In a Word … Seán

He has spent most of his adult life in the United States where he, with assistance from his wife Ann, has six children

There were seven of us and my nearest sibling has a significant zero birthday today. Or `nought’ as we used to describe it in the 20th century before films, TV, and music brought zero into our lives. Seán — said sibling — made my young life a misery. I tried to kill him twice, once accidentally. And I was the good boy of us two.

He was — as generally agreed — mad and wild as a March hare (whatever the month). And he always got away with it. Not me. Were I to do the things he did people would just stand back in amazement that I, Patsy, would carry on like that.

It wasn’t easy being me.

Anyhow, to my murder attempts. The first was when we were small boys and helping a man who was putting a fence around our garden. I was chopping at a bit of wood with a small axe when Seán got in the way (as usual). I hit him on the head and, as the blood gushed forth, I ran to the henhouse — refuge of sinners — believing I’d be killed.

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I wasn’t, neither was he. Our parents’ primary concern was with getting him to the doctor not with chastising me. To this day Seán has a scar on his head from that time.

The second murder attempt was a couple of years later. It was a Saturday morning, so there was no school and he kept dripping ice-cold water on my face as I dozed. Drip, drip, drip. Eventually, I exploded, grabbed him, got a pillow, put it over his face, sat on it, and considered whether I’d ever let him breathe again.

I did, to my regret, as I’ve told him many times since.

He has spent most of his adult life in the United States where he, with assistance from his wife Ann, has six children and — to date — 22 grandchildren. They are all around them, as he liked to point out to Ann when she would be homesick. “If we were at home, they’d all be gone,” he’d tell her. And he is right. In Ireland, many of our family’s next generations are abroad.

Happy birthday Seán. You made it, despite me.

Seán, Irish version of John, from Latin Joannes, Greek Ioannes, Hebrew Yohanan, meaning gracious (pull the other one).

inaword@irishtimes.com

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