Dad's World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

We were on our way to the beach. It’s something we do quite often on a Sunday for some quality Daddy and Fionn time.

‘Hey Dad,” asked Fionn. “Why are we stopping here?”

We were on our way to the beach. It’s something we do quite often on a Sunday when Luke, 2, is having his afternoon nap. 

We ‘pretend’ Fionn is going for his and then we sneak out the door and head off somewhere for some quality Daddy and Fionn time. 

On this occasion we had planned to head to Sandymount Strand but as we drove towards the sea and along the canal it dawned on me that there was someone he had never met before that I wanted him to meet.

“I think,” I replied, “will we stop off here, get an ice cream in the garage and go and meet a friend of mine.”

“A friend?” asked Fionn. “Who is he?”

“Patrick,” I said.

“Does he live here?”

I had to think about that one for a minute.

“Kind of,” I said.

Fionn gave out that nervous little snigger he has when his interest is peaked. I love it. It means he’s curious and excited at the same time. 

I think but of course I can’t be sure, he feels like he’s being invited into my adult world; the world I’m in when I’m not around himself, his brother, and his mother. 

He will soon be privy to something that no one else is. Now that I think of it, my own father used to take me off to places that seemed otherworldly to me at the time. 

In and of themselves they weren’t particularly special, but he had a great way of making the ordinary exciting. 

Grafton St, Moore St, Merrion Square, Croker and, yes, the occasional pub; they were all secrets that he was sharing with me and I loved it.

I remember when I was maybe eight or nine, there was a lock in on a Sunday in O’Donoghues in Merrion Row. Nobody was really supposed to be there or at least it felt that way. 

But there was music and there was fun and, even though we were only there for a Coke and a pint, the whole thing was very, very exciting. 

It’s the sort of stuff that would probably be frowned upon now but my father imbued me with a love of Dublin that is still with me today.

Anyway, I wanted Fionn to meet Patrick. So after we got our ice pops, we strolled back to the canal and over one of the locks. When we got to the other side, Fionn spotted two people sitting down on a bench.

“Is that Patrick?” asked Fionn.

“No,” I said. “But see the guy on the next bench? That’s him.”

“What?” said Fionn, more than a little surprised. “That’s a statue!”

“Yes,” I said, “but that’s Patrick.”

Fionn took his ice cream and sat down beside Patrick Kavanagh.

“Do you come here and talk to your friend sometimes?” he asked.

“I haven’t for a long time,” I said, “But I used to quite a bit. He is a very good listener.”

“Do you think he likes ice cream?” asked Fionn.

“I don’t know to be honest but I’d say he does.”

“Is he ever going to come alive again?” asked Fionn.

Oh dear, here it was: mortality. How would I answer this one?

“He comes alive everyday,” I eventually answered. 

I’m not so sure Fionn got the metaphorical nature of my cryptic response but I wish I’d had a window into his mind at the moment as he imagined this enormous bronze statue with its enormous hands standing up and towering over him before walking off down the canal with the paper in his pocket.

When Fionn finished his ice pop, we decided we’d leave. As we did so, Fionn jumped up beside Patrick and gave him a big hug.

“See you soon Patrick,” he said as he jumped off the bench and put his hand in mine.

We walked along the canal bank towards Leeson Street Bridge.

“I love Patrick,” he said. “Can we come and see him again.”

“Anytime,” I said. “He won’t be going anywhere.”


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