My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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“King Lear” and an old love

Maurice is their prize patient, already recovering amazingly well, the doctors say. Lani came back from the hospital in London exhausted but jubilant. The ordeal isn’t over, but the worst of it is.

And I had a lovely surprise yesterday – an old schoolmate received the press release from the Halifax Grammar School about my book launch there October 1 and wrote to get in touch. He was in my class the year I went to the school, I 15 and he 16 or 17. He is, in fact, the model for Al, the boy at the end of the memoir with whom young Beth falls hopelessly in love. I chose him then for my frenzied crush, I know in retrospect, partly because we were so incompatible that I was safe from the possibility of real romance, for which I was not ready.

My family moved away at the end of that school year, and he and I have seen each other twice in the nearly fifty years since – once, when I visited Nova Scotia with my spouse and young children, he was visiting with his, and we had dinner with friends. He found out during dinner how much I had loved him and didn’t believe me, I’d concealed it so well. I offered to show him my diaries, and one day he arrived at my house in Toronto as I was cooking supper for my family to take me up on my word. I showed him – four Hilroy scribblers filled with him. I think he was quite knocked out.

He’s a businessman in the States, newly married for the third time. We emailed several times yesterday, getting reacquainted. I explained that Al in the book is partly him, partly other unsuitable boys from my youth. He downloaded the book and wrote to say he’ll read the whole thing, not just the Al part at the end. I’ve never read a book written by someone I know, he said, and I wrote back, Let alone one in which a character is partly you.

This is the odd part of memoir, once more – real people are in that book, real feelings. I protected myself and them a bit by using pseudonyms. His name is not Al. But the power of my love for him is there on the page – and in vestigial form, still in my heart. Those early loves never leave you. Nearly 50 years after my adolescent crush, with six grandchildren between us, it gives me a thrill to see his name in my email inbox.

And then I went to see a matinee of that happy happy play, “King Lear.”

It’s always exciting to enter that beautiful theatre. I’d bought the last seat on the internet, way off to the side – directors are so clever at using that jutting stage – and sat surrounded by Japanese schoolchildren in dark blue school uniforms. It was a workmanlike, competent production with some very good bits; the kids were mostly absorbed, or at least polite. But my verdict afterwards to Lani – it was not good enough. Not good enough for our national Shakespeare company’s production of one of the most demanding plays by our most brilliant playwright. What a magnificent Everest of a play. I felt the company in general was just not up to it. Where are the voices? There are so few rich commanding voices.

The one actor who dominated the stage was not Colm Feore as Lear, who I felt was too young and callow – competent, even sometimes moving, but just not big enough of soul – or voice. It was Stephen Ouimette as the Fool who did stunning work. He spoke simply without any histrionics, and he was mesmerizing. Every word he said rang true.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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