Through the keyhole: Christmas disasters
It was Christmas week, and he was in Blackrock Clinic and we were in Athlone, just driving up and down to him every day. So Christmas was minimised for us. Helping him to get back to himself was the priority. Blackrock Clinic is a lovely hospital, and I suppose we got to know other patients and their families who were also around the hospital.
One of the things about a heart bypass is that it affects your physical heart, but it affects your emotional heart as well. I’m getting emotional just talking about it. We all found ourselves getting really emotional. We watched all these Christmas movies in the room in Blackrock Clinic, and anything that had even a remotely sentimental touch had us in buckets of tears.
In ET there’s a bit where the kids are on the bikes, trying to get away from the police, and Elliott has ET in the basket. The music is quite powerful, and ET makes the bike fly. We all started crying.
We looked over to each other and said, “Oh, Jesus Christ.” We wouldn’t usually be like that at all as a family.
Dad’s great now. You’d barely know it was the same guy. I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year.
One December nearly 20 years ago I was bussing all over Mexico with Lisa, my girlfriend at the time. Mexico is an amazing place to visit at any time of year, but Christmases are extra special. Families take all the furniture out of their main living rooms and install life-size lit-up Nativity scenes there.
Anyway, coming up to the 25th we headed for the mountain city of Durango. It’s a hot, dusty place but, like nearly everywhere in Mexico, beautiful and unpredictable. You’re in these places, nothing’s happening, then all of a sudden everything’s happening. We checked into a massive old (empty) Spanish colonial inn with a vaguely creepy receptionist, and I went off and got some supplies of beer and crazy fireworks that kids sell on the streets, which are just gunpowder wrapped tightly in newspaper triangles, the size and shape of apple turnovers.
So it’s Christmas Eve, the first I’ve ever spent outside Ireland. It’s very cool – uneventful enough, just hanging out on the balcony, lighting the bangers and dropping them down into the street to explode.
Around midnight I’m lying in bed when I really start to get the feeling I’m being watched. I’m convinced I can see some tiny flicker of light coming from the door, where I’d also earlier semi-registered and disregarded some kind of hole cut in the wood. Lisa’s asleep. I’m not.
There’s nobody else in this place. I decide to make it look like I’m heading to the bathroom, then get down on the floor and crawl stealthily to the door. When I make it that far, holding my breath, I look up. Yes, there are two holes in the door that my face is now up against.
Terrified, I slide up the door to the nearest hole, and there’s this eyeball there, looking at me, blinking casually.
I retreat and decide it’s time to wake Lisa up and tell her the good news. The phone starts ringing. I pick it up, but, of course, there are no words from the other end. Then there’s a knock on the door. I get it together and go over, genuinely thinking this might be it, that there might be a fight to the death here.
It’s the guy, of course, the guy who’s been spying, and he’s asking me if there are any problems. I say there’s no problem. I go back to bed and don’t sleep. The next day, Christmas Day, I examine the door properly. There are two beds in the room, and the holes are very carefully carved through the thick wood and angled to afford prime views of each bed. We move on to the next town.