‘Sorcha goes, “We will miss Honor, Ross, won’t we?” I’m thinking, yeah, like a gangrenous leg’
It’s, like, seven o’clock in the morning and I’m out of bed before my alorm even rings. I tear open the curtains and I think to myself, look at that beautiful, God-given day. I throw on my clothes, singing Happy by Pharrell Williams, then I glide downstairs to the kitchen, where my wife is making waffles. I kiss her and I tell her good morning and she laughs and asks me what has me in such good form today?
And the answer – which I can’t officially acknowledge? – is that our daughter is going away for a week.
Yes, those piccolo lessons, in which I’ve invested a small fortune, have finally paid out. Honor and six of her classmates are off to Kazakhstan for a week to play with the European Youth Orchestra.
Sorcha hands me my breakfast, then goes, “This joy I’m seeing, Ross – it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Honor is going away this morning, does it?”
The bus will be here for her in half an hour.
I’m there, “Is that today? Oh, that’s taken the wind out of my sails in a definite way.”
I can feel myself still smiling.
She goes, “It’s an amazing opportunity for her to sample a different culture. The hotel she’s staying in has an amazing sushi restaurant.”
I’m there, “Look, if she has to go, she has to go. I’m just going to have to accept the fact that our little girl isn’t a little girl anymore. In fact, it won’t be long before she’s flying the nest.”
“She’s eight, Ross.”
“Yeah, no, I’m just making the point that that time will hopefully fly.”
She goes back to making waffles. I’m nearly finished my first.
“I’m hoping the experience will be good for her,” she goes. “She’s been so bold lately, even though I hate using negatives when it comes to defining the behaviour of young people. I was talking to Sophie the other day – you know she did that diploma course in child psychology? – and she thinks Honor could be suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”
I’m there, “The words, ‘No shit, Sherlock,’ are cruising in the direction of this
She goes, “We will miss her, Ross, won’t we?”
I’m thinking, yeah, like a gangrenous leg.
I’m there, “I definitely will.”
“I feel guilty saying this,” she goes, “but it’ll be a nice little break for us as well.”
“I hadn’t actually thought about it that way.”
“Do you have any plans?”
“I’m playing golf with Oisinn and JP today and I’m going to get completely horrendufied afterwards. What about you?”
“I’m having lunch with the girls, then we’re all getting our hair and fake tan done for our No Make-Up Selfies.”
The next thing either of us hears is a thud upstairs, then a set of feet racing across the floor, along the landing and down the stairs.
“Oh my God,” Sorcha goes, “she’s keen, isn’t she?”
Except I straightaway know what her rush is? She’s going to be gone for a week. She wants to get in all the hurtful comments she can before she gets on that bus.
Five seconds later, the kitchen door flies open.
“Oh my God, Mom,” is her opening line, “you’re not giving him another waffle, are you?”
I was, like, about to have the second one? But my hand just freezes in mid-air above the plate.
“You’re just feeding his obesity problem,” she goes. “I mean, look at the size of him. He walked in front of the TV yesterday and I missed three seasons of Game of Thrones .”
I stare at a point on the wall and I use one or two visualisation techniques from my kicking days to block out her voice. I manage to do it quite successfully until she eventually goes, “Hey, Mom, did Dad tell you that he said hello to Leo Cullen in the Applegreen in Mount Merrion the other day and Leo Cullen called him Rod?”
See, she always finds my soft spot. I end up losing it with her. I’m there, “He didn’t call me Rod! He said, ‘Hey, Ross!’”
“He said Rod! I heard him!”
“Well, maybe the dude was flustered. I was a hero of his back in the day – have you thought about that?”
“He called you Rod because he doesn’t know who the fock you are. Because you were a failure as a rugby player.”
“I like to think I wasn’t.”
“Hashtag, deluded much?”
The bus eventually pulls up outside. Honor goes upstairs to get dressed and I suddenly find myself breathing more freely again. This is possibly a terrible thing for a father to say, but I’m thinking maybe she’ll be “discovered” in Kazakhstan and she’ll end up touring the world with her piccolo, only coming home the very, very odd time.
Sorcha stands at the front door and waves her off, shedding a few tears as she watches her climb onto the bus. I’m already pulling my golf clubs out of the cupboard under the stairs.
Sorcha goes, “Oh my God, I miss her and she’s not even gone!”
I’m there, “Don’t count your chickens until you see the bus drive away. Anything can still happen . . .”
And that’s when Sorcha says it. She goes, “Oh! My God!”
I literally freeze.
“She’s having an argument with her teacher,” she goes. “Miss Munier.”
I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa – what?”
“She’s shouting at her. And now Miss Munier is shouting back.”
“Jesus, could the woman not just take it from her? I mean, we have to.”
“Honor is being taken off the bus, Ross!”
“Miss Munier is bringing her up the path.”
I climb into the cupboard.
I’m like, “Sorcha, get in here now. If we don’t answer the door, then they’ll have to take her to Kazakhstan.”
Sorcha ends up answering the door, though. I don’t know if that makes her a better parent than me. I hear Miss Munier go, “I’m sorry, I will not be spoken to the way your daughter just spoke to me.”
I pull the cupboard door shut and I think, this wouldn’t be a bad place to spend the next seven days.
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE