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Stashed Away Secrets

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Tim Kreider shares a deeply personal story about a friend whose life was full of fuzzy facts. Tim's friend Skelly was a private guy, and his friends didn't push him on the details of his personal life -- even when they discovered the little lies he told to impress them. They all felt they knew the real him, and could see through the stuff he made up to dodge embarrassing realities. But when Skelly died unexpectedly, they came face to face with the fact that, despite how close they were, Skelly was living a life they never could have imagined. Which was the real Skelly? The self he shared with Tim? Or the private self he kept hidden from the world?

Also check out:

Tim Kreider's We Learn Nothing

Comments [11]

Julie T. from Phoenix

I love this story. Mr. Kreider is a wise soul to realize that some people get to bypass the rules we set for others. People are not just their addiction or mental illness or disability, we are more than that. Yes of course boundaries are good but so is not having a list of guidelines on who is and isn't deserving of our friendship. How barren our lives and memories would be if only the perfect were allowed in. Skelly may have died in a tragic way but I bet he died knowing that he was loved. Thank God for that because it's the only thing that matters.

Jul. 13 2015 01:28 AM
Joan B. from Napa,CA USA

I agree with Michelle from Seattle. This story was haunting and beautifuly told. Who among us has not known someone similar,someone whose assertion of the facts appears to be inconsistent with reality,and yet are such interesting, fun and/or fascinating human beings that we simply overlook these discrepansies. i hope Skelly has found the peace in death that escaped him in life.

Jul. 12 2015 02:55 PM
Chris from Baltimore

Andrew from Ottawa wrote: " The part that I don't understand though is that we learn that skelly lived with his mother. Yet the ending shows him living in filth, and like a "crazy person". Did I miss something? Did skelly move out of his mother's basement? Was he impersonating his mother? Did his mother died?"

Yes, you apparently missed the part in the program about halfway through where the narrarator stated that a few years later, Tim has moved to New York, and "Skelly" still lives in Baltimore in the same house, except his mother had died at some point, and it was during this period of time that Tim got the call one day that his friend was lying dead on the floor in that house."

Jul. 12 2015 02:43 PM
Jeanne DeShazer from Denver, Co.

My husband had a friend like this. We had him to dinner, and we completely listened to his stories. I was the one to first raise the question that he might be telling lies about himself. His stories were often tragic. He was talented and very funny, so we never confronted him about any of it. He did us no harm. One day he moved to be closer to his "wife" who was in a coma in Argentina...and we never heard from him again. I've wondered ever since what happened to him.

Jul. 11 2015 04:57 PM
Phil from NM

I know from personal experience that Mr. Kreider's assertion "mentally ill people don't know to conceal their illness" is inaccurate. Many do. I have. I do. Often, we can function in social settings, but our symptoms worsen when we are isolated. Pathological lying shouldn't be taken lightly even though it's common to misuse the term and joke about it as merely a quirk. Though a controversial subject (Is PL a symptom or a disease itself?), it can indicate a serious psychiatric or even non-psychiatric disorder. From what I've read in the medical literature, psychotherapy is the first line of treatment. Of course, persuading a pathological liar that he or she is lying can be a hurdle although many have awareness of their behavior and feel remorse. Yet, despite the guilt they usually can't stop without intervention.

Jul. 11 2015 03:55 PM
Andrew from Ottawa

This was a very interesting story, it highlights how we can never truly know someone. The part that I don't understand though is that we learn that skelly lived with his mother. Yet the ending shows him living in filth, and like a "crazy person".

Did I miss something? Did skelly move out of his mother's basement? Was he impersonating his mother? Did his mother died? Did his mother not know of his sons condition? If skelly did not have plumbing, did he smell or appear unclean?

Perhaps his condition found at death was only recent, and not indicative of how he always lived? The speaker said that they were unable to find his family for the funeral, even though they knew he lived with his mother?

When they did go to his funeral, did they speak to his family and gain more information about skelly? Did they learn why he stopped being a lawyer? Perhaps that could shed light on his condition.

So many questions, and gaping holes in this story that leaves me wanting to know more about this person.

Jul. 10 2015 07:40 PM
Happydeb from San Diego

I loved this story, sitting in my car to hear the end of it. When I heard the part about the bamboo "sproing" of launching snow from the tops I was delighted. I met the teller of this story at some time. When I told him I was a botanist/biologist or perhaps said something about bamboo, it reminded him of this amazing experience and he asked me if I had ever experienced bamboo covered with snow. I said, "no' and he told me this wonderful story which was even richer and more real to me in that telling than it was when I heard it on Radio Lab. Thank you for sharing this story with a broader audience. I'd love to hear from you again to recall how we met.

Aug. 08 2013 04:19 PM

This story reminded me of the famous documentary "Grey Gardens", and the amazing degradation of the home and lives of its once-wealthy inhabitants. It also brought to mind two or three men I dated briefly in my youth who, I soon deduced, wove tissues of lies. Even at 19, I quickly realized the duplicity did not spring primarily from callousness, but something much deeper and sadder.

Aug. 07 2013 03:11 PM

When Tim Kreider said that there were things in his friend's house that he would never tell anyone, my (somewhat wacky) imagination went wild. Piles of what? Piles of feces? Piles of dead cats (or dead dogs, dead rats or partially eaten dead hobos?) It was a very intriguing story. It is a very sad story and I don't mean to demean it or you.

Aug. 03 2013 04:33 PM

The title of this report should be "alcoholics killing each other"
nothing else!

Aug. 03 2013 01:08 PM
Michelle from Seattle

I wept as I listened to the end of the "Secret Skelly" story. It was so moving and beautiful. I believe Tim did know the "real" Skelly. We all hide parts of ourselves from other people. We all have secrets we are afraid to share. The part we share is as real as the part we don't. Skelly knew something was wrong; he didn't know how to fix it or how to get help to do that. But he shared as much of himself as he could. Tim's description of the day with the snow-bent bamboo (I believe) was wonderful. How could you get any closer to someone than that? I'm so glad that Skelly had the friends he did and that they cared enough not to challenge him about his stories. It's as if even then they knew that his stories were not as important as the person they were close to. Thank you for this wonderful gift of a story.

Aug. 03 2013 12:10 AM

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