Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


That Extra Hour

During the week Fred had a cold, not a bad one just a blocked nose and the odd sneeze. As a result he had a long snooze Thursday afternoon, the usual kid’s way of dealing with illness. Later on he was wide awake when I came up to bed about 11pm. I read my book while Fred lay on his back, pretending to be asleep...

“Dad,” he said after a while, “I have to tell you about Frankie.”

“Who?” I asked, delighted that we were now getting stories of other kids from school, even if it was at 11.30 at night.

“Frankie, Lenny’s brother.”

“Lenny?”I was wondering which kid was Lenny and if Frankie was in the class too, there were a couple of blonde boys, maybe they were brothers.

“Yes, Lenny,” Fred continued, lying on his back, eyes still closed.

“What happened to him?”

“He died.”


“Yes, the anchor fell on him”

From there Fred went on to retell in detail the opening scenes from Shark Tale, the movie he’d been watching that afternoon. I was disappointed that I wasn’t getting a story from school but in the circumstances delighted that it was just a movie story. Why he was thinking of it at time of night I don’t know but then Fred’s brain has a beautiful way of doing things differently.

Getting a common cold can disrupt Fred’s medicines and during the week he was getting a lot of confusion. We don’t know why but the virus must affect the fragile balance of the chemical reactions that have been giving Fred these long breaks since January. Any time he has an illness he can be really off his game, as anybody would, but with the added complication for Freddie of the confusion.

Earlier in the week he’d have a quick nap and be right again but as the cold came on stronger, the naps got longer. Thankfully the medicines kept on working and Fred only missed Friday at school, as he really was out of it. Ruby was home too as she was getting her braces fitted. While Lisa and Ruby were at the orthodontist Fred joined me in my office. He huffed and puffed his way up the stairs, carrying the laptop to watch Spiderman. One look at his eyes and I could see he wasn’t doing well; the confusion had hit him. The two of us cuddled up in Mummy’s bed and soon he was off in the land of nod. Lisa got a fright when she came home to Fred knocked out but for once all was somewhat ok. Fred had a long sleep, enough to break the cold and to be ready for a good old fashioned row with his sister later on. Ruby was sore from the dental work and it didn’t take much goading from Fred to get the row started. Of course when I came down later, I hid out upstairs, Fred gave me his version...

“Oh that girl,” he started but knowing the form I cut him off, not wanting to rouse Ruby again.

The big pity about the cold hitting and not allowing Fred have a full week was that his hours at school have gone up. Now he does the full four hours, from 9am-1pm and he seems to love it. We sort of bit the bullet Monday, as it was the  first day back after the mid-term I just said to his teachers, Rose and Denise that we’d try it. When I handed over to Lisa at 11am the story was that he’d be in until 12.30pm. Poor Lisa, worried enough about the effects of an extra half-hour, was beside herself when he came out with the rest of the kids at 12.30pm. Fred didn’t head for the gate but stayed out playing till 1pm and then headed back in to the classroom. At home I was getting a bit worried too when they hadn’t appeared by 12.40pm. Maybe our fears of it being too much for his brain weren’t as crazy as we’d thought.

The fact was that Fred loved it. They break for a small lunch in the classroom at 12.20, and then head out to play till 1pm. The teachers thought that was what I’d meant when I said he’d stay on. It all seems so silly now but that extra half-hour of playing was throwing his parents in at the deep end, without anyone realising it. However it was just what we needed. I think Rose must have seen the worry on Lisa’s face when she went in to collect him at 1pm as she was very apologetic to me the next morning. As I said there was no need, we were delighted with that push into the extra, extra time. Rose, relieved, laughed and said Fred was watching the clock; he’d known something was up. Denise usually goes for her lunch at noon, taking Fred to the car on her way. But Monday she’d gone off on her own. Freddie kept checking the door, waiting for her to come back to collect him. At the same time though he was getting on with his schoolwork. The poor man had little choice; he does as Denise tells him.

Apparently he loves the break times in the classroom, going around talking to the other kids and having a good laugh so the 12.20 break went well. His social skills are coming on and that was one of the main reason’s Temple Street wanted us to get Fred back at school. That and getting a normal life too for his parents...Obviously the extra time is making Freddie tired but he’ll get used to it. Something I noticed this week was how much he’s improved at his school work. His reading, writing and maths have improved greatly with Fred hardly arguing with us at homework time. He’s still way behind where he should be, but slowly getting there.

On Thursday afternoon Lisa went to Fred’s first parent teacher meeting. For once all was positive, Fred is improving, the other kids love him and he’s proving to be very sociable. That bit we knew already, Fred loves any social gathering. The other great report was how much Fred has brought Jayden out of himself. Lisa and I know how much Jayden means to Fred but apparently our Fred has made Jayden a lot more outgoing, he’s come out of his shell since meeting Freddie. They get great strength from looking out for each other. Such a wonderful thought really.

It’s something I’d noticed recently. Some mornings Fred and Jayden will arrive at the school gate at the same time. They just ease into step together, walk across the yard, Jayden chatting and Fred listening. Even at our house Jayden will chat away to Lisa while Fred will watch a DVD, just happy to know his friend is there. Without knowing it they allow each other to be themselves and that is a true friendship in the making. The first morning that Fred strolled in with Jayden, leaving me at the gate and Denise still in the classroom, really had me in tears. Just a simple every day happening, two little boys on their way to class but only a couple of months ago it would have been unthinkable.

After the horrors of the last few years Lisa and I had to get strong, get Freddie back to normal living. Cathy Madigan has made that her mission and without her we wouldn’t even have begun to try. Even Dr Amre, the man who started all this, has been amazed at Fred’s progress; he said so at the recent big meeting.

The heroes on the ground though have been Blennerville School and Jayden.