What’s going on here? You’re probably wondering, “Frankie Ann, what did you do to build a bridge to your mom?” Or this: “What did you do to get to know her?” I started thinking about the answers to those types of questions on my way to work recently.
First, let’s back up and examine the history—the context. Remember these two important things. (1) My mom always adored my sister Pam, her favorite. (2) In part 2, we talked about how context means the difference between horrifying and funny—and then some.
In today’s post, part 3, I’ll describe The Showdown between me and my sister Pam—the turning point—plus the events that led up to it and the events that followed it. In the next post, part 4, I’ll ask an important question about my mom’s role in this mess and I’ll start to unpack the details. And in part 5, I’ll answer those important questions about why I knowingly maintained the chasm between my mother and me. Emphasis on the word knowingly.
Back in the days when my younger sister Pam was my next-door neighbor, she summoned our mom—The Laundress/Babysitter #1—and me—Babysitter #2—to her house one evening for “a meeting.” I thought Ugh. What does she want now. I figured she wanted us to babysit more and had come up with some nifty new schedule or something. I was sadly mistaken.
Pam handed us each a long letter she’d typed about her husband. I’ll call him Doug. Apparently, Doug had been addicted to pornography since he was 13 years old. He got help for his addiction and fixed the problem. This wasn’t acceptable to Pam, The Almighty. She went into great, horrifying detail in her letter, including her assessment of his performance in bed.
She planned to mail the letter to everyone on their Christmas card list, literally across the country. I asked her, fervently, not to do this. I told her, “Once you mail it, you can’t take it back.” (Pssst. Her name isn’t only Pam, The Almighty; it’s also Pam, The Punisher.) Peaceful Readers, you can guess what she did, can’t you.
Yep. She mailed it.
Declaration of perfection
She also made a very telling statement during The Meeting when she said, “I did everything right.” She actually believed that. Gosh. And I thought Jesus was the only one who could truthfully say that.
Pam told me about her well-formulated plan to kick Doug out and divorce him after his dad’s upcoming visit. I told her—in no uncertain terms—that I would not support this plan. I reminded her that Doug loved her and their three children. He got help for his problem. He was devoted to their family.
Pam was absolutely shocked. Since I’d been divorced, she figured that I’d whip out some lawyer’s business card, do an enthusiastic cheerleader’s herkie in the air and say, “You go, girl!” That wasn’t what she got. I told her that her plan was wrong.
I stood outside their house and talked briefly with Doug around that time. He was crying and distraught. I hugged him and told him that I was for him.
After silently observing and enduring many years of my sister Pam’s chaotic, control-freak behavior (i.e., emotional abuse), I called her and put my foot down. She had just picked a fight with Doug in front of me.
I called her and said, “Don’t you ever do that again.” And a lot more. I told her that I would not tolerate her disrespectful treatment of Doug in our presence—the nagging, condescending remarks, eye-rolling, etc. I told her if she acted that way in our home that she would be asked to leave. Her response? “What I say and do is none of your business.” My reply: “When you do it in front of me, you make it my business.” I told her that I would be very sad if her sons married women who treat them the way she treats Doug. Stunned silence, yet again.
I told her that the traumatic experiences during my first marriage got me down on my knees—calling out to God—and changed my life. Ten years after that painful marriage ended, I could look back and say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I gave my life to Jesus. I told Pam that she could use the difficulties she was facing about Doug’s porn addiction to become a better person—more understanding, more forgiving, closer to God. I told her that I wanted her to look back on this time 10 years from now and be able to say what I had said—that it was the best thing that ever happened to her. I stated, clearly, that I would have given anything if my first husband, Greg, had gotten help for his problems and had been devoted to our marriage.
I also told her that I loved her and wanted the best for her. She said, “I know you love me and want what’s best for me.”
After that very serious conversation, things changed—permanently.
Check out what happened next, from The Apology, part 1 in the first series.
Personality disorder + apology = non-apology + violence
I received a forced, teeth-clenching, angry apology from my narcissistic sister Pam on the phone one time. I think her husband pressured her into saying it. Not long after that, she totally wigged out and hasn’t spoken to me for nine years. She didn’t give me an apology, did she. In reality, she said words she didn’t mean.
Then she went ballistic, put on her You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet hat, and dropped an atomic bomb. Wow. People with personality disorders wreak havoc again and again and again. They live for it—the power plays, the control, the punishment. If you won’t do what they say (which includes bowing down and worshiping them), the reaction is violent. Very violent.
Drawing the line
Shortly after The Showdown and Pam’s non-apology, she declared: “You’re no longer welcome in my house.” Check out the drama. Pam was “too upset” to talk to me directly, so The Punisher communicated her new directive through Doug—from Victim #1 to Victim #2.
Then Little Miss Upset—I mean The Punisher—called and asked me to photocopy my Peanut Butter Cookie recipe and tape it to her door because she wanted to make them for her daughter. It was important for her to emphasize two important Pam’s World facts. Fact #1: “You aren’t allowed in my house.” Fact #2: “It’s still your job to do what I want.” Brandon looked at me, furrowed his brow and said “No.” He was right. He said she could come over and photocopy the recipe herself, which she did.
The party invitation
Not long after that, Pam sent Doug to our house for an interesting little power play. Doug told me that Brandon and Logan were invited to their son Pete’s birthday party, but I wasn’t invited. I told him—in no uncertain terms—that we’re a family and that it’s all of us or none of us. No triangulation allowed, sport. Doug seemed really surprised by my response. He said that it would be none of us, then. I replied, basically, “You got it, pal.” We took Logan out of town the weekend of the party so he wouldn’t have the You’re-Not-Invited Birthday Party—with all the noise, balloons and games—in his face.
Check this out. After all this drama and punishing went down, Pam, The Almighty called me and asked me to babysit for her. Can you believe that?! My reply? “If I’m not welcome in your house, it’s inappropriate for you to ask me to do favors for you.” She responded with a very shocked and downcast “Oh.” I’m envisioning the book about the Wide-Mouthed Frog….
She figured, with her being Pam, The Almighty and all, that yours truly—Frankie Ann, The Servant—would feel honored to keep on serving her; I mean jumping when she snapped her fingers. Uhhhh…, no. Here’s a News Flash to The Punisher: “When you kick somebody in the face, that somebody doesn’t do favors for you anymore.” Wack-a-doo.
The collection project
I didn’t know at the time that I was dealing with a card-carrying malignant narcissist. I figured that out later. But I did discover this important truth. When you’re dealing with this particular flavor of narcissist (i.e., the evil, crush-your-spirit, “I own you,” Gossip Extraordinaire type) and you say “Stop it,” the narcissist becomes The Punisher. (If that description reminds you of my mother-in-law—the sociopath/narcissist combo—you’re absolutely right.)
Part of the job of The Punisher is to collect all of the relatives and friends into The Punisher’s Camp or “side.” The Collection Project is fueled with gossip and lies. The Punisher is dramatic and most-convincing.
Remember from The Trauma of Child Abuse, part 1:
Controlling the casual observers and accomplices
That’s the way the Personality Disorder Princesses play. They bad-mouth their victims so dramatically that other people get on board with their stories. The casual observers and accomplices don’t ever bother to ask those horrible victims what actually happened. They buy it all—hook, line and sinker.
Painting the sociopaths [or narcissists] as victims and the victims as abusers
What a perfect play. The abusers pretend to be the innocent victims and paint their victims as being horribly abusive. Abusive people are bad, right? So everyone who hears The Dramatic Declarations of Dastardly Deeds done by those mean victims will proudly participate in ostracizing, hating and bad-mouthing the victims.
The bunco group
After all this went down, I went to the Bunco group Pam and I attended every month and received scowls and head-turning from the other women there. Most of them wouldn’t even look at me. Ahhh, yes. The Punisher had been very busy making all those essential phone calls. We can write the script for those tear-filled smack-downs, can’t we? Her favorite pity-siphoning lie was this one: “Frankie Ann said I’m a bad mother.” Highly successful in ruffling up all the feathers in town. Very effective re-write of what I said, Little Miss Upset.
Cousin Pete told five-year-old Logan through the fence that connected our back yards that I had spoken “bad words” to his mom. That’s creative.
The church ladies
At my mom’s funeral reception, one of The Church Ladies came up to me and asked me if I was Pam. I told her that I’m Frankie Ann. She looked disgusted, told me that Pam and I look a lot alike and walked off. Charming.
How thoughtful and forthright of my mom to share the Pam’s World version of The Family Feud with the good ladies at her church—without ever asking me anything about it. Not a word.
No turning back
After Pam realized that I would no longer be doing favors for her, she terminated all contact with us. I think she sent Doug over to make that pronouncement. I forget the details.
That whole chapter was so crazy. It was very stressful.
I grieved the loss of my sister—someone I’d mistakenly thought was my life-long friend. More on that in the next post. I grieved the loss of them all—my brother-in-law, my niece and my nephews. Logan grieved too. He lost his cousin/best friend—Doug and Pam’s son Max—and his other cousins, who were also daily playmates.
Brandon saw The Real Pam—a Class-A Control Freak—from the get-go, so he was largely relieved. But it all seemed so hostile to him and he was right.
Over the years, I apologized several times—not for what I said, but for the impact and the hurt. I regret those apologies now. I spoke the truth in love during The Showdown and she responded as Pam, The Punisher; Pam, The Collector; Pam, The Liar.
As I look back on the whole thing, I see it very differently than I did at the time. Very differently, indeed.
We were rescued.
We were rescued from a very sick place—The Land of Denial—so we could take The Healing Journey and discover the truth—one step at a time, revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about a playground and Frankie Ann, The Weirdo.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Psalm 17:7-9
Song for Healing: I listened to this song again and again the day I found it: “Shelter” by Vertical Worship (Live from the Planetarium). The phrase “I am safe” speaks to a place deep in my heart.