A Day in the Life | Marriage Proposals and Engagements (Episode #5)

On Saturday, August 15th, Bob and I celebrated 34 years of happiness together. Not to detract from that happiness but to share with you what a tough start we had, today’s “A Day in the Life” post includes an excerpt from my memoir work-in-progress. Detailing the tension and strife filling the days following Bob’s marriage proposal and our announcement of our intentions, the excerpt shares a window into the world with Mama. Even after her children reached adulthood.

Remarried, but with a Struggle

Living with Mama following my divorce and dad’s death went on far too long. Yet I struggled with finding a way out. If I moved out, the cost of housing, food, gas, clothing me for work and a growing child would lead to insolvency on my part. And worse yet, mere thoughts of Mama’s reaction to such suggestion was unbearable. She had grown attached to Craig and his presence had avoided her grieving for Daddy. I stood between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

For the next 7 1/2 years, we lived like this. With each passing year, I dreaded what our environment was doing to Craig knowing what my experience under Mama’s parenting did to me. I dreamed and prayed for any chance to get my child out of this. But would it be too late by then?

In the winter of 1981, I met someone. Someone with the capacity to love me for me, with similar interests, and as alone as I was. Plus someone familiar with emotional and verbal abuses.

Our new-found relationship grew like a flash. Within a period of a few months, we set a wedding date in December of the same year. With little consideration for our three children, we focused on our dreams and hopes. We moved ahead full blast with our plans.

That is until we told Mama. And from her tool belt of antics, she pulled the “I’ll kill myself routine,” as mentioned earlier. But not in front of my fiancé or his children. She waited until Bob and his two left.

This was likely one of the worst of these episodes I had experienced. So eerily different, I turned to my older brother for help. I asked him to come and try to reason with Mama. That added to her battle cries. When he arrived, her venom turned on him.

Once she calmed down on this otherwise tranquil and beautiful Sunday afternoon, my brother left. We three who remained behind walked on eggshells afterwards. For days, this mood continued. I was so glad that for part of the day Craig was in school. However, there was the time when Mama picked him up from school. What poison was she filling his head with, and how was she treating him?

Things became more even on a day-to-day basis, and I believed it was all behind us. What made me fall for the idea she had accepted my engagement and impending marriage in the next few months?

Summer came and Bob and I enjoyed getting out with the three kids, doing things like a “family.” But excluding Mama always brought on heated discussions. So we avoided those activities and held picnics and played games in the backyard. Anything to prevent clashes in front of our kids.

In early August, all hell broke loose with Mama. I struggle to recall the catalyst behind this explosion, but it may have been the weekend Bob and I announced a shopping trip for our wedding rings. Our plan included making Craig a part of our shopping as he would live with us. Before we could get the words out of our collective mouths, Mama stood at the door, handbag at the ready, joining us on our trip. Perhaps the silence surrounding our excursion or the quiet tears rolling down my cheeks lit the spark.

With our shopping finished and the trip home no more jovial than our trip out, we arrived back at the house just in time for our evening meal. Bob excused himself to go home, and I followed him out. I had hoped he would stay, and I suppose in my heart I wondered why he wouldn’t stand up to Mama for me. That’s when I learned he had experienced similar treatment before and never wanted to face it again. I wasn’t angry as much as hurt, so I let it pass.

When I re-entered the house, the fireworks began. One look at Mama and I knew at once what was coming. The fire in her eyes blazed with heat, and I tried to steel myself for whatever manipulative schemes she had ready.

“I suppose I made a mistake in thinking I would be included as family by you and Bob. A nice little nest you’re building for yourself. He sees you as the perfect wife and a great little homemaker and mama. Huh! Wait until he lives with you!”

As always, trying to ignore her didn’t work. When I made no response, Mama’s thermostat rose. When I noticed Craig’s eyes enlarging by the minute, I asked her to stop it once and for all. Mistake!

“Stop what? Not believing in you the way everybody else does? Nobody else knows you the way I do! Oh, how I wish they did. Your daddy always deemed you as perfect too. That’s where you get that high and mighty attitude of yours. But I know all too well.”

The fight in me crumbles. Tears burn the backs of my eyes, and I sense Craig’s fear. The tension between Mama and me is so great I clench my teeth together to hold words back. And my teeth grind against each other.

“Well, say something. Or has the cat got your tongue? He’s changing you already–I can see that. I suppose he’s told you not to talk to me.”

“Oh, Mama! He’s done nothing of the sort. It just amazes me you don’t want me to be happy. Why would you have me sacrifice everything Bob and I can do together for a lifetime of manipulation and domination?” By now I should have realized these were fighting words but somehow on this day I didn’t care.

“I want you to be happy. I just want you to make the right choices and you’re not doing that. He was married before and he has children, two of them. What will happen to Craig having to live a life like that?”

“Well, if you haven’t noticed, I’m divorced and I have a son by my first marriage. I see no difference. What about you and Daddy? You both were married before and had three children between you when you married. Was that OK, and my promise of marriage isn’t?”

Mama sensed this wasn’t going well for her. As usual, she clammed up and used the cold shoulder treatment, which was fine by me. I told Craig to come with me–I had shopping to do. We left but only to go for a drive and an ice cream cone. Plus a stop at a payphone. It was time to move our wedding date to an earlier time.

When I called Bob and told him what had transpired, he agreed we should get married as soon as possible. He said he would call the pastor who was marrying us and see if the next Saturday, one week away, would work. It was a good thing we were planning a small and simple family wedding. Each year we celebrate our marriage on August 15th, not in December as first planned.

Taken in 1983 at Meyer FamilyGathering in Bickleton, WA

Copyright 2015 Sherrey Meyer

This was perhaps one of the most difficult encounters with Mama. Her manipulative skills and ability to belittle and demean did not let up when we reached adulthood. As the song says, “the beat goes on,” and with Mama it went on and on. It is my plan to share other excerpts from time to time. Likely, they will change somewhat before publication, but I’d like to share some of my story with you along the way.

17 thoughts on “A Day in the Life | Marriage Proposals and Engagements (Episode #5)

  1. I believe that many women of our mothers’ generation were deeply angered by the lack of control they were allowed to have over their own lives, and they saw us getting things they deserved but never received – starting with the right to choose their own husbands or to choose to remain single. Most careers were closed to them. Their intelligence went wasted. We left home when we finished high school (which they had not been free to do) and went on to college and careers. They were shortchanged, to be sure. Some of them got behind their daughters and cheered them on, others were just too resentful of being left behind by us. My own mother straddled the line . . . proud of and happy for me, and yet still angry and jealous, evidence of which crept out in remarks of which others were unaware but nonetheless crippled me emotionally. Our generation was the one that poured into the offices of therapists to get our heads back on straight! And now we write memoirs, to see if we really understand what happened. I find sisterhood in the memoirs, knowing so many of us went through that.

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    1. Samantha, I could not agree more. Your comments paint an authentic image of what our mothers’ generation was like for women. And we were on the cusp of changing times. I love your last sentence, “I find sisterhood in the memoirs, knowing so many of us went through that.”

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  2. Sherrey, I really feel the heaviness and burden in this piece but I cheered when you and Bob took action so quickly. You show so vividly what manipulation and negative control behavior looks like. And the fact that you are the brave and wonderful person you are after enduring such abuse is truly admirable. Your story will give others hope that one can rise above such powerful, negative influences to live joyful, empowered lives. Congratulations on making right decision for you and Craig. Wishing you and Bob many more years of happiness!

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    1. Kathy, thanks for these words: “Your story will give others hope that one can rise above such powerful, negative influences to live joyful, empowered lives.” They let me know I’m on the right track. As you know, it’s hard to be certain your writing carries the intended message. I decided to occasionally share a brief excerpt to get just that kind of feedback. Thank you for the anniversary wishes!

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  3. Wish you a very happy anniversary! Wonderful to hear you’ve been married to the right man for 34 years.

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  4. What a story! What a poisonous mother! I don’t know how you can ever feel secure and confident after having a parent like her. It takes courage to unearth your memories and write about your relationship with her. Hearing stories like yours makes me more appreciative of my own, rather difficult mother who tried her best though her best turned out for the worst. I have one suggestion. As I was reading, I kept wanting to see your mother in action rather than being told about her. Your final scene was great because it showed how manipulative and mean she was, but I needed a scene earlier on in the excerpt such as after, “When he arrived, her venom turned on him.” That’s a great sentence and arouses my curiosity to see how she turned her venom on your brother.
    Wish you a very happy anniversary! Wonderful to hear you’ve been married to the right man for 34 years.

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    1. Poisonous is a good adjective to use in many such cases of emotional and verbal abuse, Penny. I appreciate your input about showing more about how she turned on my brother. I have been very careful not to tread too close to the interactions between Mama and my brothers. Neither brother has been willing to respond to my inquiries about using their names in the book. So I’m making a note of your observation to consider as I finish up revisions. Again, thank you for your thoughts. And for the anniversary wish!

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  5. Sherrey, reading this brought back many, only too familiar memories of my own relationship with my mother. You’ve said it before and it’s so true how similar our relationships were with similar mothers – the narcissistic, holier than thou attitudes they had. And venom, a word I used a few times in my own book.I can only imagine how unbearable it was to live under the same roof together because I moved away when I was 18. I didn’t have much money but I didn’t care, I never felt so free and unburdened, and I never went back. It had to have been so much more difficult with a child because you had someone else to consider with your dilemma. I admire your courage and look forward to the book. ❤

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    1. We are here again, on the same page, Debby. I thought of you as I decided to post this excerpt. I remember your use of the word “venom” in your memoir. It is so descriptive. Thanks for your faithful encouragement and support and for sharing your story.

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  6. Sherrey, what a poignant story! Bob sounds like a wonderful, understanding man and I congratulate you both. Something about your mother . . .. she was so angry! At someone, for some reason. She was a geyser of pain and jealousy, because you found happiness and she didn’t. Of course, she was her own worst enemy but she couldn’t see that. My mother admitted to me that she believed that my father loved me more than he loved her, which I don’t believe was true, but he spoke about me to her, and never told her he loved HER, and I’ll bet something like that made your mother bitter. Your father thought you were wonderful, and she needed to hear that SHE was wonderful, but he may not have said it, and so she resented you very deeply. And it really had nothing to do with you, it was their marriage, which she may have felt she was duped into. Seeing how her pain poisoned the household will make your memoir that much deeper and true. I’m so glad you got away and found your happiness!!

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    1. Samantha, it is always meaningful to have your input. Bob is a wonderful individual, and I cannot sing his praises enough. I am so blessed! Yes, Mama was a storehouse of anger. A sister-in-law once shared with me she thought Mama was jealous of my accomplishments in life. I couldn’t imagine, at the time, that a parent would be jealous of their offspring. Nothing surprises me anymore. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. It’s so hard to deal with someone, especially a family member, who insists on imposing his/her will on your own – passive/aggressive behavior at its worst. I’m sure other chapters in your memoir will hold the key to the reason for her manipulation, possibly a person (mother?) in her own past, whose behavior she is mimicking. It certainly doesn’t excuse such action, but it may help to explain it.
    Congratulations to you and Bob for weathering the many storms of married life and enjoying the blessed calm right now. Happy 34th. Cliff says Hi to you both – and best wishes for this special day.

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    1. Hi Marian! Yes, difficult personalities, especially within the family, make for a variety of difficulties. And yes, there are other chapters hiding the key to Mama’s behavior, something I wish I had known sooner than later.
      We appreciate both your and Cliff’s wishes for our anniversary. Special friends make special greetings meaningful. Tell Cliff hello for us.
      Also, your comment did show up on my previous post about the conference, etc. Sorry for the confusion.

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      1. I’m glad both comments posted. Only this one showed up on my end.
        Yes, I’ll certainly pass on the good wishes on to Cliff! Thanks, Sherrey!

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  8. Oh Sherrey, I didn’t realize how manipulative your mother was. (I know you’ve said it, but reading her words left me with the feeling of wanting to reach out and hug you – even though it’s been 34 years – I felt your pain.) I’m glad you’re writing this book and have found healing through writing it. God bless you and I hope you had a happy anniversary!

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    1. Joan, thanks so much for reading. I began to think that posting an excerpt now and then would provide feedback on how my words were impacting others. And we had a grand anniversary and continue to enjoy God’s blessings every day.

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