The letters written here follow 11 years after my mother's death. Although a silent peace and forgiveness was reached just days before she died, I still have scars and emotions to deal with from my childhood. As a child, I wasn't allowed to speak to the pain of the abuses -- the pain and hurt, grief, degradation, lack of affirmation, the belief I wasn't worth anything. Had I spoken out, the wrath would have been multiplied. Layer upon layer the scars still run deep. As I write these letters, I hope to find a place of healing.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~~ Maya Angelou

Memoir in Progress

July 23, 2012 Entry:

In order to speak to you through the hues, shades and colors of his palette, an artist must layer color upon color to tell the whole story.  In that same way, I must share the layers of my relationship with my mother so that you can fully understand the miraculous nature of our last sojourn.  For me, the final layer held the best of times spent in my mother's presence.  So, to begin layering, I’ll start at the beginning with my mother’s story.
She was the middle of five children born in May of 1912 in Nashville, TN.  Her father was twice her mother’s age, not uncommon in those years, and the little red-headed, green-eyed baby girl had problems from very early childhood.  With poor eyesight and hearing, life would begin with those struggles already decided for her.
Nelle Mae Roper was named for a good friend of her mother’s, and the friend doted on this child long distance while living in St. Louis.  She sent cards, gifts, and made sure that Nelle was registered on the cradle roll of her church in St. Louis.  But despite all these efforts on the part of such a good friend, life wasn’t dealing a fair hand to this little family or this little girl.
Two other children followed, and when Nelle was 6 her father died suddenly leaving her mother with five children and no means of income.  In the early 1900s women weren’t as visible in the workplace and finding work wasn’t easy.  The family went on welfare and depended on the Big Brothers, a local Nashville assistance group, for food at the holidays.  The two older children were in school, and eventually finished and went to work.
However, graduation would not be in Nelle's future.  She just barely made it through the eighth grade, when her mother chose to take her out of school to stay home and care for the two smaller children, a girl and a boy.  Nelle's mother found a job as an elevator operator in a local bank building, and desperately needed the income this job would provide.  Nelle didn't have the first clue as to how to care for these children much less how to discipline them.
As young children will do, the two would become unruly, running through the house, not staying indoors, and making messes Nelle had to clean up.  Stories have been shared that in an attempt to discipline Nelle would grab handy kitchen utensils, most often large knives, and chase the younger two threatening them if they didn't behave.  Poor Nelle!  If only someone would help her see what her role really was supposed to be.  After all, she was only 11.
Time went on and Nelle was offered the opportunity, without a high school diploma, to attend business school.  By now, the younger children were in school and this would work out for all concerned.  Nelle's eyesight and hearing, however, made learning difficult for her, especially with her lack of schooling thrown into the mix.  Luckily, from time to time, she was hired by an attorney in her mother's office building, but these jobs never lasted.  Obviously, her skills were not well-honed and her ability to cope not well suited either.  Why didn't someone see?  Why didn't someone give her advice?

[Copyright 2011-2012 by Sherrey Meyer.  All rights reserved.]

June 26, 2012 Entry:

As the plane leveled out, I allowed my mind to wander back through time.  After all, the trip would take the better part of the day -- I could spend the hours meandering through memories.
My first concrete thoughts of childhood begin sometime around the age of two or three.  I can see her as clearly as if it was yesterday, her beautiful red hair cascading down her back.  And her eyes – they were so green; and when she was happy, they sparkled like jewels.  I could remember her lying across the bed with her hair hanging down and her eyes laughing as I brushed the red waves and curls.  What a favorite memory this was!  It was a time when we were the best of friends.  A happy daughter, a happy mother.  My world was filled with bliss!  But only occasionally.

Other memories were buried in a blanket of pain.  Those were the days when those same green eyes pierced my soul – filled with fire and anger.  Then, I felt her anguish, frustration, and bitterness.  But at such a young age, I didn’t understand those emotions and thought they were somehow directed at me, perhaps my fault.  I believed that every action or word she flew in my direction related to my failure to please her.  And beginning then, the words and actions became a mushrooming cloud that haunted me to this very day. 

How I still longed for something different – something that gave me what I wanted from her.  I wanted soft hands, loving words, sounds of affirmation, storybooks at bedtime, barefoot romps through fields of wildflowers.  What I didn't know was that she believed she gave me all those things and more.  She never realized what her words and actions translated into in my mind and heart.

As the plane moved me closer to home, I reflected on the times when I overheard words flung at my father.  Later I would see the hurt in his eyes and his actions, his withdrawal from all of us.  There were nights when her anger sent her flying out the door, dragging my younger brother and me behind her, driving feverishly through the city as if she were looking for something or someone.  But it was never clear to me just what she went racing through the streets to find.  Those nights came back with the same haunting fear they left me with in childhood – what or who were her ghosts? 

A panorama sped through my mind of those times when daddy was so sick that we thought he’d die, and I watched as she nursed him with such gentle, loving care.  The same was true when one of her children fell ill.  Then she became what I wanted every other day of the year.  Her hands caressed a feverish head and wiped away fretful tears, and she promised she would make it better.  And she did.  But then tomorrow always came, and every tomorrow was unpredictable. 

* * *
As I retreated from the past and back to the present, I realized that decisions of the last few days had selected my traveling companion for me.  I was beginning a journey with someone I'd known all my life.  We'd traveled down many roads in our 50 plus years together.  Some paths remembered held delights; and others held emotions filled with pain, and some too painful to recall.  But recall them I must.  Some inner voice urged me to look deeper, to listen with a fine tuned ear, to walk closer for once.
My companion on this trip was my then 88‑year old mother.  In a period of less than a week, I had made the decision to move her across the country and in spite of the memories etched into my mind and soul which told me not to, the decision had somehow been so easy.  Our history contradicted the sensibility of my decision.  How could I please her now?  I'd never pleased her before.  How could I possibly think that I could make the right decisions for her, for me, for us?  After all, I'd lived a lifetime with criticism and harsh judgments. 
There it was again.  That inner voice that kept telling me this was right.  I heard it whisper, “You have no other choice.”  In spite of attempts to read or nap during my flight, that voice kept etching away at all my arguments against this decision.  And now, I need to share that voice and its meaning for me so that hopefully I can show you where it led me.  This last journey with my mother has become one of my greatest treasures. 

[Copyright 2011-2012 by Sherrey Meyer.  All rights reserved.]

June 22, 2012 Entry:

Today I begin to share with you the draft of my memoir, book, journal, diary -- whatever it will eventually be called.  I will post "installments" from my writings from time to time, and welcome any and all comments, advice, criticism.


December 2000.  It was a bitter cold December morning.  I shivered as I boarded the plane, but not because of bone chilling air -- definitely not from a fear of flying.  The weather posed no threat, even though its harshness grazed the skin and pricked at the eyes.  The day had dawned clear, and the sky was crystalline blue.  The trip itself had my anxiety at its peak.  I was embarking on a journey like none I had ever experienced in my lifetime.  Was I ready?  From the standpoint of preparations, yes, I was ready -- my bags were packed, my ticket in hand, and my plane ready to take off.  But did my bags and my hands hold everything I needed for this trip?  Did my ticket take me where I really wanted to go?  In spite of fears rooted in family history – a story I didn't want to confront, my journey was becoming as clear as the day itself.  No other itinerary was possible.
As I flew toward home in Oregon and all things comfortable, I pondered the events leading up to this trip.  So far, it had not been an easy one.  Several weeks of anguish had pointed me in the direction of truth.  It has been said "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32), and I clung to the hope this was true.  In many ways, however, I felt that perhaps the truth was about to imprison me.  My plans were indefinite from this point forward.  No detailed, step-by-step recipe showed me where I’d be in a day, a week, a month, maybe in years.  One thing was for certain.  I'd be home by nightfall and in the safe and loving arms of my husband.  That knowledge set another set of thoughts into motion. 
I longed for affirmation that I had made the right decision in starting this trip.  Could I complete it successfully?  Would I destroy everything we had built over the last 20 years?  I had a wonderful husband, a career I enjoyed and a home that I cherished.  We loved traveling and searching through antique stores to find that treasured item.  We loved music and a night out at the symphony.  We were both involved in church activities that required time commitments.  What was I thinking?  What I was about to do could change all of this in the twinkling of an eye!  So much preparation lay ahead once home, not to mention the distance I had to go – a distance not measured in miles. 

I had always believed in the power of prayer, but viewed it as something I did when others were in need.  Did I need to engage in more personal prayer?  So on that December morning, as the plane soared through the underlayer of the firmament, I asked God for strength, courage, guidance, and yes, affirmation.  That was all I could do.  I knew my husband and best friend would stand beside me through anything, but this wasn't going to be easy for either of us, or so I thought.  Little did I know what was in store over the next several months.

[Copyright 2011-12 by Sherrey Meyer.  All rights reserved.]


  1. Sherrey, I just looked at this other blog of yours today for the first time. Reading your writing above makes me feel like I was actually there with you. I enjoy how you go back and forth between your memories and then to the present moment on the plane. I am excited for the entire memoir. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Aaron, thanks so much for visiting here. It was a difficult decision to put this painful part of my life out there for the world to see, but if I even think of publishing, it will be out there any way. I appreciated your encouragement about my writing -- that means so much! Thanks for coming here and supporting me -- I do hope I can return the favor for you and your family.


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