Who Was That Masked Man: Part 9

by Calulu

High school graduation loomed for Tom’s oldest non-disabled kid, a son that’s as bright as they come. The son has always been in the gifted and talented program at the local schools and was eligible for a few different college scholarships. The problem was that except for the small scholarship money there was no other funds for college. the scholarships were about enough to pay Tom Jr.’s tuition at community college but not enough to pay for books, a car, and gas back and forth much less pay for room, board and tuition at one of Virginia’s four year universities.

How do I know that? Because Hubby was the recipient of a late night drunken call from Tom, a call out of the blue. The gist of the call was to complain that we had money to put our kids through college and he didn’t. That it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t fair we would never lend him any for anything. UnBiblical. Stingy mean. Christians were supposed to share what they had with each other and the poor.

I was baking bread that night when he called. I kneaded dough, harder and harder in frustration as I realized he was haranguing my husband over money again. He never stopped to think that Hubby and I both worked, lived frugally and put aside money for years to be able to put our kids through school and afford the things we needed.

My husband handled Tom with the gentleness and patience that I myself lacked mightily by that point. It turned out to be a moot point anyway. Tom Jr. ended up signing up to be an intern at Teen Mania in Spring Valley, Texas. We did support Tom Jr. along with others so he could stay two years in the program. But I had heard through church that Tom was doing nothing to support Tom Jr. at Teen Mania, having told his son that now that he was over eighteen and graduated from high school he was on his own as far as the future.

I don’t know how or why but at that time Tom and Tina sold their tiny house and purchased a large colonial style new home with an in ground swimming pool. How they managed to pull it off was a mystery. The only thing I could figure out is that it was the height of the junk mortgage scam when thousands of people with no down payment and lousy credit got financed.

The church put in a huge audio video system, having Tom design and implement the system before installing it. We’d started to put on these huge healing conferences at our little church with many of us conference junkies thinking we had the inside track on healing aliments of all kinds but, don’t you know, all ailments were caused by sin and unbelief.

Once the system was up and running our pastor told Tom he could not run the system because Tom wasn’t ‘living right’ enough to be in a visible ministry at church. I couldn’t believe the church council had delivered such a bitch slap to Tom because he’d donated so much of his time and expertise to this project. Felt bad for him, used and discarded like an empty can of Pepsi without a how do you do. To add salt to the wound the pastor told Tom he had to train the volunteer team to run the system.

Mostly Tom behaved, with us, with church, with others. Sometimes Tina would come to our healing services and ask for prayer to be healed of her long time neuro muscular disease. It was always awkward because she would approach myself and my best friend Josie to pray for her along with a few others. We’d pray as hard as we could yet nothing ever happened. But after she left the others would all swear she had an ‘evil presence’ around her, they’d want to perform cleansing prayer rituals and cast out whatever the thing was she carried. I must have been spiritually dull to that stuff because I never once felt or saw anything that lead me to believe Tina had anything other than a serious medical condition.

When Tom acted out it was minor and over quickly compared to the past. Once at Josie’s house her husband, my husband and Tom were watching a football game on television in the family room while Josie and I sat in the formal living room and visited. As the game went on Tom began to get increasingly agitated, screaming at the tv like a man possessed, not the normal guy rooting for his team. It happened again and again, drowning out the conversation between Josie and I. We were all the way across the house and shouldn’t have heard more than the buzz of the television noise. The other guys cheered or fussed during the game but not at the loud rage-filled volume spewing from Tom. Josie said something several times, asking the guys in general to keep it down because it was hard to talk and hear each other. Eventually she singled out Tom, asking him to knock it off. But it kept happening till Josie got up, went across the house to the family room and told Tom that his yelling was upsetting her, it was almost abusive and to KEEP IT DOWN!!! Tom’s response? The usual one. He yelled his favorite phrase, “No bitch tells me what to do!” and he left.

Josie was so upset that night, telling me that his tone of voice and volume triggered her badly because of her first abusive marriage. I can understand that. You can’t much control what triggers you. I’d thought Tom was over the top but I wasn’t much bothered by it. I thought it was just Tom being Tom.

The next Sunday we were all at church and not conference land Tom came over and apologized to me for the incident. I told him he owned me nothing, I wasn’t mad but suggested he apologize to Josie, the offended party.

and then things got much worse..

Comments open below

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

Read everything by Calulu!

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

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

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

About Suzanne Calulu
  • JMS

    I’m a little confused by the phrase “oldest normal kid” in your first paragraph. It seems like perhaps not the ideal choice of words if what you mean is “the oldest child without life-limiting disabilities” or similar.

  • suzannecalulu

    You’re lucky I edited it from the original text “retarded” because I knew someone would be offended but did not realize that ‘normal’ was offensive too. So I edited it again..

  • jp

    Wow, what a story. It’s really twisted how this family makes their problems everyone else’s responsibility (“we don’t have money for our son’s college education but you do, waaaah, now let’s buy a big house”).

    But I have to say, this is the first entry where you’ve actually got me feeling sorry for poor, screwed-up Tom. That thing the minister did? Using Tom’s expertise and volunteer time on the audio-video project, then kicking him off it? Was cold and exploitative and manipulative, and a really mean and perhaps even dangerous thing to do to someone as clearly emotionally damaged and out-of-control as Tom.

  • HDO

    And you only substituted out ‘retarded’ because “someone would be offended”? Wow.

    I cringed big time when I read the first sentence before your edit.

  • RodeoBob

    The church put in a huge audio video system, having Tom design and implement the system before installing it…
    Once the system was up and running our pastor told Tom he could not run the system because Tom wasn’t ‘living right’ enough to be in a visible ministry at church. I couldn’t believe the church council had delivered such a bitch slap to Tom because he’d donated so much of his time and expertise to this project… To add salt to the wound the pastor told Tom he had to train the volunteer team to run the system.

    I don’t know that I would feel sorry for someone in that situation.
    Did Tom volunteer to set up the system, or was he ‘drafted’ by the minister?
    Was he donating time and expertise to the church so the church could have something nice, or was he doing it so he could have something nice?

    Not to be crass, but if Tom expected to be the only person to run the system ,(or even just be the person in charge of the system) then he wasn’t really “donating” anything, he was trying to buy a position of visibility/authority/importance with his time and effort. “I’ll help you set up this system if you let me run it” is not a gift or a noble gesture; it’s deal-making from a position of entitlement. And the minister was right to shut it down, just as they would be right to refuse to take instructions on how to preach from a donor.

    There’s something to be said for humility. If Tom did his job well, set up the system so it sounded glorious, that’s something that he personally could take pride in, every week, sitting in the pews, even if no one else associated his name with that sound system.

    Was what the minister did mean, or exploitive? Only if you accept Tom’s terms of how things work! If volunteering entitles you to benefits, if donations should lead to rewards, then the minister is being manipulative. But doesn’t “donate” mean to give without expectation of returns?

  • JMS

    I think the new sentence is easier to follow. Thanks for taking my comment in the spirit in which it was intended!

  • jp

    Meh. You’re entitled to your own view of it, of course (and we’ve just that snippet of description to go on). To me the whole community dynamic of public shaming and exclusion (along with everyone knowing & judging everyone else’s personal business) has been creepy all along. So this “public bitchslap” (original writer’s words) feels to me in line with that sort of thing, rather than any neutral or reasoned or fair judgment on the preacher’s part. And all staged for and by the same church community that enabled Tom and preached charity for his family when the his mask was still in place.

    But back to my original point: really breathtaking story and writing, Calulu, and I am so glad that you got out of there.

  • seculargal

    I just have to say that I am just enthralled with this series! Tom is such a great TRAINWRECK…I cannot look away. Just when you think he’s calmed down, started to be ‘normal’, he just goes from Zero to Psycho in 30 seconds flat! Who in the Hell did he think he was, bitching to your husband that he couldn’t send his son to college? Whose fault is that? Not Tom’s…no…it’s your fault that you worked & saved & reminded him he was a financial failure.

    I honestly do not understand why you or your husband ever spoke another civil word to him after he left bruises on your arm. I am sure that your church at that time taught a lot about ‘forgiveness’, but when a man puts his hands on a woman in anger, he should be arrested. If he did that to you, another man’s wife, what the heck was he doing to his disabled wife when they were alone at home?

    And herein lies the issue of Spiritual Abuse and all the other abuses it spawns – when churches (or any religious organization) teach/preach submissiveness to unquestionable authority, women and children get HURT – physically, financially, emotionally, sexually & spiritually. Tom is the kind of monster that thrives in that kind of environment. He never wants to leave ‘his’ church because that is the place that gives him free reign to abuse, sin, act irresponsibly and then be forgiven until he sins again and the cycle repeats itself. (He reminds me of a pedophile priest in a Catholic Church where he is admonished, confesses, is forgiven & then goes to another parish to abuse a new batch of children.)

    Thank you for sharing your story. I can only hope that this man gets a final comeuppance by the end of your series, but I will not be surprised if he goes on his merry way leaving a trail of abused people in his wake. I also hope that your story helps someone else out there who is silently accepting and forgiving an abusive fool like Tom.

  • Pingback: Who Was That Masked Man? Part 11

  • suzannecalulu

    Thank you for your kind words. I first started writing out a bare bones version of my history with Tom at the suggestion of my therapist. She thought it would be helpful to write it out and see just how abnormal and abusive what went on was in reality. At the time I left and was working with this therapist she was trying to get me to see the depths of the dysfunction I’d left behind. Looking back, editing, adding to this I cannot believe I ever tolerated this behavior in another human being getting in my face. But it was because of the whole “forgiveness” and “unity” thing I put up with it.

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