Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


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.







Posted by John Verling

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