kevin Costner?” he asked, as he rounded third base and laughed. I looked around.
Isaac stood on the field with his arm outstretched, pointing. (He never pointed when he was younger. This was kind of a big deal.) He screamed, “Home, home!” but he wasn’t referring to home base. (He never used to say any intelligible words. This was a big deal, too.) About that time several other people drove into the Field of Dreams parking lot. Grown men were reduced to tears upon seeing this Mecca. They were overwhelmed with emotion. Isaac was crying, too, but for different reasons.
Isaac’s dream was to get out of there. We put on smiles, quickly snapped some pictures, and called it a day. Isaac continued to scream and cry as he walked closer to the parking lot.
I laughed so hard that I was crying. He was laughing, too. I was cackling so loudly I could barely catch my breath. At that point, I think we both were delirious from the sun, our son, and his anxiety. We needed to have lunch.
When we pulled into the Happy Joe’s parking lot, I snapped the picture of the sign. Just like Ray Kinsella in the Field of Dreams, I had to look twice to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. The place was closed.
We decided to drive to Dubuque – the location of the nearest Happy Joe’s – another 30 miles down the road. I had called to see if they were open, and I told the manager we were on our way.
About thirty minutes later, we saw the sign in the parking lot . . . it was as though we had reached the Promised Land. After a long pilgrimage, it was our Mecca. I looked at Chris, and he was overcome with emotion. I felt weak in the knees, and my eyes filled with tears.
“We need to wait. We need to wait,” I reminded my son.
We all sat down and looked around in awe. A variety of signs adorned the walls. This place had been around for a while – longer than 25 years, for sure. The boys stepped up to a little platform and huddled around the kitchen window to watch our pizza being assembled. Minutes later Isaac spilled water on his shorts and went into the bathroom to dry off. (Please God, don’t let him come out of the restroom naked, I prayed.)
Our pizza was delivered to our table, and we dug in. Nobody played catch with a baseball, but we passed plates of pizza to hungry boys. Everyone smiled as I picked up the water pitcher and refilled our drinking glasses.
We had hit a home run.