Monday, January 03, 2011

Writing Down the Dirt

I am more attached to him than I am to her. Beatrice is very uptight in that way that never lets down, no matter how hard you try or how funny you are. There is a fragility about Lawrence. Far too much for a man of seventy plus years. An uncertainty, an odd clumsiness, a shyness around his writing and his painting.

I have an enormous advantage being a (fairly) newbie here. I perceive the longtimers without their attendant history and baggage. Newborn babes in a way to me. And I to them of course.

Lawrence (never Larry) was a school teacher back in the day. And I'm a story-sponge as anyone who reads me here knows. I just soak up the tales from anywhere and everywhere.

Here is a sampling of what I've been told about Lawrence:

"A right old bastard, he beat the s*** out of me when I was a lad."

"A poncy boy, always was, always will be."

"A great teacher, taught us the whole history of Newfoundland and made it so interesting, I never forgot it."

"He and his wife? Well he's old enough to be her father but they adopted four children that no one else wanted so there's a lot of good there."

"A pillar of the church, always helping the priests out."

Here's what Lawrence has told me:

He gets terrible depressions. He was the only son among daughters and his father would beat the tar out of him to make him more 'manly'. He was abused as a young boy by the local priest and has never told anyone except me and his wife.

He is terrified of putting the real history of his family in writing as he has convinced himself that no one, including his children, would ever talk to him again.

He told me his grandmother's story one afternoon and I was riveted, I encouraged him to write all of it down, it is so fascinating. But when he did and handed it to me to read he had left out her many interesting human foibles and wrote only about her saintliness.

I said to him: Lawrence, write down the dirt. People want the dirt. They pay for the dirt. There's dirt in everyone. It re-assures us when we read of it in others!

But he's a man who won't use his real name on Facebook.

So how can he sign his name to the shenanigans of his own grandmother?

And he won't even consider a nom de plume.

He was extremely depressed when the second to last parish priest was transferred out of the parish and sent off somewhere, who knows where.

Out walking a few months ago, I asked him was he very attached to the previous priest, was that what was getting him so down?

He looked at me askance, and shook his head.

Ah, sez he, you wouldn't believe the half of it.

And no more would he say.

And last night my buddy George and I were talking over a cup of coffee and he sez:

I was glad to see the back of that Father Herbert!

Oh why, sez I.

Ah, didn't you know, sez he, he was having a massive carry-on with Beatrice, Lawrence's wife?

Go on b'y! sez I.

Along with having the brass to finance the affair out of the collection baskets!

And of course, he adds, that old idiot Lawrence wouldn't have a clue! (George is one of the pupils that Lawrence punished excessively in school).

I kept my mouth shut. I always do.


  1. Blimey.

    I think that not only is it cathartic to put things down in writing, but it can also set a lot of records straight.

    Seems there are a lot of misperceptions floating around about Lawrence which he would definitely benefit by setting straight, even if it takes a non-de-plume to winkle it out of him.

    But finding a tactful way to tell him, eh?

    I guess it's not that surprising if his much-younger wife had an affair and maybe he was going to miss the priest because it took the pressure off him to keep up with her, you never know. As long as she treats him well, despite her dalliances.

  2. Laura:
    I think it far too late for Lawrence to change, I really do.
    He wears his life as a huge burden with the secrets to be kept at all costs. He longs to break free, he has told me so but it will never happen.
    Get this: his most depressing thought is that Beatrice will remarry after he dies.

  3. just amazing what is behind some peoples public facade

  4. Twain:
    it never ceases to amaze me. I love when the secrets come out, I write a lot about that particular topic. Everyone's insides are so different from their outsides.

  5. Awwww - so he was depressed because he had discovered his wife's secret goings-on, not because the priest had gone (been sent?) away then....
    do you think, WWW?

    He sounds to be a man of integrity, at least, and we can overlook a lot of foibles in such a person.

    Fascinating, fact-based story, WWW! Thanks!

  6. T:
    Yes, I believe so and he is a man of such dignity it has kept him hidden for quite a few weeks now - he didn't appear at some of the open houses for instance.
    It would tear him apart if he knew villagers were laughing at him and unfortunately they are, karma I truly believe. He was quite abusive in his time to the more vulnerable 'sissy' type kids.

  7. Surely, you got his permission to post this. If not, I hope he doesn't read it, he's been thrown under the bus...

  8. Brighid:
    Please credit me with a little respect!
    thank you!

  9. Ah I feel better about it now!

  10. For some, writing about secrets is cathartic, for others not so much. Perhaps he gets his catharsis in telling his stories to you, believing that you will be discreet about it. I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about "the stories we could tell, if only we could", I think we all have 'em, and perhaps Lawrence more than most. He weighs the pain of keeping secrets against the potential pain of revealing them and makes his choice, rightly or wrongly.

  11. Annie:
    And I think a part of him wants me to take the stories and run with them too, otherwise why tell me?
    Naturally, he and the peripheral people are heavily disguised here and I remain anonymous (deliberately as you know so I can write more freely)to tell such stories.
    I love how you say 'weighs the pain'.
    So very very true.
    And I think he suffers for it mightily.

  12. I think that telling you some of the stories must relieve him already. Maybe it's like a confessional to him. You better make yourself available to him and be a good listening ear. Probably that's what he needs. An opportunity to talk and say it all.

  13. I'm always a good listening ear, Nora too all and sundry!
    People and their lives never cease to fascinate me!

  14. So many people have such extraordinary experiences that others never hear about. They keep it all to themselves for some reason or another, and the secrecy and shame does them no good at all. It must have done him a lot of good to confide in you.

  15. I think you are a good listener and easy to confide in. It is a mark of great trust and friendship when you are told these inner secrets.

  16. Nick:
    My own family was like this, my father particularly. It was only through a beloved aunt that all the secrets came tumbling out, and what is there to be ashamed of really?
    Our humanity and weaknesses along with our strengths serve to endear us.

  17. GM:
    Your "Y" has vanished, who stole it?

    I have that kind of face I think.

    Butter wouldn't melt, etc. But I also hold great confidence in what is told to me.



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