The extraction


Nothing could have prepared us for it. I wrack my brains to see if there’s anything I could’ve done to save him from this morning. In fairness we did a few things. So there should be no guilt. And yet.

Some weeks ago I rocked up to the school dentist with marque 4 complaining of a sore tooth. A swift check had a cavity diagnosed and it was quickly filled. Great. Until five days later in school when he sneezed and the filling flew out across the classroom. A couple of weeks later the complaints began again. We traipsed to the school dentist. An abscess was diagnosed. Antibiotics were prescribed. I asked, perhaps a little suspiciously, why the filling had flown out of his mouth. I was told that the abscess probably pushed it out. Silly me. I had been wondering if it was made up properly. Off we tootled to try the antibiotic route. Great. Until three days later when the vomiting bug visited and he couldn’t continue to take his medicine. A week or so after that we were back at the school dentist. Along with hundreds of others, it being the Monday after Hallowe’en. We waited two and a half hours to be seen. A different antibiotic was prescribed. And a conversation began about saving the tooth versus extracting it. I was told that for a HSE dentist the only course of action in situation like this is extraction. But I could make an appointment with a private kids’ dentist and see if root canal treatment plus crowning would be possible.
‘That’s what I’d do if it were me’ the sage dentist said. ‘As he’s only eight and has another four years before the second tooth is due to appear. It’s entirely up to you though. We can pull it out if that’s what you choose’.
Well that wasn’t a choice was it? What parent would say ‘ah just yank it out there’ when it could possibly be saved. When the good dentist herself would do that for her child. We made an appointment with the very busy private kiddie dentist. For an ‘assessment’. Two weeks down the road. I forgot to ask what an assessment meant or what it might cost. Silly me.

I managed to dodge that appointment and father and son took off to a whole new world. By the time we met up for a coffee, after dropping marque 4 to school, he was reluctant to speak about it. An acute form of allergic claustrophobia had kicked in as soon as he set foot in the plush colourful waiting room and it only got worse. He was drawn into the lair and performed to in a sing along fashion. Shown how to brush his teeth – the father that is – and told that the tooth in question might well be for the tooth fairy. But sure we’ll X-ray and see what’s going on. €150 euros later he left with a treatment plan heading well north of a grand – for milk teeth – and with the knowledge that the troublesome tooth could not be saved. Oh and with a food/tooth brushing chart. Worth every cent so. ‘Do you agree to this treatment plan?’ the form asks us. Sign on the line. No we bloody well do not.


Back to the lovely free no-frills non-performing school dentist it is. We play tag on it. He gets him there on time. I get the others to school. Then I get there and take over. Just as the anaesthetic begins to take hold. Just prior to the job in question. He scarpers merrily off to a meeting. We chat – the dentist, her assistant and myself – about how marque 4 is a super long distance runner. How he can out-run all his brothers. We are, I take it, relaxing him. But he’s not worried. Neither am I. I’ve told him he might be getting a day off. Depending on how feels. Which he knows really means he’s getting a day off. Even if I’ve dressed him in his uniform. I’m wondering how soon it will be before the local anaesthetic wears off and I can take him out for a treat. Before I’ve had time to sing a few more of his praises she’s up with her wrench.
‘You might feel a little tug’ she says ‘and there can be some sound effects’ and she smiles knowingly at me, in cahoots as we now are, but I know not why. Not yet. She tugs and she pulls and he lets out a whimpering groan and there’s an almighty elongated crunch and his legs are wriggling and I’m up holding him, my eyes stinging, telling him how brave he is and there’s more tugging. Brutal, brutal, horror show stuff. He is groaning ‘no, no’ as the colour drains right out of him and a sweat breaks out around his little nose and on his furrowed brow. I hold his clammy hand and tell him that it’s over but he’s still in agony and suffering from shock, murmuring ‘no’ repeatedly. Like after an assault. A floored, bewildered victim. No, no, no. But no one can hear. He thinks he’s going to throw up so the assistant produces what looks like a bed pan and I think I might throw up too. I just want to grab him and run the hell out of here. But there are instructions for care being mouthed at my frozen brain. He now looks like he’s going to faint rather than puke so we prop him and pull his legs up – they’ve been dangling over the side of the chair in a bid to escape. The assistant swears she sees a trace of colour return to his cheeks, invisible though it might be to the mother, which means it’s time to go. I scan the room for a recovery corner and have a little chat with myself. Surely there’s a recovery area in here for query fainting patients? You can’t just turf us out onto the street keeling over, can you? Can you? Is it just me or is everyone deaf and blind in here? Did you not hear my son saying no? Can you not see him now? Where’s the heart? Maybe sing along Sue should’ve been given a chance after all. I bet she’d have somewhere cosy for us to sit a while.


I can’t carry him out as there’s another little boy waiting to be seen and we don’t want to scare him. Or his mother for that matter. The boy is from a younger class the dentist informs us. Marque 4, it is hinted, heavily, is to go out looking like a big brave role model. So he gives an encouraging little ghostly wave as he wobbles gingerly by and when we’re out of sight I swoosh him up in my arms. I strap him into the car and as the seat belt clicks he goes out cold. His body just shuts down with the sheer shock. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is all of 9.20 in the morning. I just want to get him home to the couch now and see his eyes opening with a glimmer of trust left in them. Please God. And then we’ll clean up the grisly tooth for the lucky fairies.




They are oh so quick at their times tables these days. Even if you don’t want them to be.
’45’ marque two pipes up cheerfully on Sunday morning.
’45 what?’ I ask.
’45 months you spent pregnant with us’.
‘What?’ I ask, desperately trying to pluck my nine times tables from my porous brain. He can’t be right. That just sounds like an obscene amount of time. I spend the morning multiplying, adding and dividing.
9 x 5. Plus the breastfeeding months. Divided by 12. I come up with a figure which seems to be a third of my life. That can’t be right. I run it past the mathematical children. They return the same verdict. One third. Good god. I feel like reaching for a stiff drink – if we had such a thing – to help me over it.

There’s another tonic out there to help us muse upon the years. Which is what I opt for. We bring them into town for brunch and a meander up Grafton Street. We are flooded with images of our former selves. This street does that to us. Pulls us right back with its coffee roasting smells and unchanging structures, despite all the years of change. Our youthful, dating, meeting at a specific spot, full of promise selves are put back in front of us. So we have to bite our tongues. Otherwise we’d be filling them with :’and this is the spot where Daddy and Mummy used to meet on a Saturday afternoon, and this is where Daddy used to busk, and this is where we used to have a slice of pizza, and this is where we got our engagement ring and this is where…’ And perhaps we silently wonder where we are now, and if we were back there would we do it all the same way again. Or if we can just sneak back sometime and retrace ourselves. Perhaps we should promise that much.

We are surprised by the waves of emotion we feel being here with the brood. Sharing bits of us silently that they don’t know.
‘Look what we’ve done’ he says as we watch them watch the soon to be illegal flame thrower, pivoting himself high on an un-held two legged ladder. Their minds whizz with the excitement of this street theatre. With the imminent dangers before them. Our precarious ladder trickster could fall forwards onto them as he juggles with flames, not to mention a dagger. They don’t see this though. This parents’ view. They see only the magic as we pull them back a bit further and scan the mesmerised crowd for pick-pockets. Oh to have that pure child’s view again.

We meander on, proud to be showing the street to them and them to it. We imagine an upper window or two looking down and winking. Look what you’ve done. We stop in the crowd for a solo guitarist and marque 5 dances and clicks his fingers to the beat. They take turns to toss coins in the hats of the performers. Every cell is stimulated, growing with this taste of the great big world before them.

The magic of a rope swishing bubble maker has them snared. A ginormous rainbow coloured bubble floats above them and they stretch in amazement to embrace it. The adults restrain themselves from doing likewise. The bubble morphs into a spectre and sprays it’s remnants over them. Somebody is perhaps thinking about the transience taking place before us. The bringing to life, the swift beautiful existence, the bursting, the spread back to earth. The sane people are just enjoying the moment.

Back in the shopping centre I duck into Mothercare while the others occupy Tiger. Moments later I’m greeted by an ashen faced marque 1. He has recently turned 14.
‘What are you doing in here?’ he asks.
‘Just looking around’ I reply.
‘Why?’ he asks.
‘Research for a story I’m writing, sssh’ I whisper and he’s smiling again now, the colour returning to his cheeks.
‘What did you think I was doing?’
‘I had a dream that you were pregnant again and when Dad said you were in Mothercare, I thought it was true’ he says, twinkling, unembarrassed, such is his relief, when I fling my arms around him.

Not on my watch sweetheart.


Sauna Man

The man in the sauna offers little home maintenance tips. He has just sanded and re-varnished his front door. Ah yes. The joy of a lick of varnish before the winter takes a grip. I think of our front door. Of the hole where the doorbell is supposed to be. Of the austere faced knocker which has to be hammered on to win our attention. If I join in on this conversation the whole de-stressing point of the sauna will be gone. I bide my time. He moves on to how he’ll give the wood around the windows a good old lick too. Just on the outside, mind you. I think of our windows. I feel the stress levels go in the wrong direction. The window where the burglars got in. They just had to sneeze at it, I’d say. How we taped it back together on the outside. Lovely brown duct tape. So that when it rains it sounds like several mice pit pattering across the floor. All right, all right. Time to join in. Maybe I’ll pick up a trick or two.

‘We’ve a few bits to do ourselves’ I admit. And it sort of pours out of me. Except for the subsidence. I spare him the image of mid-section subsidence which has literally been dragging us down. It would be unkind to inflict that on a poor old soul doing his best to lift the general load with varnish. Anyhow, we’ll get the subsidence sorted ‘presently’ as my darling English grandmother used to say. Presently, so full of action and promise. I tell my sauna man instead about how we were supposed to do a whole lot when we got the house at first. Even the estate agent selling the house told us we’d need to put an immediate 60 K into it. It had been owned by an elderly lady and, on her passing, it was let to students. For years. The picture is, perhaps, a little clearer now. So I tell him about how we chuckled at the lurid green lino in the poorly built kitchen extension. How the kids kept coming and everything got put off. How we really need a bit of insulation. Re-wiring. A functioning kitchen. Windows. Etc., etc.,
‘You have double glazing though?’ he asks, eyes widening as I shake my sorry head.
‘Well that’s where you start. Do a few at a time’ he suggests.
I feel the stress levels evening off. Yes, yes, take your time, I say to myself. But then again, that’s what has got us where we are. The laughter about the green lino eleven years ago has dissipated and transformed into a tacit acceptance. We’ve even managed to lead ourselves to believe that it has acquired a certain retro-charm. The cortisol surges in the blood again.
He mentions a couple of good window suppliers. I nod and thank him, reminding myself to play the lotto, and he wishes me the best of luck with it all.

I arrive home after my de-stress swim and sauna, bowing my head, trying not to look at the windows or the front door. But then it opens and I am greeted by a gaggle of sunny sons. There are hugs. They wish to show me what they have done with their bedrooms. Furniture has been re-arranged. Marque 2’s tiny room looks double the size with the bed along the window now. It is bright and clear and he is thrilled. Marque 3 & 4 call theirs an apartment. They have thrown down colourful rugs and cushions.

Downstairs in the make-shift kitchen marque 1 is busy preparing a surprise Sunday lunch. Garlic and steak wafts all around the house. Marque 5 is running around with an orange butterfly net. He is throwing objects up in the air and catching them in it. He comes up to me asking if I’d like a hairbrush – maybe I look a little dishevelled after the sauna – and he tosses one up out of the net and hands it to me.
‘Love ya’ he says and runs off again.

So thank-you sauna man. For making me take stock and realise, once again, where things are really at. That behind the dour faced door, within these topsy-turvy walls there’s an abundance of colour, energy and light. That the new windows etc., etc., can most certainly wait. I think I might just get that doorbell though. Presently.