Sonny burst into this world on 17 March 1989. He was in a big rush even then, arriving five weeks before his due date.
Not only that, he was uncompliant from the very beginning, pushing himself into our lives bum first.
As we examined him closely, his tiny body was covered with soft downy hair, his little fingernails had not yet formed, his sucking reflex had not developed which made feeding him every two hours a 24/7 job. Jack measured him; he was the full length of the Evening Press. Jack said proudly that he was going to be a big lad one day.
We adored him, loved him more than life itself. We hit the bullseye first time around, we had our son and heir.
Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world and our children, no matter how much love we shower upon them don’t always turn out to be responsible, loving, caring human beings.
So, when did it all begin to go wrong? As I write these words, I feel shame. My stomach churns. Although I know at the core of my being it wasn’t our fault, there’s always that underlying niggle that somehow we failed him.
Gosh, if we had the wisdom back then that we possess now, we certainly would have handled things differently. In saying that, hindsight is a wonderful thing and no we are not beating ourselves up with a blackthorn stick for the mistakes we made.
We can say in all honesty, we did the best we could, with the knowledge we had at the time. That is all any parent can do. Our children don’t come with an instruction manual; more is the pity.
Sonny struggled at school, he was very clever, not exactly academic, he got around things his own way. Rules and regulations meant nothing to him. They applied to everyone else except him. This behaviour carried on through his entire time in the education system. Everyone else was wrong except for Sonny. As parents we fought his battles, supporting and believing his stories. Why wouldn’t we? We managed to keep him in school to finish his Leaving Cert by bribing him with the promise of a car if he stuck it out.
The last two years leading up to the Leaving Cert were a living nightmare for us. We had a path worn to the principal’s office.
Every morning began with a screaming match, a battle, no way to start anyone’s day, but it was what it was.
On the final day of his exams, we breathed a sigh of pure relief. It didn’t matter to us whether he passed or failed his exams.
We were relieved that we had got him that far. Sonny went on the missing list for three days.
We travelled the roads knocking on every door he might be behind, the stress, worry and fear was unbearable. Eventually he arrived home. A sense of relief that he was alive and well engulfed us, replacing all our fears and worries.
He stank, he looked and smelled like he hadn’t washed since he left, wearing the same clothes covered in muck, puke and honestly, I’m sure he urinated on himself.
He was told to strip off and get into the shower, he did so reluctantly, he wanted to go straight to bed, we insisted on him showering. I cooked the dinner he couldn’t eat. He sat at the island shaking, every nerve in his body looked as if he was plugged into the mains. Eventually we relented, telling him to go to bed and sleep it off.
He produced a can of Heineken from somewhere, gulping it down in one mouthful as we looked on in awe. He was laughing saying he only needed one, the hair of the dog and all that. We missed the first clue. Mistake, huge mistake.
We forgave and forgot, sure weren’t all the young fellows out celebrating the end of the Leaving Cert, surely we were overreacting. This was the beginning of the slippery slope.
Sonny’s next hurdle was the driver theory test. To our amazement, he passed the first time. We invested in the car as promised, a fab little nippy boyracer car.
He was ecstatic. “Freedom” he shouted as he left the stones of the avenue in his wake. “Be careful” we shouted after him, but he was gone leaving us standing in a cloud of dust.
That day we handed him the keys of the car, there was only one condition attached, no drinking and driving. He promised faithfully, asking us if we thought he was an idiot or what?
In the lead-up to Christmas we went to the hospice in Harold’s Cross for the turning on of the lights. It was a ritual we enjoyed, remembering those gone before us, grateful for those who remained with us.
A strange thing occurred that morning, I went into the utility room to grab a towel and the washing machine light was on, the cycle finished light flashing.
I, still not fully awake, wondered for a second, then forgot about it. That evening leaving the hospice, we were getting into the car discussing where we would go to eat and my mobile phone rang.
I didn’t recognise the number. The male voice at the other end of the phone asked me if I was Mrs Moore. I confirmed I was and asked who I was speaking to.
I began to shake. My heart was beating so fast I could hardly breathe. It was Garda McMahon from our local garda station asking if I knew the whereabouts of Sonny.
I explained that we had been out all day and hadn’t actually seen him. He was in bed when we left. He continued, asking if Sonny owned a car with a certain registration number. I tried to say yes three times, but my brain refused to engage with my mouth. “Yes”, I eventually blurted out ... “why”?
Garda McMahon explained how Sonny had spent the previous day in the local pub drinking.
There was a garda checkpoint set up not 500 yards from the pub. Sonny got into his car, turned onto the road driving directly towards the checkpoint. The garda on the road waved him down. Instead of stopping, Sonny put the boot down, driving through the checkpoint. The gardaí took after him in chase.
Once the lights of the garda car were out of sight, Sonny abandoned his car and legged it through the hedgerow into some farmer’s field, the two gardaí spotted him but were unable to keep up. He got away.
I sat in the car wide-eyed, tears rolling down my cheeks, anger rushing to my throat, unable to speak. Jack could hear everything. He only shook his head.
Garda McMahon asked that Sonny present himself at the station as soon as possible. I vaguely remember saying we would get him there. Then turning to Jack, I recall saying “that explains the washing machine”.
He looked at me baffled, I hadn’t the energy to explain.
We drove home in silence pressing Sonny’s number on redial. I walked into the kitchen first, Sonny was swivelling on the high stool at the island. I roared at him asking why he wasn’t answering his bloody phone.
He threw his hands in the air saying he had lost it. I walked across the kitchen, raised my hand striking him as hard on the cheek as I could. He didn’t as much as flinch, calmly saying “so you know”.
Jack ordered him into the car. They went to the garda station. Sonny was charged with the offence of driving without due care, dangerous driving and leaving the scene.
Garda McMahon informed Sonny that he would receive a summons in due course to appear in court for his offences.
Jack and Sonny arrived home. As they walked through the front door, I heard Jack’s raised voice saying, “what the hell did you expect?” Sonny indignantly protested that the charges were disproportionate to the crime, calling the garda the most abusive names he could think of (not repeatable here). Sonny went on to say he would get away with it. He had to, he couldn’t possibly lose his licence.
That evening, Jack and I discussed our options. Would we let him go to court unrepresented? What would the consequences of doing this mean for us, imagining him being held hostage in the house for possibly three years.
NO, that was not an option, our lives would be a living hell.
We decided the expense of a solicitor, barrister or whatever it took was worth investing in for our own sanity.
The summons for court arrived at the last possible minute. Sonny was banking on the garda running out of time.
On receiving the summons, Sonny tore it into pieces, threw it in the fire, fuming with anger, calling Garda McMahon a litany of choice names.
The worst part of this entire incident for us was that Sonny showed no remorse whatsoever. He took nada responsibility for his actions. We found his attitude hard to swallow. Still, we felt we had to do right by him. As his parents, it was our responsibility, was it not?
Names have been changed to protect identities