2007 STORY #51: THE PHONE CALL
I never carry my cell phone with me when I’m at work. Most of the time I can’t get a signal and even if I could, it is so noisy there you could never hear it ring, let alone talk to someone. But that day I was running a bit late. I just forgot and left it in my pocket. That day I got a job outside, working in a quiet spot at the plant. When my cell rang, I jumped, it surprised me so much. It was David (Clohessy).
“Tim, I’m so glad I got you. I just had the strangest phone call I think I’ve ever had.”
At this time, my case felt like something would happen soon. It had been well over a year. Maybe it was almost two years now. David and I talked often on the phone, and I was one of the regulars at the twice a month SNAP meetings. I went to all the trials here in St. Louis as support for the survivor. I would still hide from the press and would only talk to 4 people at work about what was going on with me. (a bad experience would cut that down to 3) But right now I could not get a read on David’s voice.
“What is it? Did something happen in my case?”
“No. Someone called me... From Fr. X’s family.”
My heart went into double-time. “Are you kidding?”
“No. She said she was his niece and he is on his death bed, and they just wanted to let us know.”
“Did you believe her?”
“No freakin’ way! David, this could be just some crap to throw me off... I think they (the Police) are just about to arrest him again. Where is he? What hospital is he in? Damn it David, is this for real???”
“I think she was telling the truth.” He said soft and slow.
“Damn it! DAMN IT, DAMN IT, DAMN IT!!! Why now? Why call now? I don’t believe it, I think it’s a lie.”
“She sounded very sincere.” He said.
“Damn it, David.”
“I know pal. I’ve never had this happen. No one from the perp’s family has ever called me before.”
“What did she say?”
“He is very sick and about to die and if I knew of anyone who had been molested by him and they wanted to face him this would probably be their last chance.”
“Right! GREAT now what do I do? Have you checked this out? Is he at this hospital?”
“No. I haven’t checked.”
“If he even is, should I go see him? What does he have? Great it’s probably AIDS!” (I had heard a rumor that he did have AIDS.)
“She didn’t say what he had.”
Now what to do.
“I don’t know what to tell you on this one.” David said.
“I think I’ll call Pat.” Pat Noaker was one of my lawyers.
David agreed that would be best. The next day I called Pat, he was not in at that time. so I called the Prosecuting Attorney. He was in, and had a definite answer. “NO! Don’t do it, I am not your lawyer, but I will tell you this: If I were you, I would NOT go see him. I would Stay away from him. I would say it is a BAD idea, and I would NOT do it. I would NOT go. Of course, it is up to you because I am not your lawyer.”
“Ok!” I thought, “I get the message.” Later, Pat called me.
“How are you doing?” He asked.
“Good, I think.” I told him what was going on.
Pat told me if it would help with my healing “Go.” He said we would deal with any complications later. But if I felt I needed to, do it. He explained some of the risk: He could tell me he didn’t know what I was talking about. He could say that I threatened his life and some other things but those are the two that stick out. I called Mike from Christian Family Services (CFS). We talked about if I did go. What good would I get from it? I decided not to go. I called David later. I told him my decision. We talked for a bit and then he said. “She is willing to talk to you.” I thought about this over night and it seemed like time stood still. Finally, I called David and said, “Yes, I think I would like to talk to her. Go ahead and give her my number.” I put my phone on vibrate hoping if I was somewhere noisy at least I could feel it and tell her to call me back. I was so afraid. What if this was just a way to find out who I was. I would lose my anonymity. What if they called and started yelling at me? Later at work it did buzz, and I was in a somewhat noisy area at work.
“Hi my name is Pete” She said. “David Clohessy gave me your number. Is this Tim?”
“Pete?” I thought this is definitely a girl, did she say Pete? I thought of Johnny Cash and “A Boy Named Sue” I was making my way outside so we could hear each other better.
“Yes this is Tim. Your name is Pete?”
“Yes, it’s really Patricia but everyone calls me Pete.”
There was a pause
“I’m so sorry, we know what he is.” I could hear a tear in her voice. She told me about how her Aunt (Father Xs younger sister) had been battling with not only Father but also the Archdiocese and several Bishops and Archbishops, for the past 18 years. Everything she told me helped me more and more. Then she said is there anything I can do for you? I paused and thought: “Yes, would you give him a message for me?”
“Hang on...let me get a pen and paper. Ok what would You like me to tell him.”
Tell him, “You didn't get away with it. I told people about what you did and they believed me, not you. You're dying in shame and God will deal with you and all of those who have protected your kind.”
“Ok, got it. Tim I live in Florida, so is it Ok if my Aunt does this?”
“Florida?” I thought. “Why does she have a St. Louis area code?” “Sure. So why do you have a 314 area code?”
“I just moved down here and I’m on my cell phone.”
Ok that was a good answer!
“I’ll have my aunt call you tomorrow. Ok?”
“That will be great Thanks, and Thanks for calling”
The next day was Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004. I was working the PM shift that week. About mid-morning the phone rang. I checked the caller ID, it was her, Carol, his little sister. My heart pounded.
“Hello, is Tim X there.”
“This is me.”
“Tim, my name is Carol, I’m Norman’s sister. Pete, my niece gave me your number.” She sounded a bit nervous.
“Yes, I talked to her last night. She told me she was going to have you call me about giving Father X my message.”
“Yes, about that, I can’t deliver it for you...”
I interrupted her “That’s Ok, I understand, after all he is your brother, and all.”
“NO. That’s not it. I want you to know why. I have been fighting him for the last 18 years. Two years ago I started calling him and telling him to come clean about what he has done. He quit taking my phone calls, so I started writing him and telling him he needed to come clean, come forward, and confess what he has done. He is so arrogant he probably just throws away my letters.” She sounded very mad at him. “Anyway,” she said “not long ago his caretaker, Angie, called me and told me Norman was sick and did not have long to live. If I wanted to see him I needed to come down soon. I told her I would not be coming. Tim I had already sent Norman a letter telling him that I would not talk to or see him again unless he came clean, and the only way I would believe him was if I saw him on television or heard him on the radio saying he was sorry for what he has done. That has not happened.”
I was dumbfounded! I could not believe my ears. This was his sister. “That is.. fine with me.” stumbled out of my mouth “I just wanted him...” She interrupted me. “But, I want you to know that Pete said she is going to fly up Sunday night to give him your message.”
This is the truth if I have ever told it. I still puddle up when I think about this.
The first thing I said was “What?”
“Yes. Pete said she would be honored to read your message to him.”
“She is going to fly up from Florida to give him my message?” I said back to her.
In my wildest, most extreme fantasy of the best, very best way this could ever work out, the thought of HIS family talking to me, let alone all this, had never ever even come close to any thought I ever had. But here it was. God had laid this blessing right in my lap. We talked a lot.. Ok Carol talked a lot more :-) telling me all about her battles with him and the “Church” how she found out about him (this is still a private matter) and that she has copies of letters, emails and more. I just could not believe how hard she had been fighting. I called David, and told him everything, he was almost as dumbfounded as I was. Almost.
Later that day, Pete and I talked on the phone again. I told her she did not have to do this. She said “I know.” Then she told me she would get to St. Louis late Sunday, and go straight to the hospital. She would give him my message, then she would call me and let me know how it went.
Carol and Pete both said something I could not believe, and I guess I needed to hear. They had both told me they were proud of me for having the courage to come forward. I didn’t feel very courageous. It had taken me 30 years to come forward, but it made me feel good to hear them say it.
David was almost as dumbfounded, but not quite. My phone rang.
“Hi pal, how are you doing? I was thinking. How do you feel about doing an interview? Maybe after Pete gives him your message, the two of you and his sister could get together and I could get a reporter to talk to you guys?”
“I don’t know David, I don’t want my name in the paper yet. If it’s TV I would have to be in silhouette and they would have to fix up my voice. I don’t want everyone to know it’s me.”
“I think it would be the Post. Would you be Ok with that?”
“Yes.” I said unsure of myself. “I’ll call Carol and Pete and see how they feel about it.”
“Great” He said.
So I called Pete, who I felt most comfortable with at that time, and asked her how she felt about it. She said she thought it would be wonderful, but it would be late, and she didn’t know how much time she would have to stick around. I also talked to Carol. She said she would like to. She also told me she would like to bring along another niece, Sue. I told her that would be great! I called David back and told him what I had found out. “Can we do this on Monday evening? We could have it at my house.” He said.
I called Pete, and Carol back and after one or two more calls everyone was in agreement: David’s house Monday night with some reporter that David would line up.
Sunday October 24, 2004, about 10:45PM
My phone rang. It was Pete, “Hi Tim, this is Pete. I just left his room. I’m in the hospital parking lot. I wanted to call you as soon as I could and let you know what happened.”
I could hardly talk, I wanted to know what had happened so bad. “Yes. What happened, did you give him my message?”
“Yes, I did. I read it to him just as you had said it.”
“What did he say?”
“I walked into his room and said ‘Hi, Uncle Norman.’ He looked at me and smiled. Then I said I have a message from someone who wishes he could be here but he can’t.” He looked puzzled she told me. “Then I asked him if the name Tim X meant anything to him? He turned his head away from me and looked down at the floor. I read your message to him. He didn’t say anything.” Pete said she asked him if he wanted to say anything to me. He just shook his head no. She told him she feared for his soul, that he needed to make things right. Again he shook his head no.
“Uncle Norman, do you have anything to say to any of the boys you hurt?”
“I never hurt them. You don’t understand.”
Pete pleaded with him to come clean. He would not. She gave him her cell number and asked him to call her if he changed his mind. He never did. I was happy that he had got my message, but sad that he would not repent on his deathbed.
Monday October 25, 2004
I was very nervous about meeting his sister Carol and his nieces Pete and Sue. When we got to David’s he told me that Bill McClellan was coming to do the interview. This made me feel good. I had met Bill at a couple of the trials I had attended for other victims, and had talked to him at length a few times, so I knew he had respected my wishes to be kept anonymous. I felt then and now that he is an honorable reporter. Shortly after Kim and I got there Bill came in. We were entertained by David’s sons’ musical talents. After a short set :-) Carol, Pete, and Sue arrived. This was the first time I had met them. Kim and I felt somewhat uneasy. Then we all introduced ourselves. Bill did not know this was the first time I had met the family. I told him that that was the case. He seemed surprised. Right off the bat they told me they were sorry for what had happened to me at his hands. I thought “Are you? Are you really sorry?” I wondered if this was for real or not. So I told them my story, what had happened that night 30 years ago. I left out no details. I thought. “Do you really know what your sorry about?” When I was done they cried, and again told me they were sorry. This time it felt like Bactine, while the cut was still deep, some of the ouch was gone. We all talked for a long time. Bill did a wonderful article on us, and at my request he never used my name.