This Moment in Time – Mental Health
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom

This moment in time is the title of an e-mail I sent to my best friend Catherine from our home in North Carolina in 2001.  Catherine and I have been best friends for thirty-five years and I wrote of our relationship in my blog, ‘The Friendship Tree.’ You may read it here.

Catherine and I have remained best friends although we haven’t lived in the same state since 1993. Our telephone calls and e-mails have been a constant support for each other. Catherine knew Tom long before we married and understands my colossal loss.

I’ve saved many of our e-mails over the years, and tucked them into my journals. They’ve served as excellent reference points when I’ve needed to reconstruct specific timelines related to Tom’s medical care. Others I’ve read time and time again because Catherine and I have a rich history of our own. Neither of us had ever been members of the diapers and recipes brigade, yet we were both wives and mothers. We met while obtaining advanced degrees and building our careers in non-traditional tracks for women. We were pursuing our dreams while juggling the demands of professional positions demanding long hours, determined we’d graduate with honors (nothing less was acceptable), and we both had families to care for.

I love to call this time in Catherine’s and my life the era of ‘the red 4 inch heels.’ Catherine and I both had never actually had the opportunity to experience our adolescence and here we were in our early 30’s and I’m amazed we were able to create so much fun when we had so many other responsibilities. Our ‘other responsibilities’ were never set aside in the name of ‘personal fun,’ somehow we managed to find time for both.

I came across many e-mails Catherine and I exchanged before the Christmas and New Year holidays of 2013 began. Somehow I knew our many communications were going to serve as a reminder of days gone by. Catherine knew of my many disappointments surrounding the holiday seasons in the years after Tom became ill. I knew this year, 2013, Catherine’s past messages would serve as a strong emotional and mental compass during the holiday season to come.

In my e-mail to Catherine in 2001, I wrote, “Throughout the years, you’ve held me steady when others were unaware of my inner turmoil and anguish. Your special brand of kindness always gets through to me and you’ve always made extra time in your crowded schedule so that we might stay connected. I couldn’t allow today’s moment in time to pass when you’ve so often assured me that the Tom we both once knew would return, if only for fleeting moments.

“Catherine, I’d given up all hope that this would ever happen and then, a spectacular incident occurred. Suddenly sublime perfection reigned. The intelligent, charming, loveable, witty, romantic man of my dreams who I married brought out our picnic basket and we spent the entire afternoon laughing and loving in the middle of the wildflower garden.

“It was a dreamy day under a hazy blue sky and conversation flowed freely. We listened to our favorite music and that called for dancing. Feeling the lush grass under our bare feet was oh so sensuous.

“We lay in each other’s arms on our blanket. What peace I felt there in the wildflower garden that I tended almost daily.

“Tom slept and I felt his body tense and then stiffen. I knew my moment in time was over and I tucked this precious memory into a corner of my heart.

“The best way I can think of to explain to you how Tom’s slipping away occurred is to compare it to the weather. When I knew he was first slipping, I sensed a quiet whisper of wind starting and then moving into full hurricane force with no warning. I watched Tom move away from me plus the world we live in. His journey into bipolar hell is represented by the fury of the squall.

“The storm had all the power, and I had none. I’ve fought back for so many years, but now I know why the instructions for taking care of me in a hurricane are to get out-of-the-way, board up open places, and above all, ensure a safe plan of action is in place for both of us.

“I stay alive securely in my world of books and silent conversations with myself. When the weather is pleasant, I live out among the roses and the wildlife. I rage at this disease that has stolen so many good years from our lives, and I ask myself, why, why, and why?

“Catherine, as always, thanks for allowing me to pour out my fragile heart over and over. We really do deserve some girl time. Are you up for a trip to North Carolina? I’m sure we could find some time somewhere for just us.”

For those of you that have been wondering, Tom and I made many new memories over the holidays of 2013. I also met a few hurricanes along the way but having stumbled upon the e-mail I’d written to my best friend, Catherine, I stayed focused and Christmases past were simply categorized as Christmases past. We continue listening to the sound track of ‘Out of Africa’ and several others we’ve loved over the years plus we decided not to put the picnic basket away. Who knows when the urge will strike and we’ll be giggling once again as if we were still on that blind date of 1983 when the magic started.

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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  1. Sheri,
    Now that this has been reblogged I’ve read it again – 4 inch red heels and all! – and like it even more this time round as it speaks of a deep and lasting friendship which matches love and often exceeds it. I hope you’re doing well and are happy – you deserve to be happy
    My best to you now and always

    • John – Thank you so much. You are so right, those special friends that stick with you no matter what evils might be in the background and the unknown yet to be conquered. The same friend that never judges you although has told you they believe you are making the wrong decision. I’ll be the first to admit it took a great deal of bravery on my part to allow the red heels to make their way to the Salvation Army.

  2. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:

  3. Sheri,
    Your writings move me and it’s not every writer i can say that about.
    Thank You.
    My best to you


  4. Oh, Sheri, this is such a special post. I’m so glad you’ve had Catherine’s sustaining friendship and many wonderful memories to cherish. The good moments with Tom are like nuggets of gold you’ve come across after panning through a sieve of pebbles. They shine all the brighter amid the dull stones.

    • John – Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I value my friendships and my friendship with Catherine and others are important in my life. However, it’s Catherine I call first when something joyous happens in my life and she’s also the first one that listens to the sorrow. We’ve been there for each other for over 30 years and it hasn’t mattered how far apart we were from each other. We always knew, it was a matter of picking up the phone and asking, “Can you come?” and the other person would be there.

  5. I gave up all of my friends when I moved from Houston to San Diego in 1993. I reconnected with them when I joined Facebook in 2011. Then, during political season in 2012, I realized why I had given up all those friendships and, thus, unfriended them on Facebook. Sometimes the past is best left behind.

    • Thank you for commenting. I’d never had a close female friend in my adult life until Catherine and I met. I worked in what was considered a male profession and I didn’t fit in when it came to ‘their wives.’ I wasn’t one of them anyway. From the moment I knew I had to move, and even before, Catherine and I had many long lunches discussing alternatives that would keep me from having to move. But, it simply wasn’t meant to be. What we did know was that we were meant to be best friends and no matter what, we’d always be a big part of the others life.
      I didn’t have to worry about giving up a lot of friends due to the nature of my career. It doesn’t exactly lend itself to having people sending you Christmas cards. However, I’ve discovered a whole new side of the adult me. I love hanging out at a local bistro for long evenings of conversation and coffee, (those evenings are further apart now due to my husband’s illness). Another true friend I developed after we moved to this home eight years ago has since had to relocate, but I cannot imagine that I would ever walk out of her life or the other way around. And then, just last week, I had lunch with my best friend from first grade.
      I’ve never been a girl’s girl but I cherish the friendships I have in my life. We each make our choices and I elect never to travel alone if I have anything to say about it. Life is tough enough and sometimes it’s nice to have a hand to hold.

  6. Hello Sheri, i would like to discuss & refer u website for trading in penny stock. if u r interested in stock trading for long or short period of time. and having want to do some new things for short period of time with some small investment which will make u eligible to trade in soft corner. u can chose to invest in penny stock. and this website provide u more generic latest information. & i am waiting for ur upcoming blogs. Thanks

  7. Hello Sheri,
    I have been referred to your blog by one of friend who convince me to read your story. It’s really heart touching experiences. I love your story “THIS MOMENT IN TIME”. I wish I have a friend like Catherine.

  8. Hello Sheri
    We have read many heart touching stories in life. And one blog has written by u about some of ur good friends like catherine. From our childhood to our elder age we have friends, circumstances, consequences, tragedies, happenings, moments, enjoyments, it is real story of life and we all have to accept it & these are realities of every human life. You have spent a good time with Catherine and it was enjoyable, magical and remain in moment, dreams in whole of your life and u will never forget it. Your story is heart touching story. It show us that we are far but our hearts are very near like our body & soul and our body & shadow. Friendship is very important as we have liberty to chose it. You have taken care of ur friendship and family both with goodness. My eyes filled with tears and hope that u will come out with other heart touching moments of ur life.
    God Bless You & ur friend catherine

    • Thank you for your comments and for reading with me. Yes, my friendship with Catherine is so very special. We claim our time together as magical. I also know how blessed I am to have Catherine in my life. She and I talked (on the phone of course) about just how special our relationship is and that it also requires as much work as a good marriage. I will pass along your blessing to Catherine. She helped me develop this blog when she last visited.
      You mentioned other moments in my life. My series titled ‘The Fourth House’ of which this blog is one of them may be found in the index. Or, you may simply go back three blogs and that’s where they pick up again. An additional blog in this series will be posted this coming Monday. I also have several ‘Slice of Life’ blogs as well as my ‘Morti and Me’ blogs. Thank you so much for asking about my other blogs.
      I’m off to see what you’ve been up to lately on your blog.

  9. Hello Sheri,
    Thanks for linking my blog. I have reciprocate in same manner on My Blog’s homepage.

  10. atempleton says:

    Just catching up. How wonderful to have a friend like Catherine to support you when the storms come. I hope for more precious picnic basket times for you and Tom. I feel that they’re there somewhere below the surface, if they could just come out.

  11. JK Bevill - Lost Creek Publishing says:

    Thank you for all your likes. Have a good day Sheri.

  12. Olivia Casey says:

    Sheri, this is truly a very touching piece. I was practically in tears at the end. You are an inspirational person. Thank you so much for sharing. Best of luck with Tom , may you have many more magical, giggling moments to come. Stay strong!!

  13. robertsonwrites says:

    I enjoy how personable you can be, Sheri! I hope you and Tom had a great holiday. I do not think I took the time to wish you one! Sorry!

    • Robert – Yes, we had a lovely holiday and one I’ll remember long after the sites and sounds are packed away. One of the lovely things about not having a traditional Christmas, I haven’t felt rushed to put anything away. We continue to watch movies from the picnic basket and listen to music that we’ve always loved. This holiday I learned that every day is a holiday to be celebrated when you are with the one you love and you are both able to enjoy the time together.

  14. Sheri, thank you for such a personal post and allowing us a peek into your heart! I’m going to tell you that this is the first post, to bring tears to my eyes. As you very well know, my family went thru a horrific time in 2008. We lost three family members in a matter of three months to cancer. My mother & father would have been married fifty years. I read your post to my mother & she cried as well savoring every word you wrote. There’s so much about this post that brings joy to my heart. More than one relationship makes it unique & a treasure. The relationship of friends who’ve kept the friendship going, strong, able to endure distance & time and anything else life can throw at them as the bonds of that friendship are real! And your husband & you, in the garden. Picnic baskets kept close, dancing against the wildflowers, music & two people that love each other…a true love! A wife that can look past life’s cruel slap & see the eyes of the man she married & the love that’s never left! Thank you Sheri, as this real life love story is far better than any romance book I’ve read in a very long time & has renewed my spirit & my mothers as well! 🙂

  15. I always picture you at a desk or beautiful winged chair, a soft pillow beside and a favorite warm sweater as you rest your head back and your thoughts backwards into your wanderings and wondering about Life and Tom; the way things were… I see Tom flying off into Africa’s horizons and you, reading until he returns from his horizons and, things may never be as cheery. Oh, but what beautiful music you’ve made and still write ! LOVE is eclipsing — isn’t it? The dark times are what crown us with glory, never forget that sweet friend ~ Faithfully Debbie

    • Debbie – I read your comment aloud to Tom and with tears flowing freely, he said, “please tell your friend Debbie that she’s painted a vivid picture for me to hold onto into my mind and my heart.” He also asked me to convey that he hasn’t given up on life. I honestly believe my blogging has lifted him up over and over. You know I’ve often used your readings to share with Tom. When he’s feeling up to a discussion, then we do so. Other times, he might ask for a cup of tea or a soda with lots and lots of ice. I’m delighted to share with you that he seems to be getting a little stronger each week. I can hardly wait to get my new computer back and then I can e-mail to my hearts content. My IT guy is saying I’ll possibly have it my the middle of the week.
      How are you now that the holidays have passed? You’ll never know how often I think of you and hope you are doing well and pain free. How I wish I could share a cup of tea or coffee with you. I have the feeling that it would take many cups and we still wouldn’t run out of topics to explore.
      Thank you for your sweet image of me. I’ll admit there’s been many a day when I’ve wanted nothing more than to curl up with my favorite throw, Prissy my shih Tzu jumps into my lap and settles into the warm covering. She’s so relaxed I have to check from time to time that she’s still breathing.
      When we lived in NC, I could look out into my acre plus Elizabethan Era flower garden. Everyone told me that having roses around the edge of the garden wouldn’t do well, but they were oh so beautiful.
      Once my own computer is up and running, trust me, I’ll have an e-mail up and running to you my precious friend.

      With love and prayers winging you way my dear friend.

  16. Dilip says:

    Very touching and deeply meaningful!
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Dilip, Thank you for stopping by and reading with me. I appreciate your words of support more than you’ll ever know.
      How are your studies going? I so remember the days of juggling a job, taking care of a family and then going to school at night in order to get my post graduate degree and then my doctorate. I salute you in your interest of pursing and dedication the furthering of your education. Of if you aren’t following they are a group of young men posting about men’s lives in general. They are sometimes philosophical, more often than not whatever they talk about they are factual (their research is on target) and they are attempting to engage a ‘learned audience’ to participate in discussions. I don’t normally do such things as push a blog but these guys are talented (In my opinion, of course) and I’m often moved by what they are discussing. Frankly, I do skip over the blog when they are talking about models and that type of thing but for the most part, I enjoy their blogs. Once again, Dilip, thank you for being a royal reader.

      • Dilip says:

        Yes Sheri you have seen and experienced some of the realities of Life. I am inspired by you and by your kindness in sharing your thoughts with us. One really feels fulfilled reading your writings.
        I will surely have a look at the blog “The American Male’ to draw some value from it.
        Thank you and with kind regards.

  17. Adam Hughes says:

    Friendship is so very important,and never more so,than when one loses a loved one. Your piece touched me deeply/ I thank you for your honesty in this post and I am so glad I read it. Thank you Sheri

  18. Gallivanta says:

    These friendships we have had for decades, since before we met our life’s partner, are a privilege and so treasured. I am looking forward to the visit of one such friend in March this year. We haven’t seen each other for more than a decade. Glad your picnic basket is still out 🙂

    • Gallivanta, March will be a fun month indeed. A gleeful day occurred for me yesterday when my best friend from first grade called and said she would be close to where we live and would I be available for lunch or something. Needless to say, I was thrilled with her request.
      With a promise that she and her husband would be back in the spring, it certainly gives me something positive to rejoice about.
      The biggest thrill of all was when I asked Tom if he felt up to being out of the house for a couple hours if it didn’t involve a lot of exertion and he really did a good job. Of course I don’t expect him to get out of bed today, so there’s always a trade-off. I was so afraid he was falling back into a dark and extremely ugly depression.
      Aren’t friends wonderful?

  19. Sheri, you share from the depths of your heart better than anyone else I know. Thank you for that.

    BTW, I replied to your comment on my blog from last Friday with the links for the conference here and the event in Texarkana. Didn’t have your email address to send them directly.

    • David, Thank you. I wish everyone in the physical world could be just half as kind and understanding as the friends I’ve made since I started blogging.
      Can’t remember if I told you or not but I’m hampered with the loss of my computer but I will catch up some day.
      If you ever need to send me anything – my e-mail address is at the top of my blog under ‘contact.’ However, some days I spend more time on the blog than I do reading e-mail.

  20. Skye says:

    I am so blessed by this post. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. It pleases me so that you have this special relationship in your life. We all could use a friendship like what you share. Thank you, again!!! 🙂

    • Skye – Catherine and I have occasionally talked that it takes as much work to be good friends as it does to have a good marriage. Friendship requires tending too daily and so many individuals aren’t willing to invest that type of energy. However, the rewards can never be measured. I know that no matter what time of day or night, all I have to do is pick up the telephone and Catherine is available for me. Of course, availability is always a two-way street.

  21. My eyes watered at this post, Sheri. Thanks so much for sharing so openly with us both your internal struggles and your ability to find joy even during the hard times. You are an inspiration to many, including myself. I admire your ability to stand stalwart even as the hardships of life batter you. It’s amazing how true friendships have a way of recalibrating our compasses and reminding us of what’s important and why we press forward.

    • Hello, Kitt. It’s nice to see you again and I like seeing your face! My mother and my favorite aunt (by marriage) agreed when they were little girls (as in 1st grade) that they were going to marry brothers when they grew up and that way they would always be together. Little did they know that WWII and the Great Depression would come along. However, they held steady to their promise and they married brothers. My dad and uncle were ever so close and my mother and aunt were nearly inseparable. I never remember any of them fighting but they must have, don’t you think? They went everywhere together, even vacations. My mother was never the same after my aunt passed away. It was the hardest time I ever witnessed my mother go through.
      Thanks for stopping in and reading with me.

  22. ksbeth says:

    oh, one should never put the picnic basket away i think. hope and possibilities are endless. how wonderful that you have had this beautiful friendship in your life. when things are stormy on one front, there is always another to look towards, and one to remember, knowing that life is full of ebbs and tides. you are brave and you are resilient and you are loving and you are wise.

  23. À touching story. Your friendship with both Catherine and Tom are special. It is good to hear that you know this and don’t take it for granted. So many people pass through our lives and we never know when someone will be gone but we still look forward to the future together and that is beautiful.

    • Because I worked for the Department of Defense for 20 years, I was used to moving all the time. For years I never allowed anyone to get close. My reasoning was that if I was a one woman island, then I wouldn’t have to say good-bye when it was time to leave. However, as I moved up in rank, not only did I add additional members to my team but they became family. Then, for the first time ever, I allowed myself to get involved in the local community of Fort Ord and Monterey. We honestly thought we’d never have to leave there and I allowed myself to live freely. It was a real test when I transferred to DC after living on the central coast of California.

  24. fictionfitz says:

    Sad, moving, wonderful; a joining together of education and life producing wisdom for us all.

  25. gpcox says:

    Friendships such as you and Catherine are so rare and precious. A relationship that spans time and distance – just as yours (in other ways) exists with Tom.

    • Hi, G.P., I so agree. Catherine and I thought we’d always live on the central coast of California and when I had to transfer away from there I was sure God had dropped me into the pits of hell in DC. When I go over my journals from those 5 years I wonder how we ever made it out alive. From time-to-time I still think I hear gun fire as if were still driving 13th street to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Sometimes I took the metro, sometimes we drove the beltway and others we cut through the center of DC. It was a rude awakening after the sleepy environment of Monterey/Carmel.

  26. M. Zane McClellan says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Sheri. It reminds me how magical friendship is, both with the love of our life, and with that one special friend some of us are fortunate enough to have in our life. Best of everything in 2014!

  27. Friendships such as yours and Catherine’s are such a bonus in life. Throughout your post I was reminded of this, “To have a good friend you must be a good friend” and it is obvious you both lived up to that. Whenever I read your words about the life you and Tom share, I feel a strong sense of hope … an essential element in making every day count. You are an inspiration and a role model, Sheri.

    • Patricia, I haven’t the words to convey the love my best friend Catherine has shown me from the first day we met. We’ve laughed together, cried together and had tons of giggles as if we were teenage girls. She’s seen me through some of the darkest days of my life (and they all occurred before I met Tom). We thought we were invincible in our early thirties while we worked more hours than there were on a clock and still went to university at night and found time to go dancing. Thanks for reading with me. I hope to get back on schedule sometime in the near future. My computer crashed a couple days before Christmas and I’m limping along. For example, I dumped all of my photos before I posted the blog and that was after I’d already dumped the entire blog once.

  28. Elaine says:

    I pray there are many more times of giggling and reliving that blind date. Hugs to you

    • Hello, Elaine. I do hope you are having a smashing new year. I’m happy to report we’ve had occasion for more giggles since the new year started. Matter of fact, we were away from home today and really had a good time even though we were doing more or less routine things. We had one of those rare days when Tom had energy and he wanted to get out and go and that’s exactly what we did. I hope your new year is starting out just the way you want.

  29. Catherine has been your rock, Sheri. We all need someone like your Catherine and it’s a blessing you had her. Glad to hear the holidays 2013 brought you some joy.

    I don’t recall if I’ve wished you the best of the season. I wish you and Tom a wonderful year in 2014.

    • Hi, Tess – and the best to you. Yes, Catherine is a jewel. We talk every other day or so and usually get in a couple of good laughs. Tom also enjoys talking with Catherine and when she visits, he always tells me she can stay as long as she wants. Both Tom and Catherine’s husband continue to be baffled about how we can find so much to talk about. But, I’ve known Catherine longer than I’ve known Tom. I’d never had a real long-term female friend until Catherine and she’s made it a wonderful continuing journey for me.
      I’m still without my favorite electronics – I decided to have the brains to my PC built to my specifications instead of ordering from the factory. My IT guys know exactly how I use a system and I’m anxious to get my hands on it. I loved your blog about your wrestles with your new technology.

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