Tim Frost never expected to have a child. Running away from home at 13, homeless for multiple years and overdosing on drugs once, he thought he would be dead by 16.
Fast forward two decades, countless doctor visits and a global pandemic later, Tim, now in his 30s, is thriving and finding joy through his son Odin, who has recently become an internet sensation.
Tim had preconceived notions of parenthood.
“When we found out we were having a kid, honestly my first reaction was, ‘Man, this is gonna be really, really cool,” Frost said. “I’m gonna teach him how to play guitar and … Super Mario – the good things in my childhood.”
When Tim was only 19, he and his wife Deanda welcomed Odin into their family.
Odin was born July 19, 2002. It was a difficult process, and when he finally arrived, he was barely breathing. While he survived, Odin showed signs his life wouldn’t be what his parents expected.
“When we started seeing that there [were] developmental delays and that it might look a little different … honestly, I was more sad at myself,” Tim said.
“I assumed that me doing drugs all those years is what caused all these delays and different disorders and hospital visits and doctor visits we were having to take. So I was really leaned in and depressed on myself and bummed at myself, even though that isn’t true.”
After a few years and a number of doctor visits, Odin was diagnosed with autism. But Tim was not deterred.
“I think the moment … he got his autism diagnosis, instead of being sad, it was more of a huge relief, because we had an answer,” Tim said. Now, we had a better way of getting in touch with our son.”
Tim and Deanda have worked hard to be the best parents for Odin. While he is considered “nonverbal autistic,” Odin clearly has wants and needs, likes and dislikes – such as his love for music.
Tim and Deanda have worked to learn to communicate with him other than words, such as sign language and a PEC (picture exchange communication) board.
“Our family speaks Odinese, I guess you’d call it,” Tim said. “I’ve had moments where we’d be with friends who hadn’t been around Odin a long time and … he motions to something. And I’m like, ‘Oh you need to use the restroom, let’s go’.”
With Odin’s consent, Tim began posting photos of him online to share parts of Odin’s story and to shine light on him and his condition.
Then, the COVID-19 lockdown happened. Now more isolated than ever before, life was uncertain.
But Tim persisted. He continued sharing Odin’s story through daily Instagram videos.
During that time, Odin was set to graduate from high school from Tyler Independent School District’s Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs. Initially, Tim and Deanda planned on not going, extra cautious of Odin’s health.
“We decided the night before that we were gonna take him to graduation. And the same with his buddy: (he) wasn’t gonna go and then,they decided the same day,” Tim said.
“With COVID, we … could only invite four people.”
While at graduation, Tim took a photo of Odin and his childhood buddy, Jordon, who has special needs similar to Odin. After the event, Tim put the photo side by side with one of Odin and Jordon when they first met.
He shared the photo on Instagram, and people seemed touched by it. So, he decided to post it to Reddit as well, not expecting much to come of it.
The photo exploded.
“I posted it [on Reddit] that night, and right before we went to bed, it had like 1,000 upvotes. ‘Holy crap, that seems like a lot!,’” mused Tim.
“The next morning, I woke up and it was like at 110,000… I looked at my Reddit texts and BBC was on there, there was NBC news, Fox News – all these people were calling and wanting the story.”
Odin went viral overnight.
After years of remaining in the background and in spite of the most isolating time in recent memory, people saw and celebrated Odin.
“It was like the whole world was celebrating his graduation,” Tim said. “It was like one of these really surreal, beautiful, never-could-have-imagined moments.”
News sites weren’t the only ones responding. Celebrities including Kristen Bell and Justin Timberlake sent their congratulations to Odin.
“Every single week we get another. We say, ‘Are you serious? That person?’” Tim said. “It’s been that way since July of 2020.”
Of the celebrities who reached out, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk became the biggest part of Odin and Tim’s lives. After Odin met Hawk, Tim asked if he and Odin could use the sound of him skateboarding in a song, since Odin finds the sounds of rolling skateboards soothing and enjoys music.
Hawk agreed, and Tim and Deanda helped Odin make a beautiful piece of music from it. From there, Hawk’s place in their lives has only grown.
“Tony Hawk’s became Uncle Tony,” Tim explained. “We’ve gone on vacations with him and any time he comes to Texas, we hang out, do our thing.”
Tim’s new friendship with Tony led him to attending an event featuring a number of famous skateboarders. “Everyone from the video game,” as Tim puts it. While backstage, Tony’s manager approached him.
”He looks at me and goes, ‘Uh, so what are you doing here? Who are you?’ And in my heart I’m like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here, I don’t even skateboard!’” Tim said.
Tim said Tony spoke up to the group. “Oh that’s my friend Tim – Odin’s dad.”
The other skateboarders chimed in. “Dude, Odin is a legend! That video is amazing!”
But virality does not last forever. In some ways, life may have returned to what it was before, but for Tim and Odin, new friends and a new community of people who share joy with Odin remain.
“It’s the most surreal online community I’ve ever been a part of,” Tim said. “We’ll post … and then somebody will say something in the comments, and they’ll start this full conversation with each other, and they’ll just go on this little rabbit trail of different kinds of happiness and joy they’re experiencing.”
With all the recognition and praise, Odin has grown and continues to flourish in newfound recognition and adoration.
“His confidence has gained so much,” Tim said. “Like he hams it up on the camera, because he knows 20 to 30,000 people are gonna see it … he’s speaking more like any other teenager would, showing out on the internet,” Tim said.
Nowadays, Tim’s son surpasses him in recognition. People Tim looked up to from his childhood now praise his son, and now, often when Tim is recognized, he said it’s “Hey, you’re Odin’s dad!”
Far from lamenting his identity as Odin’s dad, Tim is thrilled.
“With parents – good parents – their main focus is their child, to elevate [them], and for Odin I think it’s always been that way.” Tim explained.
“I’m looking at Odin now, he’s 20 years old, I had him when I was 19. I’m like, ‘man, you’re a year older than me when I had you.’ And it’s just cool seeing him flourish, that’s my biggest pride,” he said.
Odin and Tim have a number of collaborations still in the works including a Grammy.
As Tim considers Odin’s life and future, the emotions run deep.
“I’ve had moments where I just sit outside and cry, just because I’m so grateful for how his life has turned out compared to how I was at that age,” Tim said.
Jonathan Rauscher is a writer and video maker residing in East Texas. He has previously worked at the Talon at UT Tyler and has a Bachelors of Science in mass communication from the university. When not writing, Rauscher enjoys watching movies and doing nature photography. He is also an Eagle Scout.
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