Halfdan W. Freihow, husband of Henni and father of Gabriel, the youngest of four children, is the author of SOMEWHERE OVER THE SEA: A FATHER’S LETTER TO HIS AUTISTIC SON. An intimately confessional memoir, just out, it takes the form of a letter from a father to his young autistic son (Gabriel is autistic) and is a testament to unconditional love and the parent-child relationship. Halfdan, who grew up in Mexico, Norway, Spain and Belgium, and now lives on an island off the west coast of southern Norway, has worked as a publisher, reporter, translator and literary critic. Please see http://halfdan.autisable.com.
As you well know, it’s a complete mystery to me why you have given up on your drawing activities. For many years, at least since you were six years of age, you would spend hours a day sitting hunched over a sheet of paper with your pencils and your eraser, your head cocked horizontally just an inch or two above the page, meticulously depicting the details of whatever motive you were trying to capture.
You were amazingly talented. I remember once when you were around ten. You came to us with a piece of paper so covered in drawn details that we had to struggle to identify them.
“Look,” you said.
We looked, and told you how impressed we were that you had managed to create a whole town, complete with windows in every building, streets with cars and pedestrians and advertising signs.
“No,” you said, “look better.”
We did, and discovered that behind the sprawling city there was a big park, a forest almost, with countless trees, each one equipped with numerous branches and thick foliage.
“Wow,” we said.
“No, you have to look better!”
OK, we thought, and brought the sheet under better light, and discovered that the trees were no mere blur of foliage, but, rather, that you somehow had found the patience to draw thousands of tiny leaves individually.
“Unbelievable,” we said.
“No! Don’t you see?”
And then we did. Hidden in the dense foliage, on a small branch barely a half-inch long, two parrots sat facing each other. And so small that it almost took a magnifying glass to see it, we realized, they were both holding a knife and fork, and were sharing a delicate miniature meal.
At that point we had no words left to express our admiration.
This drawing now adorns the bedroom of your grandfather, who tells us that it still gives him a daily pleasure to study and decipher it.
You’re eighteen now, and I have no problems understanding that lots of other stuff appeals more to you than sitting by yourself and rendering on paper the world as you see it in all its glorious detail.
I’m also naturally delighted that you’re gradually taking your first cautious steps into a social life with friends. So while I privately miss your talented artistic depictions of the world surrounding you, it gives me great pleasure to assure you that as you gradually explore the vastness and wealth of social life, you’ll discover that it is as full of mesmerizing and surprising detail as even you could ever imagine in your parrot masterpiece.
P.S. – Please see this video of father and son:
P.S.S.– Please see guest column from Joe Scalia tomorrow.