This household has had a celebrity staying with us this week.
The VIP was our son Cathal or, as he is now known to my Twitter clan, “Big Trinity Fella”.
It is probably a sign of a changed existence that it will be increasingly rare that the five of us will be around this table.
That said he spent a large chunk of his time with a head set on shouting orders to his online troops through his laptop.
I reminded him that attendance at mealtimes, even for cyber soldier, was a commanding officer’s parade and his presence was obligatory.
As I look up from my laptop there is a collection of snaps from his child hood in various picture frames on the wall.
My favourite photographs of him are of a smiling twelve year old (he looks nine) standing beside two rucksacks at Loch Ailort train station.
Boy and dad had a week there and I taught him map and compass. I can remember every detail of how I introduced him to the hard hills that made the Army Commando and where Teàrlach left Alba forever.
I can still see his delighted face when I told him that he could have anything that was on the menu.
He went through more venison that week than a pack of wolves.
The other one has an eight year old lad proudly holding up his Celtic scarf at Paradise.
It was his first match.
Like so much in life it is inherited.
On the breakfast bar there is a framed picture of him as a 14 year old standing between Bertie Auld and Bobby Lennox we had bumped into them-literally-at Glasgow airport coming back home from a match.
I got the phone pic printed out and framed for his birthday.
The caption reads “three lions”.
When he sauntered in this morning to tell me that he was catching the later bus it was like a bonus.
The fella is doing well at Trinity.
While he was here he got one of his marks through.
For maths his continuous assessment was 78%.
Because of his Irish medium education he had to re-learn scientific and mathematical terms in English.
He reckons that it has meant that the terms and concepts are further reinforced as there has been a double learning.
Over a late night snack when the girls are asleep he can jump from cognitive architecture of memory, to his cyber duties commanding the US marine Corps in Chechnya then onto why it is folly to sell Ki Sung-Yeung!
Taller than his old dad and now required to splash the cash on shaving gear, he tells me that he can still remember that week in the highlands and his first Celtic match.
I’ll never forget them.
He is his own man now.
Hi sartorial style seems to comprise long checked shirt and a tee with some smart arsed quip on it.
As a pressie for finishing his first year I went with the flow and got him one stating the rules about “Thesaurus club”.
He whooped with delight and immediately put it on.
Getting the points to get into Trinity is regarded as a major educational achievement here, but he took it in his big long easy stride.
I watched him as he slung his bag over a lithe shoulder and dandered out to the car.
When he isn’t reading for science degree or chatting science fiction it is the rock climbing wall and the rifle range which gets his attention at Trinity.
His default gesture to just about any interrogative about his situation is a thumb up accompanied by a smile.
He has a feline strength combined with a stubborn courage and I hope he returns to the sports field in second year.
First year seemed to include lots of parties…
Maybe it was scientific research.
If he joins the fray then the Trinity GAA team will be getting a fine corner forward from Donegal.
The tee shirt this morning had a quote from Albert Camus:
“Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.”
It suits him.
No matter the code the message is the same.
The Ireland he grew up in is so different to the one his Mayo grandfather as born in.
Big guy was four when we brought him to “Dunny Doll” as he called the place.
He was educated in gaelscoileanna and as a fluent Irish speaker at Trinity he is part of a seriously cool crowd.
When his grandfather was in West Mayo the Irish language was a badge of rural poverty.
Today the Irish language exudes TG4 cache.
His sociologist dad has tried to impart to him that many things in human communities are socially constructed.
When I was his age any interest in the Irish language outside the Gaeltacht marked one out as a Provo.
That’s a battle he won’t have to fight.
We are a river flowing.
His two sisters, his mother and I know there is a gap again in our wee clan again.
We miss him already.
He said that he’ll be home again at the week end “for a while”.
I hope that unspecified dollop of time is lengthy.
Rusty has just conducted a search of the premises.
She can smell him, but he aint here, she’s sure of that.
He is going through new doors containing new experiences and so are his parents.
Our son is a man and his mother and I look at each other across the kitchen table not quite being able to take it in at times.
He is gone and, temporarily, I am bereft.
I am back to being the only representative of masculinity in this household.
Later on today he’ll pop up on Skype.
I will type into the box and ask him if he is ok and I’ll see the thumps up smiley in reply.
It is how Big Trinity Fella sees the world and for that I am grateful.