Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Yesterday evening I was preparing dinner and listening to match reports on the radio while I worked. Everything seems brighter with the world when you’ve just watched your team win three nil away from home and then you go listen to the praise on the radio. Such was yesterday evening, the sun was shining the last of its warmth on what was beautiful autumnal day, Özil was the best in the world and the children were waiting to be fed.

Suddenly the screaming started, some of the worst I’ve ever heard, the kitchen door was thrown open and somebody ran in. I turned, screaming my head off to see the little black figure come running towards me. It had all happened so quickly that I wasn’t even aware what was happening and I kept screaming till my chest ached from pushing out the air. The little figure still screaming and dressed in last year’s Halloween skeleton costume stopped in the middle of the floor....

“It’s only me Dad,” said Fred pushing up the mask, “Freddie your son, it’s ok don’t be scared.”

But I wasn’t ok. Fred thought he’d scared me with the costume, which he had in the way he scuttled into the kitchen, but it was the screaming that really caught me. Lisa was out and Ruby was inside watching a program. So with such blood curdling screaming I really thought something terrible had happened. Just goes to show how close we live to the edge of reason, at least I do, when it comes to Fred and our worries about him.

Fred cuddled me close to him, reassuring me that all was well, putting on the mask again and lifting it to show the difference. Earlier he’d found it while poking around the spare room and asked if he could try it on. To this I agreed but didn’t expect it to fit at all. Funnily enough the costume fitted him well, he’d been a snug fit in it last year but by growing taller and losing some of his puppy fat, he’d sort of grown into the scary skeleton. Certainly scared the bejasus out of his poor old Dad.

Maybe it was because we’ve had such an ordinary week that the fright was that much greater than it should have been. Fred put down a full week, earning praise from his teachers, ‘the women who care for me’ as he puts it, and had done good stints in the library. We go to the library after school now, to do his homework and practice from the large folder given to us by the speech therapist. Fred goes, somewhat resignedly but the deal is that he can go home afterwards and the rest of the day is his own. Better than him coming home straight from school, having lunch and digging his heels in when homework time arrives. Four days a week we go, do forty minutes or so and come home to relative peace. If we time it right we can pick Ruby up from school too as her school is just across the road. A big contrast to the last few years and we’re all the better for it.

With Fred’s education it’s all about repetition, repetition, repetition. Eventually something will stick. An old teacher of mine, an educator in the true sense of the word, used to say “repetition is the basis of all linguistic study.” To us ten year olds the theory made no sense and only meant continuous playing of Irish verb declensions on the old reel to reel tape machine. Ironically what stuck the most in my head is his wise one-liner but then, if pushed, I could probably rattle off the genitive clause any modern Irish verb too.

So it is with Fred and I say “repetition is the basis of all linguistic study,” whenever I sit down with him. Unfortunately for Fred we have to repeat all instruction to him to try get it to stick. How to sit at the table, not to eat with his mouth open, not to go outside in his pyjamas and many more to the extent that he must be fed up of listening to us. By and large though he is taking it on board. We’ve seen a marked improvement in him over the last while and his education has come on greatly. On good days in the library I’ve taken random early readers from the shelf and he’s read them at ease. What I’ve been trying to do was to get away from the familiar texts and see if can still recognise the words. Only small steps but an improvement none the less, though both of his parents have exhausted their limited supply of patience by the end of most weeks. That glass of wine or beer of a Friday night is much welcomed.

This week Italy was being studied at school, though it being Kerry, today’s All Ireland Football Final was the big news. Fred was allowed wear a Kerry jersey to school most of the week and by Friday the kids were in full kit. Luckily an old jersey of Ruby’s fitted perfectly and the retro style was trés chic. Also on Friday the culmination of all things Italian came in a morning of pizza making. Fred went off with a Tupperware of grated cheese and a tin of sweet corn as his favourite toppings. After school I collected him and Denise said they had a great morning, certainly the screaming coming from his classroom implied a lot of fun.

“Did you have a good time making pizza?” I asked Fred in the car.

“Oh yes,” he answered, “I had four slices!”

Four slices? He wouldn’t have gotten away with that at home...

As we drove towards the bridge Fred was quiet.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Are we going to the library today?” he replied, one eye on the bridge, the other on the turn-off to home.

“No library on Friday, you know that,” I answered.

Fred perked up immediately.

“That’s good,” he said.

Four slices of pizza and no trip to the library.

You can’t beat that.


Posted by John Verling

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