When we last left everyone Tom was in and out of his home with Tina. Tina was determined to wait out his infidelity and we were trying to rally around Tina since she was disabled and alone. Things are about to get beyond strange, with the ripples affecting a number of families at church.
During this super awkward time frame Hubby and I start getting regular visits from Alice, Sam and their six kids. The visits go like this. We get a call or they just show up at dinner time and announce that they have no food at the house and no money.
The visits created stress because obviously we couldn’t be around or have over the Smiths at the same time. So it felt like the worlds worst time crunch many weekends. A juggling act. Alice and Tom were also still seeing each other on the side. I just wanted to shake some sense into Alice and Tom.
Did I mention that Alice, Sam and Tom blow money on stupid stuff all the time till household bills become critically late? I’ve seen Tom rent 3 movies, order a pizza and cokes and not pay the rent. I’d seen Alice and Sam do worse. The attitude and thinking of them and others at my old church seemed to be that it was okay to spend to the last dime because God financially blesses faithful people, so don’t worry about not having enough money for tomorrow.
Example? At the Smithsonian once I saw Alice & Sam buy themselves things such as a set of jewelry for Alice and a replica of a famous battleship for Sam’s office. Their two items ran well over two hundred dollars. They bought the kids nothing even as the kids begged. This was also after Alice and Sam said many times, including that very morning that they had no money. I can’t brag and say I’m so wonderfully perfect at handling money but we ended up buying ourselves and our kids each one book at the museum store. As a couple my husband and I always tried to reinforce things like reading and proper money management skills in our kids while trying to be generous to them.
After the museum store and the poor talk we stopped at the museum cafe for lunch, fruit, sandwiches, water and yogurt for us, bought at the museum cafe. Alice whips out this mashed looking bag, takes out a loaf of the cheapest white bread and a jar of peanut butter. Her kids eat peanut butter smeared on this squished white bread while eyeing what my kids are having. Alice and Sam had pizza slices and cokes from the cafe. This was a typical way that they seemed to handle their money. Hell with the kids and food, get whatever momma and daddy like without any thought for budgeting. If they were that tight on money pack sandwiches and fruit plus other nutritious options and skip the goodies from the museum store. I always felt bad for the kids so I always fed the kids, particularly after the Smithsonian grubfest.
Alice and Sam are firmly quiverfull, at least they are until it dawns on Sam that having six kids is expensive. He had a vasectomy against Alice’s will. They throw the quivering straight out the window once Alice decided to go to college.
So I’m a sap, they’d show up, I’d invite them to stay and they inhale the contents of my pantry in one sitting. This goes on and off over the course of that awkward month or two until one day I flip out on them and tell them to never darken my door again because they were putting a serious dent in our budget & I was having to spend extra precious time out of my busy work day on their family. It was just too much. I even talked to our pastor about it, asking if there wasn’t some money we could give Alice and Sam to feed their kids. His response was that they never asked for help and due to the way the adults acted he wasn’t inclined to give them anything. He also told me to stop enabling them by feeding the entire family more days than not. There were community resources they could use if they were really in need, like the Food Pantry, social services and food stamps.
I worked at the time at the national office for licensing counselors. Hubby requested I work even as most women at my church didn’t work. I had a pretty good position and routinely got clucked over that my husband was forcing me to do something contrary to ‘God’s law’ for women by the others at the church, which made me feel very guilty. I started to be convinced that perhaps the husband did have wrong priorities, wasn’t a “Godly” enough man because this is what was being whispered into my ear by the ladies of the church.
The last day that Alice & Sam plus kids showed up at my doorstep had been one of the hardest days I’d worked and dealt with family. I’d gotten up just in time to see we’d had an extremely bad unexpected snow storm during the night. Shovel out the car, shovel the steps while guzzling coffee. School was canceled so I had to drop my children at the school daycare for the day, adding another layer of ‘to-does’ to the day. Got the kids to day care, headed to work and my car broke down by the side of the highway. I walked a mile in heavy snow to reach a pay phone to call the tow company in that pre everyone has a cell phone world. By the time I reached work I was soaked with melting snow, had to strip down to t-shirt and winter pants, draping my coat, sweater, hat, scarf, socks, boots over the radiator in my office. Boss came in and reprimanded me for being inappropriately dressed for the office by wearing winter clothing instead of a suit.
That evening wasn’t much better. Parts of my clothes were still damp and I’d been damp and cold all day. Work had been insane since most of the staff stayed home. Picked up my car and paid a large repair bill, picked up the kids from daycare stopping just long enough at the local Italian restaurant to pick up a to-go lasagne, salad and rolls because I was so not cooking and had the aftermath of my day to deal with at home, including my bulging briefcase and damp smelly woolens. Day. From. Hell.
I had no sooner started the oven to heat the lasagne, started stripping off my damp clothes to wash, put on my slippers and had the kids settled around the table doing homework when my doorbell rang and it was the Alice and Sam crew pleading hunger. They came in and I explained it had been a bad day and I still had a million things to do so dinner was not happening. They sat and they sat, pretending I’d said nothing, making small talk, wanting to know what I was cooking, smelling the lasagna in the oven. I told them off and pointed them in the direction of a church soup kitchen. Later we discovered that the son had taken my son’s Gameboy games before he left.
I know my actions were awful and contrary to what Jesus would have done. But – News Flash – I ain’t Jesus and I’d just reached a breaking point. I was crying and laughing at the same time as I told them to take their lazy mooching asses elsewhere.
Alice had cut off all contact with Tom shortly after I told her to stop hitting me up for meals four or five times a week. She refused to see Tom, talk to him, meet with him or anything. It was like he didn’t exist any longer. If I had to guess I would say that Alice only had use for Tom when it was secret and he was building up her ego, telling her how beautiful, smart, misunderstood or whatever bs it is that he was laying on her.
Whenever I would see Tom he’d ask me about Alice, how she was doing, if she was happy. She’d done a number on his heart, it ramped his constant anger and frustration up to a boiling point.
The last weekend all the couples were at church together Cathy and Alice get into a fight in the parking lot in front of the roughly two hundred people that make up the bulk of our church. They slap, kick, throw punches between yelling and screaming obscenities. Alice shouts out that Cathy has been having an affair too, with some rural recondite tree worker. Cathy doesn’t deny it, she shouts out that if her husband was more ‘manly’ she wouldn’t have to stray and that there’s nothing wrong with getting your needs met elsewhere. Cathy claims because Mike isn’t a good take-charge masculine Christian man then she’s under no obligation to be anything to him until he was behaving like the Perfect Christian Man.
Then all three couples stop coming to church. Mike comes on his own and Tina comes every Sunday clutching those kids and believing that Tom will be back every single time I mention that she should hire a good divorce attorney. She tells me that Tom has done this before, in fact the first five years of their marriage he did it every single year in the winter months and that he always comes back and he’s always sorrowful over what he’s done. I’m pretty shocked. She keeps telling me she loves him and will never give him a divorce. This is just a phase.
I don’t quite know what to think because he’s clearly committed the type of sin that gives you the right as a good Christian woman to divorce his behind, take custody of the kids and get child support. Even as Tina is talking about Tom coming home eventually I can see that his being out of their household has a calming effect on her and the kids. I try my best to stay by her side and help her out.
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Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce