Personal Stories

Happy Eighteenth Birthday Conor

For God’s Sake Mam, I’m Eighteen!

(Conversations with my son Conor, 15th of March 1996 – 10th of December 2007)

Conor 18th Birthday

My Son’s Urn decorated for this Special Weekend. Eighteen today, Irish Rugby Team Play France for The Championship and St. Patrick’s Day is on Monday. The Tie belongs to my late father. A gift from me many years ago. It commemorates Ireland winning the Triple Crown (Rugby) in 19982

“Turn Down that Noise” I shout from the bottom of the stairs,

“What Noise?” comes the frustrated response from above,

“That Noise. Whatever it is, just turn it down for the love of God” my voice barely audible over the din,

“That’s not noise, that’s my music” comes an exasperated retort,

“Well it doesn’t sound like music to me” says I as I return to the Kitchen, the volume upstairs barely reduced for a few seconds before returning to its original window rattling level,

“That’s it” I say to myself as I take the stairs two at a time and burst into his room,

Immediately I am surrounded by a deathly silence,

There is no one there, no music system, just his room as normal,

His large Stuffed Husky Dog stares back at me, so too does Fungi,

It is then I remember he is dead, my son is dead,

but I know if he was here he would be playing loud music,

That is what boys of his age do I am told, but have no personal experience of it,

Both The Husky and Fungi sit on the back of his bed settee, the settee he ordered from Argos when he was very ill,

The bed settee that was going to make his room more grown up,

It was not in stock so had to be ordered,

It arrived the day after he died, too late for him to enjoy,

 I was determined he would be laid out on it,


The Sound of racing cars fills the air and immediately I am transported to Mondello,

For the Love of God does he have to play that XBOX Game all the time?

I am back at the bottom of the stairs again, another day,

“I want you to turn that off and get some study done for your college exams” I shout over the screeching tyres,

“In a minute, I just have to complete this round and I am in the lead” he shouts back,

Ten minutes later Mondello is still in full swing,

Up the Stairs I go again and into his room,

Silence descends once more and I see neither sign of an XBOX nor my son,

Instead I stare at his kiddish DVDs sitting in their revolving stand,

My eyes then drawn to the two ceramic Angel Boxes on his window sill,

One contains his first few baby teeth, the other, two locks of hair,

One soft and babyish, a curl, the other dark and thick,

It is then I remember that he is dead, my son is dead,

He never got as far as College, but boys of his age normally do I am told, but have no personal experience of it,

I retreat from his room, flat and depressed.


It is the 15th of March and I am sitting in my front room lost in reverie and the past,

I hear a voice calling,


I am immediately jolted into the present and strain my ears to be sure I heard what I heard,

There it is again, “Mam”,

It is coming from upstairs and I sort of recognise the voice,

I rush to the bottom of the stairs and look up,

A tall young man stands at the top staring down at me,

Our eyes lock and my heart turns in my chest,

I can barely hear my own voice “is it you, is it really you?”

The young man at the top of the stairs nods his head in acknowledgement and extends his hand to me,

“Oh God” I choke on the words, my legs feel too weak to cover the distance,

He beckons to me once more,

I begin my ascent, one step at a time, never once taking my eyes off his face,

I reach the last step and I can see him closely now,

I dissolve into tears,

My dead son is here, my dead son is here, he has come to see me at last


I am afraid to touch him in case he dissolves before my eyes,

Am I imagining this?

I begin to take him in,

He stands towering above me, tall and slim,

His dark hair, almost shoulder length, is thick and wavy,

His piercing blue eyes sparkle with vitality, and dare I say it, life,

He smiles at me and I can see he still has his dimples,

Oh God, I can’t believe he is here, really here,

He has a slight shadow of growth on his chin and I am taken aback by this,

He is dressed simply; a pair of casual slim jeans and a long sleeved navy baggy t-shirt with something printed on the front,

I cannot make out what it says,

He is barefooted which I think odd,

And then he speaks,

My dead son speaks, my dead son speaks to me,


His sounds deep and very manly,

I realise his voice has broken and I begin to cry,

He wraps his arms around me and rests his head on mine,

“Oh don’t cry Mam, please don’t” he soothes me,

I wipe my eyes and find my own voice,

“Why have you waited so long to visit me”? I sob, still in his arms,

“Where I am, it is not that long” he gently hugs me,

“And where is that exactly”? I ask curiously,

“Somewhere far away, in another galaxy, millions of light years away.

It suits me very nicely” he smiles mischievously at me, “I have returned to where I came from.

I probably never fully left there when I was here, for my games often mimicked my true home”

“Are you saying that all the time you spent dressed up as a Jedi Knight was not just a game you played, there was more to it?” I ask incredulously,

“Yes and no, it is just very similar that’s all, we work with energy a bit like ‘The Force’ in Star Wars”

He sounds very grown up and knowledgeable,

“So all those Light Sabres were not a waste of money then?” I am now beginning to understand his fascination with them,

“No, not a waste of money, but I know now how much pressure I put on you to keep buying them for me” he guiltily replies,

“Mam, I do not have much time, so we must talk” he takes charge of the conversation now in a very mature manner,

“What do you mean; you do not have much time?” I sound panicky as I have not seen him in so long and already he is talking about leaving again,

“I have to use strong energy to visit like this and I am only allowed take a certain amount of this energy with me, that is why we need to talk quickly”,

He gently steers me towards his bedroom,

My dead son and I walk towards his bedroom,


Inside the bedroom I see that that his wardrobe doors are open and all his DVDs are stacked high on the floor,

His bedside drawers have been pulled open and all their contents too are piled in bundles on his bed settee,

“I don’t understand” I say looking around at the mess, “what are you doing?”

“It’s time Mam” he looks at me and I see a tinge of sadness in his eyes, or maybe pity,

“Time for what?” I ask nervously,

“It’s time to sort out all my stuff”, he stares at me and silence falls between us,

I can see he knows this is hard for me. “Time to clear my room Mam”.

He lets it rest with me for a moment,

“You know it and I know it Mam, the time has come, it is long overdue” he holds my hand as he speaks to me, his touch cool and tingly,

“What do you mean by clear it?” I feel panic rising in my chest,

“Just about everything must go”, he is sounding business-like now and is avoiding my tearful eyes,

“It is blocking me from visiting more often, I can’t bring her here when my room is like this”

He realises he has said too much,

“What do you mean block you from visiting, and who can you not bring here?” I look at him bewildered,

“I can’t bring Zara here for my room is embarrassing, it belongs to a young boy “. He sees my confused face.

“You have a girlfriend?” I sound astounded

Yes, I have a girlfriend, you remember Zara don’t you from St. John’s?” He searches my face for signs of recognition,

My hand flies to my mouth “oh my God, Zara with the beautiful long blonde hair?”

“Yes, the very one. She passed shortly before me” He reminds me,

“So you eventually found yourself a girlfriend? Wasn’t Zara older than you?”

“Yes”, he smiles “but age doesn’t really exist where we are” he informs me,

“Well you always had an eye for the older girls, remember Lydia and Vicky?” I am very excited now,

“I do, I always had good taste when it came to the girls” he laughs out loud and his room comes alive once more with the sound of joy, and his voice

My dead son has a girlfriend, my dead son has a girlfriend,


“Back to the business of me being here Mam, honestly I don’t have much time and if you want me to visit more, then you must listen and pay attention to what I have to say”,

He seems anxious about the time he has been here and I sense he will be gone soon, so I listen,

He begins to pull some clothes from the wardrobe and holds them up against his tall lean body,

They are trousers and only come as far as his knees,

He gives me a knowing look before throwing them on the bed-settee with all the other items he has neatly stacked,

I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as he pulls out his school uniform,

“There are three of these in the wardrobe Mam. I will allow you keep the best one but the others must go”,

I grab the uniform from him and hold it tightly to my body,

Very quickly he is pulling everything from the rails and tossing them onto the bed settee,

I quickly re-claim them,

A tug of war begins and he insists that I let go,

He is stronger than me, and so wins,

Bit by bit the wardrobe is cleared of clothing and then he starts on all the shelves,

One by one, dragging everything out; his school bag, swimming bag, boxes of toys

This time  he heaps them on the floor,

He has allowed me certain items, but his accumulation is massive in comparison to my sad pathetic little bundle,

I begin to cry, sobbing my heart out,

He takes my hand and sits me down,

“I know this is hard but it must be done, I am no longer that 11 year old boy”

“You were nearly 12” I interrupt his flow of wise talk,

“Regardless Mam, I have left that age behind just as Zara has left hers too. We visit her house and her bedroom has been changed and freshly painted. Some of her stuff is still there, a reminder of her but not a shrine”. He stops suddenly as he sees my dejected face,

I look around the room and have to acknowledge that it has become a shrine to him and I know he is right, but it is so hard to let go of all the things that remind me of him,

My dead son and I sit in silence


“I will allow you keep my slippers and my dressing gown because you know how much I loved getting into them when I came home”

I see he is becoming nostalgic and I take advantage of the change in his mood,

Reaching over, I open his swimming bag and take out his trunks and wetsuit,

I look into his eyes and he reaches to hold them, memories of Dingle, Wexford and the Pool in Clane flooding through him too,

He reluctantly lets go of them and agrees that I can keep those too. I feel relieved,

Next he reaches into the bottom of the wardrobe where he finds his sneakers, the ones with the flashing lights built into the soles and I grab them from him,

“No not these, you loved them” I beg and plead.

“I have to go very soon Mam so please make this easy; Zara would think them childish if she saw them, can you not understand that?”

I hold the sneakers tight and fast in my hand, becoming stubborn and unyielding,

“Don’t you see that I am trying to help you Mam and that it is not all about me”? He beseeches me to hand over the sneakers, their lights flashing on and off now as they are jostled about,

“My time is up Mam, I have to go, but if you can clear this room it will remove the block that prevents me from visiting you more often. Now hand over those sneakers please before it is too late”

I hold out and argue with him that one pair of sneakers won’t make a huge difference to his coming to see me, but I can already see the outline of his body is starting to blur and shimmer,

He is beginning to disappear in front of my eyes,

He holds out his hand for the sneakers but I resist,

With the last bit of energy left to him before he vanishes into thin air, and back to his far off galaxy, he shouts out,

“For God’s Sake Mam, I am Eighteen!”

I throw him the sneakers and he is gone. So too are all the clothes and things he had piled high all over the room,


Silence engulfs the room once more and I turn around to examine what has been left behind,

My tiny bundle sits on the ground behind me, but his wardrobe is empty save for the hangers that still sway back and forth,

I stare at the hangers, some of them bear store labels showing the age,

7-8 years, 8-10 years, 10-12 years,

I even find a few for 5-6 years,

I momentarily leave the room and return with a roll of black sacks,

Very quickly I begin to fill them with hangers and various bits and pieces that he never got time to get to,

Then I get the vacuum and give the room a good going over, inside the wardrobe too,

After I am finished, I sit on his bed settee holding his Husky Dog and Fungi, relieved he didn’t get as far as them,

I feel a weight lift off me as silent tears begin to fall,

I couldn’t have done it without his help,

Tomorrow, I will choose some new paint for his/this room and bring it back to life once more,

I feel stronger, even though I am exhausted from the experience,

My dead son came to visit me, my dead son eventually came to see me,

Eighteen today,

A grown young man, no longer the child who used to occupy this room,

Happy Eighteenth Birthday Conor

Xxxx Mam

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Categories: Personal Stories

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