Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


If I Had A Hammer

Yesterday we went on a family drive. Nothing spectacular but it was the furthest we’ve gone on a pleasure trip in years. We drove up to Listowel. Not for any reason except that it was a destination, wasn’t too far away and Lisa claimed she’d never been there. Off we set, coffees for the adults and Ruby, Freddie with a bottle of sparkling water. He’s on a self-imposed diet but I don’t think he realised how tough his mother can be in supporting him. On the way Freddie fell asleep, the second time this week that he’s had an afternoon snooze, maybe it  is the meds but Lisa voiced something that I’d been thinking. Sometimes he needs a big cluster of seizures to clear the head, reset the brain for a couple of weeks. Even though he had a cluster last Sunday, it was mild in terms of some of what he’s gone through and it seemed that he wasn’t quite right since, as if something was still clouding the brain. As I’ve said before epilepsy is a curious condition and sometimes acts as if it has a mind of its own, as if it knows what is going on.

Fred perked up a bit after the snooze and sat looking out as we drove back.  His speech has improved enormously, something both Lisa and I have remarked upon this week. For the first time in ages he’s  stringing sentences together, taking his time to find the right word and making sense with his questions. This is no doubt down to the longer gaps between clusters, the constant seizure activity would no doubt hinder his progress. It’s also down to the change in meds which have seemed to lift a fog from his brain. The biggest factor we feel though is the socialization process he’s been going through since starting Temple Street. Now Fred is back at school he has people his own age to talk to and interact with daily. Plus he has Elaine coming round for home schooling, or home tickling as I call it, and all this adds up to a lot of social interaction for the man. Now he has to talk and he’s the better for it. These days he’ll look out the window and ask questions, a big difference from the doped man we had not so long ago.

When we got home Lisa and Ruby went off shopping, a familiar Saturday afternoon trip for the ladies. Invariably Lisa comes home with nothing except a look on her face when Ruby breezes in with a bag or two on her arm. It makes me laugh. When the two went off Freddie asked if he could go outside and play with his hammer. For some reason or other he thought of a small handled hammer he’d got years ago and wanted to play with it. After a bit of searching I found it on Friday and he’s been playing with it ever since.

A couple of months back I would have been very nervous of him going outside, especially out of my view. Under the new regime he goes out a lot, just to a little patch of land about 30 seconds from our front door where he digs for dinosaur bones. After a few minutes I checked  on him, he was doing fine, banging rocks and anything else that could be hammered.  He came back in to use the toilet and made a big deal of telling me he’d done so; Fred had got in trouble a few weeks back for peeing against a neighbour’s wall instead of coming in the house.

I checked him again and he told me he was fine and I asked him to come in soon as it might rain. I still can’t stop myself worrying whenever he’s out of sight, old habits and worries die hard...

“Ok Dad, I’ll be in in a minute” he said to keep me happy.

Back inside I was on my laptop when I heard the dreaded howling that can only mean one thing, that roar that comes from deep inside Freddie, a real cry of fear. Dropping everything I ran outside. The man was lying prone in the middle of the paved road between our house and the patch of land. He must have been overcome as he tried to get back to the house. Such a brave man, what he has to live with; he just can’t escape it but he doesn’t let it take over him. I ran over, his body was in full seizure, shaking and howling. All I could do was put my hand under his head, try to prevent further injury. His forehead was all cut from hitting the ground, his glasses were lying beside him, smashed, under his hairline was another graze, his cheek was bruised and some of his toes were bleeding, probably from being scrapped on the ground by the jerking.

After a minute or so the seizure subsided and I held him closely to me, trying to make him comfortable. My worry now was getting him back to the house; Freddie is unconscious after a seizure and can be very difficult to lift. As I didn’t want to leave him alone for one second, I decided to give it one try before looking for help from the neighbours. Putting my arms under his shoulders and across his chest I said “come on Fred, let’s try get home.” Remarkably his eyes opened slightly and looking at me Fred managed to rise as I did. With my arms wrapped around him to two of us inched our way back to the house and onto the couch. There I made him comfortable, cushion under his head and I checked his wounds. Bad grazing to the head and bruising under the right eye, probably from his glasses frame being squashed in on impact. His toes and feet were badly cut, the poor little man hadn’t any shoes on when he went out. As always he begins to shiver badly after a seizure, I suppose from shock but this stopped after I wrapped him in a blanket. A quick call to Lisa, I was worried more about his cuts than anything else, and in a couple of minutes the two were home.

Lisa took a sensible look at him, cleaned him up and decided that they were only skin deep. As it happens we had a new pair of glasses on order so I shot off to get them before the optician closed for the long weekend. When I got back the little man was all patched up, plasters on his toes, on his forehead, Savlon cream all over and the bruised cheek was covered with arnica. Lisa is unbeatable when it comes to looking after the man. Freddie was cuddled up to her, comfortable under his blanket, Lisa had gotten his medicines in plus a dose of painkillers.

For the next couple of hours we watched him, waited for the next seizure in the cluster to hit but nothing happened. Ruby had her dinner and we watched TV. Nobody said much, Lisa drank a lot of tea and Freddie dozed. Then about 8.30pm he woke slowly and tried to focus on the world around him. Freddie lifted his head off the cushion and looked like he was trying to recollect how he’d got there. He slowly lifted himself up and looked at me. We put on his new glasses and he felt the plasters on his head

“What happened me?” he asked in his gentle worried voice.

Lisa explained what happened .

“Oh, ok,” was all he could muster.

Fred was hungry though and when he got himself organised he demolished a plate of his mother’s stew. The DVD player was on the cushion in front of him and the bowl of stew was on his lap. He drank lots of water and even had a small bit more stew. Considering what had happened to him about three hours earlier this was a remarkable turnaround.

Before his meal Fred looked at me..

“Dad, I left my hammer outside,” he said sounding very worried.

Luckily I’d found it on the way back from the opticians so he had one thing less to worry about.

About 10.30pm he turned off the DVD player and said he wanted to go to bed. The two men left the women behind and headed off upstairs. In true dramatic Freddie style,  every step was matched with a groan or a wince. The cuts to his toes hurt with a pain beyond imagining apparently.

In our room Freddie stood in front of the mirror and examined his wounds. He studied them carefully, running his fingers over the plaster and the bruising. As I watched him I wondered what was going through his head, was it wonder at the cuts or was he trying to understand how he got them? Hopefully it’s the former as none of us can understand why the epilepsy won’t leave him alone.

Sitting in bed I read him some stories. Fred was cuddled up next to me, sitting up watching the pages as I read, finishing the sentences before me as he knows the books so well.

Just as I got to the last page of “The Smartest Giant in Town” I looked at him. The eyes were closed, glasses on, arms folded across his chest.

He’d fallen asleep.

The sweet innocent man.


Posted by John Verling

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