Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


End of Year

Well Fred’s first full year at Blennerville School has come to an end. The summer holidays finally arrived on Friday and Fred now has the long, hot months ahead of him to recharge his batteries. Leaving day on Friday was very emotional for us, the advancements of this academic year have been unbelievable and are all due to that wonderful team of people.

On Monday we had Fred’s school report. Ms O’Connor and Ms O’Se thought it best for us to meet rather than send an impersonal sheet in the post. Lisa and I headed over first thing and we sat at the desk in Ms O’Se’s classroom like guilty school kids. The report didn’t surprise us; Fred’s advancements were highlighted as were his weaknesses. There is much work to be done over the summer, reading and writing mainly but the emphasis was on keeping the momentum going. How this will sit with Fred is another thing, homework during holidays is much worse than homework during school term. Somehow we’ll have to get around to it but first he might get a week off.

In true Fred style he wasn’t about to sign off from school without a bit of drama. We got the phone call about 2pm on Tuesday, just eight days from his last seizure. Again the school were out at the playing field and Fred had keeled over after running a race. The heat and activities are just too much for him but in time he will adjust to it all. It has been too long since he was able to enjoy such fun with other kids and we can’t stop him now just out of fear. There have been other days when he’s come through it ok but on Tuesday the combination of heat and running was just too much.

When Lisa and I got to the playing field Fred was cuddled up to Denise in the goals. The other kids were still doing their races and not in a drama over Fred. Just how we want it, the epilepsy is part of Fred but it doesn’t define him. No, Fred is a wonderful, loving, full of fun and popular boy, something Ms O’Connor was really emphasising at our meeting. “A pleasure to have in the class,” was how she put it.

We bundled him into the car and got Fred home in a couple of minutes. On the couch he slept for the rest of the afternoon, waking for toilet breaks and a glass of water. Even when Otto arrived on his odyssey from Derry Fred slept on, only waking at 8pm looking for dinner. Once again he didn’t cluster, we didn’t have to intervene and the next day he was as right as rain. The short gap was a disappointment but we think that was due to the heat and running around. This we don’t know for certain but we’re enjoying the improvements for now.

Fred was back to school Wednesday, a bit shy but was given the usual welcome from all the kids. No fuss, no drama, just how it should be. When I collected him afterwards the girls were giving him big goodbyes and he was full of fun from yet another great day at school.

That night I went to Dingle on a sleepover. Judy was over from Australia, Conor was down from Dublin, Otto down from Derry and Jenny from Mayo. A reunion of sorts and it was at least ten years since we’d all been together, if not longer. Fred didn’t want me to go and I had to lie that I wouldn’t be gone for long. It was actually very hard for me, I really missed the little man, the fact I wasn’t worrying about him probably made me miss him even more. Previously the worry would override all other emotions but on Wednesday night not going through our usual routines was a bit odd. Normal stuff for a parent really and couldn’t let it overshadow my night away. Not that the company I was in would let it and we had a ball.

By the time I got back on Thursday morning Fred had gone to school. It was a long morning waiting for 2.30pm to come around, waiting to see my man again. Lisa and Ruby headed off to Waterford for Granddad Jimmy’s birthday barbecue about 2pm, leaving me alone. At 2.15 I headed off to sit outside the school, waiting for 2.30pm to come around. When Fred eventually did appear in playground I was struck by how grown-up he looked. Maybe it was the short time away or maybe it was that I was waiting for him but out walked a confident 11 year old boy, one that I hadn’t noticed fully before. He nearly knocked me over with the hugging and kept saying how much he missed me. It really was a great welcome home.

Back in the house Fred hardly noticed that Mum and Ruby were gone. The weather had broken, the rain was lashing down and Fred wanted to do nothing, just lie out on the couch watching a movie. This suited the tired me perfectly. I could read and doze while Fred did his thing. Even when Ms O’Se called over with some presents Fred wasn’t too disturbed, gladly chatting to her and thanking her for everything. That evening the two of us had dinner on the sitting room floor, watching TV, cuddled up under a blanket.

Bliss for Fred and Dad.

On Friday Lisa and I headed over to the school with presents for the three teachers, “the women who care for me,” as Fred calls them. At midday they whole school trooped out, the 6th class girls crying at their last day, the boys running for the gate shouting “freedom.” Lisa and I had emotional thank-yous with Ms O’Connor, Denise and Terry, the principal. Hugs and kisses, tears and goodbyes while Fred sat in the car waiting. The school has done so much, all in their stride, and it is beyond words to express how much they mean to us.  Fred’s improvement is the tangible proof of how wonderful Blennerville School has been it will be only in future years that it will all be put in perspective. For now all we can say is thank you Blennerville, thank you so very much.

That afternoon Fred had a special visitor, one that I kept secret from him. Luckily Conor arrived early in the day so Fred’s curiosity over the ‘secret visitor’ was quickly satisfied. Fred was delighted to have Conor in our home, as were we all. Fred took him upstairs, into all the bedrooms, all the ‘attics’ and then outside. We had a great lunch, much chat and laughter. Fred loved it having Conor with him and it was a very sad man who said goodbye a few hours later. We’ve been promised a return visit, a sleepover by Conor and Cathy which will be wonderful for us all.

To cheer-up the man and stop him wondering when Conor would be back, I told him we were having another surprise visitor on Saturday. As Fred had been asleep he’d missed Otto on the way through on Tuesday. So when he arrived dinner time Saturday Fred was only too happy to take him on another house tour. Otto stayed for dinner, Fred sitting beside him at the table, listening to all that was going on. Much to Fred’s delight Otto stayed overnight so he had him for breakfast again in the morning. I don’t know if Fred remembered meeting Otto before but he took to him immediately and was sad when he left.

It’s been a great week, Tuesday’s hiccup besides and a great start to Fred’s summer holidays.

Hopefully they will be busy holidays, full of fun, laughter and visitors.




Posted by John Verling

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