He says the words every south Dublin parent must dread: ‘I’ve been ast to go for a thrial at Maddenchester Unirit’
Illustration: Alan Clarke
Ipoint the cor in the direction of Carrickmines, where I find Ronan in the Fran-out-of-Love/Hate-style mobile home that me and the old man bought him for Christmas. He’s delighted to see me.
“Ah, there’s the man!” he goes, over the sound of borking, then he silences his two Rottweillers – Kim and Kanye – with just a look. “Mon in, Rosser.”
He’s watching the soccer, which I presumed he would be? I hand him the six cans of that giraffe urine that passes for beer where he comes from and he says thanks, he’ll drink them later, then he puts them into the fridge, which is the first indication that something is wrong.
I can read my son like he can read the racing form.
I decide not to push the matter, though. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Ronan, it’s that he’ll tell me what’s bothering him in his own sweet time.
“Who’s playing here?” I go, pretending to take an interest.
I could write the manual on parenting.
He’s like, “The team in the ardinge is Hoddand.”
“Holland?” I go. “That’s where that beer comes from. If you could call it that.”
“And the utter shower is Chile.”
“There’s an actual country called Chilly?”
He laughs – probably realising how ridiculous it is. He’s like, “Yeah, Rosser, there’s an actual country called Chile.”
I’m like, “Random,” and I sit down next to him on the sofa, although Ronan calls it a settee.
I’m there, “I find this game impossible to understand.”
“I’ve explaint it to you a middion times,” he goes. “You just have to kick the ball in the goalt at eeder ent.”
I shake my head slowly. “No,” I go, “I’m still not getting it.”
He’s like, “You must have watched it growing up, Rosser. What about Itadia Noyunty? Everyone in Arelunt remembers where they were when Itadia Noyunty was on.”
“I hate when people say that. I have literally no memory of it whatsoever.”
“My old man kept me away from it. Every time there was a match on, he pretended the electricity had gone. He used to go to the fuse box and actually flick the trip switch. That’s how terrified he was that I’d be sucked in.”
He laughs. He knows his grandfather only too well.
I’m there, “When all those millions of people turned out to welcome the team home, my old man told me there’d been an attempted military coup. He was afraid if I knew the truth, I’d turn my back on rugby. In fact, the first time I ever heard the words Italia ’90 was on the night you were conceived, when I knocked over that Jackie’s Army commemorative milk bottle your old dear’s family used to call The Heirloom.”
“They’re still veddy upset about that. It still gets brought up.”
“I’d say it does. They tried to tell my old man it was worth ten Ks.”
He laughs at the thought of his family trying to extort money from mine, then he goes silent.
I’m wondering what’s on his mind. He knows he can say anything to me. When he told me a year ago I was going to be a grandfather at the age of 33, I was eventually cool with it. Now, I can’t imagine life without little Rihanna-Brogan.
I’m there, “We get on great, don’t we, Ro?”
He’s like, “What, me and you? Unbelievable, Rosser.”
“Yeah, no, I just love the way that I’m the kind of father you can say literally anything to.”
He looks at me sideways. He knows I’ve picked up on the fact that something’s up.
I’m there, “Are you in some kind of trouble, Ro? Because if you are, we can throw money at whatever that problem might be.”
He takes a deep breath. And that’s when he says the words every south Dublin parent must dread: “I’ve been ast to go for a thrial at Maddenchester Unirit.”
My body turns instantly cold. My hort is going like a belt-fed mortar and the only sound I can hear is the sound of my breathing. I have this urge to use all the old clichéd lines. How could you have been so careless? What about your childhood? You know this is going to ruin your entire life?
I’m there, “When I asked you were you in trouble, Ro, I thought you might have gotten yourself mixed up in, I don’t know, drugs or the Real IRA. But this?”
He goes, “I’ve been throying to pluck up the cuddidge to tell you for weeks now. I says to me Ma, ‘It’ll break Rosser’s heert, Ma’. And shishee to me, ‘Your fadder will wontherstand. If he loves you, he’ll accept you for what you are’.”
Tina watches too much daytime television.
Now it’s my turn to sit staring at the soccer without actually watching it. For the past two years I’ve been hearing reports about how well he’s been playing for Stella Maris – “a future Arelunt number tedden,” according to Tina’s brother, Anto – but I honestly hoped it was just bullshit talk. But now it’s this.
I want to put my foot down and tell him no. I want to tell him how disappointed I am in him. Except I can see in his face how much he wants this and, more than that, how much he wants me to want it for him.
And I remember the day Ronan came into my life, I promised myself I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes my father made. I was going to make all new ones. And boy have I made them. Those six beers in the fridge, some people would say, are evidence of that. But the point is they were my mistakes. And that’s the best that any of us can hope for as a father.
“When is it?” I go.
He’s like, “Three weeks toyum.”
And I can’t even begin to describe the happiness in his face when I turn around and go, “I better book us a couple of flights to Manchester then, hadn’t I?”