Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


A Call From Dr Amre

Fred in Costime

Fred in Costume


Our week began with a call from Dr Amre. No sooner than I’d sat at my desk Monday morning when my phone rang, a Dublin number. In his usual style it was a relaxed, yet business-like call and straight to the point.

They had the surgical consult the previous Thursday and Amre wanted us to come up to discuss the outcome. 10am Wednesday morning, almost exactly two days away. That seemed like an eternity because of what the meeting would entail. What were they going to tell us? What had they decided? What was it going to mean for Freddie?

Lisa was on duty at the school, I thought if I called her she’d probably be beside herself thinking of the potential outcomes. Best to wait till she came home and at least we could share the worries. Ruby was off school, a bad cold but trying to fight it as she had a basketball match in Galway on Thursday. She was downstairs so I went to tell her. I wanted her to have the choice of coming with us or arranging a sleepover for Tuesday night. We were going up Tuesday to be at the hospital for 10am Wednesday. She sensed, I think, that I was beside myself over the meeting but thought it better that she go to school the next day. No point in us dragging Ruby away when she can get on with her life as best as she can. A text to Conor and Cathy was answered with the open doors invitation. The Inchicore home from home would be the perfect place for us to get set for the Wednesday morning meeting.

As soon as Lisa and Fred came home I went to tell them. Funny how in that few seconds before you give someone a momentous piece of news how normal their life seems. You know that their life is going to alter completely in the next few moments but for now you’re almost watching them from afar, getting on with everyday life, as in a TV documentary. For that brief period of time the power you hold is immense.

Lisa was tidying up, settling Fred in back home and caring for her daughter. The true mother. Then I told her about Amre’s call. The look of worry on her face as she thought he’d given me the answer, then the assumption that it was bad news as she realised he hadn’t and then the realisation that we’d have to wait forty-eight hours for one. Lisa went through the gamut of emotions in a matter of seconds.

So for the rest of the day Lisa and I were fairly useless to anyone but the kids. We cooked, cleaned, tidied, bickered, cuddled Fred under the blanket and generally did anything to get through the day. It was nice having Ruby home, to complete the family and give us something else to concentrate on. Monday seemed like the longest day but we got through it and the glass of wine in the evening helped.

Fred had his new costume to occupy himself and the news that we were going on a holiday to Dublin. On Sunday afternoon Freddie and I went on a drive. Recently I’d slipped back into old habits of not doing things with Fred. So when Lisa was going for a run, we went off in the car. At the off-licence I treated myself to a beer, for later, and Fred got a sparkling water. Fred wanted lemonade and I nearly cracked but he settled for the Ballygowan in the end.

Off we drove around Tralee, sharing the water and chatting about what we saw. After a while Fred, recognising the road we were on, asked if we could go to the beach. Again something we hadn’t done for a while. The two of us were laughing and joking along the way, I reproached myself for nothing doing the trip more often.

At the beach the tide was in so we couldn’t find the shells for Mummy. Fred suggested we find another beach but that too was empty of Mummy presents. Back in Fenit I spotted the small shop was open and we stopped to get milk for Lisa. As we walked back out, Fred noticed a display of Halloween decorations. While he looked at it I saw they had skeleton costumes and they had one in Fred’s size. Too good to be true and, to add to the miracle of Fenit, it only cost €5.00, all I had in my pocket.

What a find...

On the way back we found a beach that had shells and lovely flat stones, perfect for Mummy. At home Fred tried on the costume, it fitted perfectly but the mask was truly scary. Like a ski mask it went round his head and seemed to change his appearance completely. Our Fred went to Freddie Kruger in a second. Ruby and I were genuinely disturbed.

The costume was packed in its own bag Tuesday afternoon as we prepared for Dublin. Fred wasn’t going to miss the chance to show it to Conor and Cathy. That and a plaid shirt Lisa had bought him for the journey...

“Look Daddy, I’m just like you!” exclaimed Fred when he tried it on.

In Dublin, Cathy was chatting to us in the kitchen and turned to answer Fred’s call. She jumped with fright as he’d put the costume on, ski mask and all. It was scary, especially in the half-light of evening. Conor was late back and Fred went out to the garden to see if he could spot him and to see if the costume glowed in the dark. Con was genuinely disturbed by what he saw when he came home and Fred was delighted. The gnawing away at our stomachs that the meeting was doing to us was temporarily forgotten in the fun we had Tuesday night.

Thank you Con and Cath.

Wednesday morning and we’re at Temple Street by 9am. Part of the deal was breakfast in Freddie’s favourite cafe, down in the basement. As it was a treat he was allowed have a rasher, hash browns and toast, all washed down with countless cups of water. By about 9.45am Lisa and I just couldn’t settle, so off we set for the third floor. I can’t describe what we were going through, worry, anger, upset, nausea, the heebee geebees and more besides. This was to be the most important meeting of our lives, Fred’s future was to be mapped out and that of the family.

So no pressure Amre.

In Amre’s office there were four chairs. One each for Lisa, me, Amre and Cathy Madigan. A small room, it was once part of the convent and it felt a bit like being back at school. Without the all pervading fear of violence that I had at National School. No, this was with friends, people who cared for us. Lisa began to cry, I wasn’t far behind her, the worry was enormous. Amre and Cathy looked very worried, concerned. They thought something had happened, some tragedy had befallen us.

In a way the tears broke the ice and Amre was straight to the point. There is not to be any surgery, not at the moment. At the surgical consult the opinion was that, though they could see the atrophy on the right of the frontal lobe, they could also see that a small percentage of Fred’s seizures also emanate from the left. Dr Shahwan is of the opinion that these are mirror discharges, reflecting off the right lobe but happen so fast you can’t see their beginning. He may well be right but couldn’t prove it and agreed that without conclusive evidence the risk was too high. If they took out the right frontal lobe but Fred still had seizures, you couldn’t go back in for the left. You get one shot at this type of brain surgery; you have to be 100% certain, all day, every day. If the surgery kicked the right-hand side into being more active we’d end up with a far worse situation than we have now, without options.

Amre has the executive decision when it comes to surgery but he knew the risks were too high.

Before he had explained this in detail and before we had time to take it all in, Amre had an option on the table. In the end it may be a better option than the surgery, mid-term at least. The proposal is to insert a Vagus Nerve Stimulator. This is a battery, inserted under the flesh on the chest and connected to the Vagus nerve in the neck by a thin wire. This battery will send out an electrical pulse that, via the nerve, will calm the discharges of the brain. It is known as the pacemaker for the brain and its success rate is high. It is implanted off, switched on a month later and over a course of six months the battery pulse is increased to a therapeutic level...all done by Dr Amre with a wand connected to his computer. There will also be a bracelet which Fred will wear, that if he is feeling the confusion he can swipe over his chest, either stopping the seizure or lessening its effect.

As Aiden Dunlea said to me, the stuff of Star Trek...

While we were deflated that the ‘cure’ of surgery has been taken away, we didn’t have time to dwell on it by the introduction of the VNS. After questions, not many as Amre had covered most angles, we got up to leave. Fred will stay on medication but he will also stay on the course of getting his life back that the Temple Street team have started. The surgery will be as soon as possible and is just one day in and out the next. It will all be done in Beaumont under the supervision of Temple Street and for now we can’t wait to get started.

There were hugs and kisses for the two. Amre and Cathy have been great; they have turned our lives around in a short space of time.

Yesterday Fred came bounding in the door after school. He was giggling, he was that happy.

“Daddy, I had fun,” he declared, bag of crisps in one hand, sweets in the other.

He had been on his first school outing, a Halloween trip to the scary exhibition at the county museum. As the guest of honour they gave him the top seat on the bus, next to best friend Jayden. Afterwards they’d gone for a stroll in the Town Park. Of course Lisa wasn’t far away but he had the freedom to be with his friends, enjoy himself. Today the two of us went to the cinema, Monster’s University, Fred’s first trip there in years. We loved it and we’re going again.

None of this would have happened without Temple Street.



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Jeremy Paxman and the Peanut Butter Combo

Monday was one of those days which we hadn’t had for, well, 23 days. After the tough day that he put down on Sunday, Fred was dazed and confused from the minute he rose.  Even though the seizures were spread out, he had nine of them all told, from early morning till about midnight. Lisa had given him the Diazepam after number 5 which stopped them for a while but he had another two until she gave him his medicines in the afternoon. Then all was quiet until he was asleep that night and the last two hit about 11pm and at midnight.  It’s testament to the man he is that he got up and had breakfast Monday morning, as if it was just another sleepy Monday morning, the type we all have at the beginning of any average week.

Fred dozed his way through Monday and asked to go to bed about 7.30pm, which meant he missed Jeremy Patchman. For some reason Fred got into watching University Challenge with me and picked up Jeremy Paxman as Jeremy Patchman. Fred will ask: who are the good guys? The up team or the down team? So most Monday nights the question will be is Jeremy Patchman on and are we watching? Not this Monday though. When I went to bed about 11pm Fred was awake and his mother was in a deep sleep, no doubt Lisa needed to catch up on her sleep too.

When Fred is in recovery, like he was on Monday, his movements are very slow, deliberate as if his brain is really fighting through the fog. His words are mixed up and he may take an age to form a sentence, so much so that Jeremy Patchman would have fined him 5 points every time he tried to open his mouth. This makes the fact he made it back to school Tuesday even more incredible.

Tuesday the two of us got to school just gone 8.55am. Denise was delighted to see him, Jayden was sitting at his desk smiling and the whole class said “Hi Freddie.” There was a pretty little girl sitting at his desk too who was waving. I think her name is Ali, as Fred was talking about her as the week went on, a new friend. He did well, got lots of homework and even a badge from Denise saying that he was the best ever.

The way he puts up with what happens to him, and bounces back, means Fred is the best ever.

On Tuesday, as we were having breakfast he said he couldn’t go to school as he’d had ‘lots of faints.’ In the end he decided ‘oh ok I’ll go,’ as if he was doing me a favour. In truth I think he likes school, likes the friends he’s making and just the general social scene that is school these days. At break time he’s been playing gentle games with Denise and Jayden, just throwing a ball to each other, taking it easy as he can’t run around. Denise asked Lisa if it was ok if she introduced another game, which of course it was and she came up with a form of shooting hoops. So as the week went on, weather permitting, Fred had a whole line of kids joining in the game, more interaction for him, which is great to see.

Fred was still very sleepy in the mornings and it takes an effort to get him out of bed. Down the stairs he’d come, eyes still half-closed and just about making it to the kitchen table. Jokingly I offered him a cup of coffee ‘cos he looked a bit how I feel before my morning dose. In a few minutes he’d be sitting up though, eating his new found favourite breakfast. A couple of weeks ago I bought a big jar of crunchy, no palm oil, no added nothing, peanut butter. It’s a craving I get from time to time and if I see a good jar when I’m in the mood, I’ll buy it. Fred asked me one day what was in the jar. I told him and he asked if he could try it. He loved it and ever since Fred’s breakfast has been a slice of Mummy’s homemade brown bread, spread with peanut butter and scrambled egg on top. Or omelette or boiled egg, whatever type of egg we’re having that morning. Wordlessly Fred will munch through it, wash it all down with a glass of water before getting ready for school. This weekend we had baked beans as a luxury extra and they went on top of the egg and peanut butter...

“Hmm, delicious,” were the only words uttered over breakfast.

Fred can at times obsess about the one thing, we call it one of his figaries or he’s having a figary about something. This week it was Halloween. Lisa and I are delighted that he’s now aware of Halloween, is getting the excitement of it from the other kids and from it being featured in school work. Unfortunately when he was in the haze of constant seizures and not mixing with people his own age, Fred wasn’t picking up on these calendar events. Now this last while he’s been asking how long is it to Halloween and when will it be Halloween. I tried explaining the amount of days and he grasped the idea of it but wasn’t happy to have to wait so long...

“Fifteen days!” he exclaimed as we drove to school one morning recently, “I can’t wait that long.”

After I explained why it was fifteen days came the real figary...he needed a costume. After much debate with his mother it had to be a skeleton costume. Every day he was asking for the skeleton costume, from morning to night it was the skeleton costume and how he had to have it. So on Thursday morning as he set off for school, Lisa was taking him I was doing the Ruby run, the promise was made that I’d collect him and we’d buy the costume. The excitement on his face when he saw me at the gate was just lovely to see and Denise said that all he could talk about all morning was Daddy collecting him. That single minded way of his will be a great problem solving tool in years to come.

Off we set. The only place I could think of that had easy parking and would have Halloween stuff was on the other side of town. When we came to the turn-off to our house Fred was silent and then he said...

“No, don’t go up there...”

“Where do you want to go?”

“That way,” he pointed, “to get my skeleton costume.”

At the store we found skeleton costumes but unfortunately the only size was aged 5 – 6. I searched all over, just in case one had fallen down the back, but no such luck. The last thing I wanted to do was leave the little man down so we bought it and lots of Halloween decorations. Fred carried them to the counter, I paid for them and off we set back home.

At home I explained to Lisa that it was easier to get the small costume than to have Fred go on and on about getting one for the next few days. With any luck a right sized one will turn up and we’d get it for the big night. Fred showed Mummy his decorations and told her how they’d have to put them up to make the house scary.

As there was a second-hand clothes drive at the school that day, a fund raiser, Lisa went to pack some black bags while Fred and I looked at our purchases.

Fred had to try on the skeleton costume.

Kate Moss in her prime wouldn’t have squeezed into this one but Fred was determined. The two of us were laughing uncontrollably as we rolled the latex up and pulled the Velcro tabs together. The little man was doubled up by the constricting force or the costume. It didn’t leave much to the imagination either. Funnily enough the mask fitted perfectly.

Up the stairs we went to show his Mum. She nearly collapsed from laughing and Fred got a bit self conscious at us laughing so much but we reassured him that he looked great. Back downstairs Fred was delighted walking around, mask on growling in the mirror. After a few minutes playing I went to get his lunch and a bit later Fred called me...

“Can you get this off?”

The costume was cutting in to his skin around his shoulders. Laughing the two of us slowly rolled it off him and Fred suddenly doubled back to normal size.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “we’ll get a bigger one before Halloween.”

In the afternoon Fred was going on that he needed a bag to carry all the loot from trick or treating. Before he could start on another figary Lisa bought him a Halloween bucket when she was out and Fred was delighted.

The set-up was complete.

That night I was going to bed about 11pm. The others had all gone before me and as I was tidying-up I took in how the house was fully decorated in Halloween gear. Rubber bats, bunting, scary things hanging in the window and even Halloween tinsel over the fire.

On the floor was the skeleton costume, laid out in full, the mask at the head and beside it was Fred’s trick or treat bucket.

Fred had gotten his way; subtly the house had been turned into a Halloween Cave.

That single minded way of his does solve all problems.





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Mummy Gets All The Grief

Well it’s 6.40 in the AM and Fred just had his first seizure in twenty-three days. A new personal best for the little man, which of course is great but I think we’ve been waiting for this moment for a least a week. We knew we’d get a boost once Dr Shahwan put up his dose of Rivitrol,  but a break of this length was unexpected. As the seizure-free days had been slipping before the increase, going back to anything like a twelve or fourteen day interval was what we’d been hoping to achieve.

So all in all 23 days ain’t bad.

Today had started as normal, the 6AM rise for medicines. Lisa had come in to give them, frowned that Freddie had drank all the water overnight and went off to refill the glass. The glass of water is a source of amusement that only a couple who’ve been together for a while could find. Sometimes Fred wakes not long after going to sleep, or pretending to go to sleep, saying he’s thirsty. He’s a good man for pretending to go to sleep with his mother, then waking when I come up to take over for the rest of the night. As soon as Lisa leaves the room he’ll start to giggle, as he’s been trying to keep it in as she goes. No doubt he will have been dozing; he doesn’t want to get in trouble with his Mum. None of us do. As soon as he hears my voice he stirs, I see it out of the corner of my eye, and then when the door closes he’ll rise up looking for a story.

Most times I read the story, it would be a hard heart that didn’t weaken when that little face looks at you. Other times I try to be tough, he should really be asleep and I don’t want to encourage him not going to sleep on time. But more often than not it’s a quick read of ‘The Gruffalo’ and he’s off to sleep with a ‘night, my Dad.’ Last night it was ‘The Elephant and the Bad Baby’ an old story but he loves it. Sometimes he’ll ask for a drink before he goes off to sleep. For a while, when he first started the ‘I’m thirsty’ routine there wouldn’t be a glass beside the bed. As Lisa would be downstairs, I’d text her to bring one up on her way to bed. A couple of times she’d already be gone to bed and would refuse to get up. So Fred and I would keep texting till we’d hear the footsteps on the stairs, Lisa giving out about why she had to get up and with a few choice words lighting up the night air...

“I don’t understand why I have to get the glass of water AND you should be asleep,” Lisa would say coming into the room.

Fred, enjoying the fun would reply...

“Well I’m only a little boy and my Daddy is minding me.”

“Feck your father,” she’d say smiling, as she’d turn to leave the room.

“You can’t talk like that about my Daddy!” would be the retort.

Oh the simple fun.

After a couple of these incidents Lisa started leaving a full glass beside the bed but last night Fred had finished it off before sleeping. So I got the frown when Mummy came down to give the medicines. Thirty minutes later I had to call her again though, the seizure had broken through and we had to start the routine we’ve thankfully avoided for the last twenty-three days.

Fred began the week with a couple of tiny frontal-lobe seizures. On Sunday night he had two, just about an hour after going to sleep. So tiny that I wasn’t even sure if he’d had them or not and he had another one just before medicine time on Monday morning. We kept him home from school, expecting a day of activity but nothing happened. The only activity was Fred putting his full milking-it act into full swing. The duvet on the couch for full comfort, Mummy running around looking after him and Godzilla on the go on the TV.

He didn’t have it all his own way though, and Lisa surprised him with home work in the afternoon. The reaction was as expected but he knuckled down to it and got it done. Like me he’s realizing that Lisa won’t back down easily and it’s best all round if you just do it. Standing at the kitchen door I was pleased with how much he’s come on in the time he’s been at Blennerville. Reading, writing, sums they have all improved. Of course he’s way behind where he should be and when we think of that it’s very upsetting but we can only deal with what we have at the moment.

On Tuesday morning he slipped in a frontal lobe about 5AM and stayed home again. Fred didn’t get away with the easy time he’d had the day before but we got through it ok. During the afternoon I went into the front room to a very sad man lying out on the couch...


“Yes,” I said sitting down beside him.

“I’m sick of being sick. Sick of the fainting. I wish I didn’t have the fainting anymore,” the sad little face looking up at me, the eyes filled with tears.

We cuddled and I tried to explain how the doctors were working on fixing the fainting. It must be so hard on the little man to have his life taken over by the epilepsy. His whole life is restricted, as it’s so unpredictable, and this has been going on for over four years now. The fact that he deals with it so well, is still a happy, wonderful little man speaks volumes for his character.

On Thursday I watched him as he came out for break time at school. Fred looked sad, as if something was bothering him. Denise was close to him, as always, and I could see her talking to him, checking him as they walked. After a few minutes they turned and went back inside. I told myself it could be one of a hundred things on his mind and not to worry. If Fred had been playing at something before the break he may have wanted to stay at it and not go outside. Freddie is very single minded like that.

After the break all the kids went back in. Ed Galvin had stopped for a chat and he was filling me in on the saga of the returned chair, when Denise came out. Fred had a headache and wanted to go home. Without waiting I shot in and took him out. He seemed ok but headaches can be sign that something is on its way. Back home I gave him some painkillers and he was fine by the time Lisa came home with Ruby. Lisa mentioned that he seemed ok and did I think he was figuring out ways of getting off school. We don’t know but can’t take any risks though. While we wish he wasn’t and have to trust him, what normal little boy doesn’t like a reason to skip school from time to time? Certainly I wasn’t adverse to the odd ‘sore tummy’ in my school days...

On Friday Fred was home again. The school were on an outing to the Aquadome, the local swimming centre, but swimming is just too risky for him. Instead of Freddie being the only boy who goes home instead of getting on the bus, we decided to keep him away for the day. A bit of a disrupted week but that’s Fred’s life at the moment. They have a day out for Halloween which he will go on, all things being equal.

On Friday afternoon Fred was caught for homework again...Lisa had the books ready at the kitchen table.

“Why do I have to do homework every day?” he asked.

“Because it’s important,” I answered and headed for the stairs so as not to distract them.

“Nice going Mum,” I heard as the kitchen door was being closed.

Poor Mum, she gets all the grief.



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Friday was Referendum day and Fred had a day off school. Not to celebrate any proposed change to the Constitution but because his school was being used as a polling station. It’s a quaint tradition; using National Schools as polling stations and I think it has an indirect affect of making us aware of voting from an early age. Anyway, as Fred had the day off, the two of us had a lie-in while Lisa took Ruby to school. Not that the lie-in went far past 8am, I got up first, leaving Fred to take advantage of the quiet but he was down after me in a matter of minutes. He’s so silent in the morning, he gave me a fright when I turned round to see a little man rubbing his eyes and yawning by the fridge door. As Mummy wasn’t around we sneaked in a rasher for the breakfast, there was a buckshee one just asking to be eaten. When I put it in the pan, Fred said... “Don’t tell Mummy.”

Friday was also day 14 of the current cycle. Recently the cycle had been dropping, from a high of 18 days to a regular one of 16 days; it had dropped to only 11 days last time round. Over the last week and especially on Monday, Fred was getting bouts of confusion and the twitching had returned. The last thing we wanted was for him to slip back to a pre-Christmas like last year, when he was seizing every couple of days and twitching for the days in between. On Monday Lisa had to take him home from school, not long after he’d gone in, as he was twitching and a bit confused. Denise was being careful, that’s why we trust her with our little boy. At home, Lisa rang Temple Street and the word came back on Tuesday to up his evening dose of Rivitrol by half a tablet.

So the dose went up and Fred was asleep by 8.30pm Tuesday night. The next morning we couldn’t rouse him, he just wasn’t getting up. We gave him Wednesday off, he slept a lot but by the time I came home about 10.30am he was up watching Godzilla. On Thursday, he was up and back to school, certainly not twitching but a bit groggy, only to be expected. Now we’re on day 16, probably helped by the boost from Tuesday’s increase but if it settles back to a 14-day cycle again, we’ll be happy.

On Thursday as I took him over to school Fred started telling me about all the monsters, in great detail…

“The first one is the smog monster,” he said and proceeded to go into great detail about what the smog monster looks like and what he does. By the time we were at the end of the road he’d moved onto Gamerah, again in great detail. That was as much he got in by the school gate. Crossing the road at the traffic lights, I saw Denise coming to the gate and I could see that Fred was distracted by thinking of the monsters. He’d spent Wednesday looking at old clips on YouTube detailing the Godzilla cast of characters and they obviously were still filling his head.

“Don’t frighten Denise with talk of monsters,” I said as I handed him over.

“Oh,” Denise said, “on Tuesday we opened his maths book and I said look at the numbers Fred. He did but all he could talk of was monsters.”

So the day spent on YouTube wasn’t just out of the blue, Fred’s brain had already been thinking of the monsters he’d neglected recently in favour of the dinosaurs. Fred gets himself preoccupied and the one subject will dominate his brain for days. Fair dues to Denise as she knows this by now and probably rode out the storm before getting him focused on the maths. If I remember correctly, there was math’s homework Tuesday.  As an old friend of mine would say “she’s tough that one.”  You need to be the toughest of the tough so as not to be wrapped around Fred’s finger.

He certainly has his parents wrapped.

During the week I met Nurse Marie, thankfully we don’t see her as much at her day/ night job anymore. If anyone got us through those tough times a couple of years back, it was Marie. The smile that welcomed us to the Cashel ward, that taking charge of everything and keeping the doctors on their toes are memories that will never leave us. It was a standing joke between us and Marie, that Fred’s bad nights were connected with her being on duty. The truth was we were so relieved when we’d hear that Marie was waiting for us on the ward.

“I see herself out running the mornings when I’m on my way to work,” she said, when we met in Garvey’s, “I know when I see her out things must be ok.”

Brilliant diagnosis and Marie is perfectly correct. If Freddie isn’t ok you won’t see Lisa out. If Lisa ever needed an incentive to go running, keeping our Marie from worrying about Fred is as good as any.

In a lot of sitcoms you used to see a kid in the background with his hand stuck in a tea-pot or milk bottle, if one of the characters had to go to the doctors. An easy joke but it always got a laugh. On Wednesday evening I heard Freddie struggle up the stairs to my office. In he came with a large poster tube stuck to his arm...

“I’m an old man,” he said in a frail voice, pretending the tube was a walking stick. He burst into laughter as I did. Off he went on his old man way. It was probably his impression of the Ed Asner character in UP. As he went downstairs I waited for the thump, thump and bump as he fell to break his two legs, but it never happened.

When I did come down to make dinner I heard some struggling coming from the bathroom...



“Can you help me?”

Not knowing what I’d find, I went in. Fred was sitting on the toilet cover pulling at the cardboard tube. The tube was covering most of his arm. What little was exposed from the shoulder down was a deep red and much larger than it should be...

“It’s stuck...”

With Fred holding onto the toilet and me pulling we managed to get it off, exposing a shrivelled white arm underneath.

If there’s trouble Fred will find it.

Yesterday was a day Fred and I spent largely on our own. Lisa took Ruby off to Dingle; our darling daughter was on a sleepover at Ali’s and couldn’t go on the bus. It was a good opportunity for Lisa to get away, catch up with Fiona and a few others.

They went just before lunch. The Verling men took the chance to indulge ourselves; Fred sat down to lunch and King Kong while I read the paper over a sandwich. Just the men doing their own thing, bothering no-one. The bliss lasted about an hour before Fred had the idea of the time capsule. He’d seen a time capsule being buried in one of his programs and thought it a good idea. As it turns out Lisa had uncovered a square trunk, cleaned it up and put it in our room as a bedside table. Perfect for use as a time capsule, it could be sealed and with the big lamp on top of it, not opened again.

So we set off finding things to put in it.

I gathered some magazines, newspapers and a copy of Mark Swain’s Long Road, Hard Lessons. Fred went downstairs to find some toys to be locked away. In the front-room I found him wandering around, not doing anything, just staring and not very responsive. He didn’t have the confusion but he certainly wasn’t firing on all cylinders. In a flash I made us a little bed on the couch and Fred cuddled up for a snooze, handing me his glasses as he yawned for the umpteenth time.

As I followed the football Fred tossed and turned. After about twenty minutes he announced the he was fine and wanted to watch a DVD. Surprisingly he was fine, far better than earlier, whatever it was had passed and left him a more alert little man.

Thus we stayed till dinner-time and a couple of hours later Lisa came home, looking great flowing a day away at the Dingle Food Festival. After Lisa filled us in on her meetings and any gossip, she asked about our day...

“What did you have for dinner Fred?” an air of suspicion in her voice as she knows Daddy will add extra if Mummy isn’t around to police the portions or the ingredients.

“Oh pasta,”

“And what was in the pasta?”

“Oh mushrooms, cream, vegetables, cheese,”

“And what else?”

Fred thought for a while.

“Just the chicken worms,” he eventually answered.

Chicken worms...Fred couldn’t remember prawns, so he came up one of his descriptions instead.

Probably not the most appetising of terms but it didn’t stop him looking for more.

Not that there was any, I was ahead of him on that one.

For once.






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