Mental Health – You Can’t Go Home Again
The Fourth House
By – Sheri de Grom


Logo NamiI vividly remember a conversation I had with Tom’s father in 2001. I wrote about it in my journal.

Tom and I visited his parents yearly. Each visit was difficult at best but the toll they took on Tom was nothing short of one more slice into his already damaged psyche. Looking back, it’s relatively easy to diagnose Sid,Tom’s father, with any number of unacknowledged disorders.

Sid spent considerable time berating Tom and I never once heard him say, “Son, I’m proud of your accomplishments.”

Tom’s parents held to their idea of all artisans’ being lazy and good for nothing. Their opinion was if you didn’t wear a coat and tie every day, you weren’t gainfully employed.  Truth be known, Tom made far more money the years he worked within his given specialties than at any other time. Compared to any business professional, his gifts surpassed his peers.

Sid and I talked little over the years and one conversation ended when I told him, “You are the meanest man I’ve ever met.”

Sid’s response to my observation, “And I’m damned proud of it.”

Tom and I traveled to his parents for a family reunion. A migraine had settled in for me and nothing in my arsenal helped.  When it was time for Tom and his mother to leave for the reunion, I stayed at home with Tom’s dad.

God works in mysterious ways, and the conversation I had with Tom’s father that night will always represent a miracle to me.

The house was dark. Tom’s father had been bedridden for years (his choice) and it was only a matter of time before Tom’s mother could no longer care for him at home. I was in the adjoining bedroom to Tom’s father and after Tom and his mother had been gone from the house for about thirty minutes, Sid quietly asked, “Are you awake?” I ignored him. I did not want anything to do with his man who had carelessly and thoughtlessly emotionally battered Tom all his life. His cruelty haunted Tom.

Sid, a little louder this time, “Are you awake?” I faced my pillow and cried silently.

The third time Sid called even louder, “Sheri, are you awake?”

Sid had never used my name, not once, in the almost ten years Tom and I had been married.

Through my own pain, I recognized the quiet desperation in his voice. I replied, “Yes, Sid, I’m awake.”

Getting out of bed and reaching for my robe, I walked to Sid’s bedroom and said, “Is there anything I can get for you?”

“Yes, I would like to talk with you.” I was astonished and slipping my body down the doorjamb of the bedroom door, not far from his bed. I wondered how I would be capable of talking gently with this man who was obviously in emotional pain, yet had caused so much anguish to the man I loved. Sid thanked me for sitting down and then he said, “Can you tell me about my boy?” I was chocked with emotions. I’d never imagined I’d hear those words from this man.

For the following hour and a half, I told Sid about the son he had never known. I told him about what a kind, compassionate, brilliant, creative, and accomplished son he had. I told him of Tom’s many achievements and successes. I told him about Tom building a scale model of the Eiffel Tower from toothpicks during his sophomore year of high school. I added what a triumph it had been when he became an Eagle Scout, spoke of his many scholastic honors, both undergraduate and postgraduate, his many military awards and accolades, his daily living skills and his remarkable talents as an artisan. I enlightened Sid that Tom was a marvelous father and husband.

Sid admitted, “I wanted to attend his graduations; I wanted to say that’s a good job son; I wanted to say, welcome home; but I never knew how.”

Finally, we talked of death and what it meant for each of us. I believe Sid knew death was close, and he would never have the opportunity to tell his son all the things he was proud of. Additionally, he did not know how to be a father; he’d never felt he fit in with Tom’s mother’s family in North Carolina, and sadly, he was emotionally and physically absent throughout the entire life of his son, his only child.

A few minutes later Sid slipped into what seemed to be the most peaceful sleep I’ve ever witnessed. It had nothing to do with me; it was all about the fact that he finally knew more about the son he’d never had the courage to ask about. I’m convinced that despite his lack of parental knowledge and inability to display simple acts of kindness, knowing of Tom’s many achievements provided Sid peace and happiness.

Does my conversation with Sid forgive him for treating Tom the way he did? My opinion is that it certainly does not. Tom has carried the cumbersome baggage of his father’s neglect and cruelty with him all his life until his therapist gave him an assignment to write an eviction notice for his father to vacate his mind. This occurred when Tom was eighteen years into therapy.

Tom wrote in memorandum format: “To S.J. de Grom, From: The mind of T.L. de Grom.”  The text reads, “It seems that for the last 50 or so years that you have taken up space in my life and in my mind. Since your death almost 8 years ago you have taken residence in my mind and continue to judge my every effort and cloud almost every thought. I have determined these actions not to be in my self-interests and detrimental to my well-being. I therefore am sending this eviction notice. For all of the negative thoughts and self-talk that you have inspired and the total lack of positive input. I find that your time here can no longer be tolerated. You are to vacate my mind and take with you all of your judgments and other baggage and leave by Friday, February 28, 2003. No extensions will be given and the findings are absolute. You must be out by Friday.” The memorandum was signed, “Tommy L. de Grom. Owner of his mind.”

I’d thought it was important that we visit Tom’s parents at least yearly. Now, looking back on my persistence, I wonder why I was unable to understand that Tom couldn’t visit his parents’ home anymore. After each of our annual trips, we’d return home and Tom would become suicidal and then become hospitalized. Once I recognized the horrible pattern the trips home initiated for Tom, I no longer insisted on visits to his parents.

Multiple truths exist in Thomas Wolfe’s famous quote, “You can’t go home again.” I’ve learned the words can be interpreted and redirected in many different ways and often changed during an individual’s lifetime.


Our Lives Disappeared With Bipolar Disorder

Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy – Barbaric Torture

for the Patient and the Family

The Aftermath of 55 Years of Memory Loss

The Wrongs of Psychiatric Care – Part 1 of 2

The Wrongs of Psychiatric Care – Part 2 of 2

Medical Care Discrimination – Physical vs. Mental

Mental Health Care – Who Needs It? – Part 1 of 3

Mental Health Care – Who Needs It? – Part 2 of 3

Mental Health Care – Who Needs It – Part 3 of 3

One is a Lonely Number

Mental Health and Anniversary Trigger Dates

Mental Health and Christmas Memories

Mental Health – This Moment in Time

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. mihrank says:

    wow, I enjoyed reading over article, I felt it was very valuable and powerful! I appreciate your sharing it. Have a wonderful Sunday!


  2. Wow. Your husband’s father reminds me of my late grandfather. My dad had bi-polar disorder and I always wondered if his dad had encouraged his relapses. There was a soft side to my grandfather; but it was rarely revealed. Sheri, you are such a wonderful woman and wife.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Wendy – If your grandfather caused your father’s relapses, I’d have to reach really deep to find forgiveness. One of my grandfathers walked gently upon the earth and left it a better place than when he entered. However, I can’t say that about my maternal grandfather. Bipolar disorder is a ruthless disease and strikes anyone in it’s wake. Advances in medicine have been made but not nearly enough. Thank you for stopping by and reading with me.

  3. Lizzi Newton says:

    How heart-breaking! I had similar experiences with my mother who never saw anything I did as “right”. My abusive ex-husband continued the pattern. In spite of multiple successes I still question myself, still feel as though I always come up short. It doesn’t overwhelm me as much as it did in the past but the feeling of inadequacy lives under the surface in spite of my current husband and grown children who encourage me. My experiences have also given me a deep awareness of how careful we must be with our words. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. My life overlapped with my father’s life for 40 years, but his bipolar disorder prevented any normalcy in our house. For years I said that I didn’t have one good memory of time spent with my dad–not 5 minutes (a sentiment that at least one of my brothers agreed with). Recently, though, a blogger featured the Christmas window displays in a large department store, and I remembered that, when we were very young, our dad would drive us to the nearby big city to see the animated Christmas displays in the windows of the largest department store there. That’s it–the one good memory in those 40 years. My dad has been gone for 15 years, but I’m still affected by his negative comments.

    • John – I don’t think we ever forget those emotional abuses that are hurled at us over and over. How can a child or adolescent help but believe what their parent is telling them. Tom has tried so hard to prove that he’s not like his father that he’s gone overboard in the opposite direction with his own daughters. He played the role of father, mother, best friend, and on and on. It’s difficult to parent a child while wearing a hat for 5 or 6 other people.

      • I should add that there was no diagnosis for B.D. until the last 15 years of my father’s life. Even when diagnosed, though, he didn’t cooperate by taking the medication.

        • Yes, and bipolar disorder is still misdiagnosed often today. It was three years before Tom was diagnosed correctly. In the meantime he was diagnosed as Single Episode Clinical Depression. Of course, the literature tells us the heavy meds given for depression is one of the worst ways to treat a bipolar patient.
          Tom has been medically compliant for the most part. It’s only been since he’s been so sick this last big episode that if I don’t hand him all of his medications, he doesn’t take them.
          I consider my luckiest break that Tom doesn’t self-medicate with alcohol or illegal substances.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    Although I am following you, I have somehow missed your latest posts. How terrible to have such a toxic home. Yet, in spite of it all, Tom overcame that horror and became a creator of great beauty. Remindsme of the story I have been reading of the Swedish artist Carl Larsson.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Gallivanta. One of the reasons I’m leaving 2 weeks or more between my Fourth House series is to allow followers time to read and comment if they wish before the next post goes up. With my hard drive being down since 2 days before Christmas, I’m having a hard time trying to catch up.
      I do hope you are doing well. Sheri

      • Gallivanta says:

        You tackle difficult subjects so it is nice that we have time to reflect and think about your posts. We are enjoying another lovely day here.

        • Gallivanta – You are one of my special blogging friends that planted the seed for me to share the Christmas picnic basket with Tom. I can not begin to tell you how much joy that simple idea has brought forth. We’ve had 3 picnics since Christmas and the basket is never properly put away. It always contains music, movies, board games, books and anything else I can think of that Tom and I enjoy sharing together.
          It’s great you are having another nice day there. We are having more ice but we don’t have to go out this week. You’ll find us staying in and I’m trying to do some catching up due to my hard drive crashing 2 days before Christmas. I’m just now beginning to get my momentum back. Sheri

          • Gallivanta says:

            How wonderful that your picnic basket is bringing so much joy. Do you remember the movie Mary Poppins? And Mary’s bag which seems to hold everything that is needed ? I am imagining that your picnic basket is bottomless like that.

  6. spunknbrains says:

    The unfolding of your life story with Tom continues to amaze me. I’m always overwhelmed with the emotions that I feel when I read them, and yet filled with a peace that surpasses even my own understanding.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to read with me. I’m blessed to have such a loyal follower and thought provoking comments. I’d planned to post again this week but time simply flew past and I’m trying to read blogs and staying caught up with my own. It’s interesting to me that you are overwhelmed with emotions when you read my blogs for that’s exactly how I feel when I stare at the keyboard before I start writing. The emotions seem so overwhelming I wonder how I’ll be able to put anything to writing without sounding like a drama queen. When I’m coming near the close of a post and have read through it a few times before touching the publish key, I have a sense that somehow, somewhere, someone will understand what I’ve written. Thank you for reading with me.

      • spunknbrains says:

        I always look forward to coming to read your stores.. and you have no worries of sounding like a drama queen!

        Be continually blessed. 🙂

  7. robertsonwrites says:

    The conversation with Tom’s father is overwhelmingly powerful that grasps something at all of us, and perhaps, makes some of us wonder at our own father’s way in connecting with us. Wishing you the best.

    • Robert: I sincerely appreciate your comment, not just as a blogging friend but your experience and knowledge base in the world of your work. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with Tom’s father that night so long ago and I’m happy I wrote about it in my journal almost immediately after it happened. I wanted accurate information to pass along to Tom when the time was right. Thanks again for stopping by. I know how precious every moment of your time is.

      • robertsonwrites says:

        I think time is likely precious for us all. By no means could it ever be wasted on valuable connection with others. I appreciate your thoughtfulness for my profession. I generally try to keep my professional commentary from the blogging community, as it is generally not best practice, especially if an individual is already receiving guidance or direction from another helping professional.

        • I understand completely about keeping your professional life apart from your blogging life. However, coming from an individual (such as myself) with 27 years of therapy and other mental health care behind me, including many hours at the master’s level studying psycho-social criminal behavior, I appreciate your comments all the more. However, for you, I will definitely do my best to keep the professional side out of our discussions. I’d never survived this life without the help of so many professionals along the way and continuing today.
          One of these days, I’ll write a blog about a few professionals I met along the way that made a profound difference in my life. Tom and I both have modern day professional miracles in our lives today.

          • robertsonwrites says:

            No worries, Sheri! You can always e-mail me at if you would like to talk more about that mental health care. I just do not want to post information for people to apply to themselves that might be contradictory to other advice that they are receiving in regards to treatment. Hope you have an excellent evening!

  8. chris13jkt says:

    Ah Sheri, how I feel so sad to know about Tom’s cause of illness. On the other hand, it also worries me whether my way to raise my children going well not only to my side but to their side as well. Anyway, thanks for sharing this story here. It makes me know you and Tom better.

    • Hi Chris – Thanks for stopping by. Tom’s primary diagnosis is bipolar disorder and it is further aggravated by his childhood abuse.
      Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance of the brain and if his disease hadn’t set on late in life (40 is considered old for the onset) then perhaps the abuse he sustained wouldn’t have done as much damage. With that being said, there’s no excuse for abusing a child in any sense of the word (IMO).

  9. dear Sheri,
    I felt the pain throughout this blog entry….my God…I have tears for Tom…tears for you…but, I find it difficult to have tears for his Dad, yet, I suppose he was never parented correctly either. Then I think of my own situation—I tried to hard to be a good parent—yet, one of my daughters has chosen a very horrible path to live…and I question, “Where did I go wrong?” I am crying for her now…for myself…for the precious grandchildren….I am so heart-broken…that is WHY I cannot write on my blog…it would be all tears…

    • Jane – Tears are okay. Often they are a major part of what we have to do in order to heal ourselves.
      I also have no tears for Tom’s father and never have. I believe respect comes before anything else and I don’t have an ounce of respect of ounce for any part of the man that was Tom’s father.
      It’s also not your fault your daughter is electing to live the life she’s living. We do our best to raise children but once they leave home and make their own decisions, there’s only so much we can help them with the consequences.
      I know how much you love your darling grandchildren and I’d think that would be the hardest part of all. Hugs coming your way.

  10. Wow. What a post. I didn’t realize about Tom’s childhood issues nor his father. My dad wasn’t good at parenting either. I’m still finding out more about how childhood reactions follow us through into our adult years. Your posts help.


    On Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 3:04 PM, Sheri de Grom

    • Hi, Mary: It’s good to see you here. Are your feet as cold as mine? For whatever reason, my feet have been cold all day.
      Yes, Tom’s childhood was awful. Like many with childhood drama, it’s one of those damaging injuries we do our best to hide from others. It also comes with so much shame and it happens at a time in our life when we are totally dependent on others to help us.
      I’m happy my posts help but if I had a magic wand, I’d wave it and we’d all do whatever we wanted with the parts of our lives that we wanted to toss away.

  11. Dilip says:

    We need to empower ourselves with spiritual strength and positive thoughts. This may help to preempt mental and emotional breakdowns which may occur due to stress and pressures in life.
    Thank you and regards.

    • Hello, Dilip: I believe a strong spiritual alignment and positive thoughts help many adults. However, when it is a child being abused, it’s unlikely they are hearing positive thoughts from those that matter the most. Spiritual strength is also often hard to come by. We often hear, “Why should I trust God? Look what he allowed to happen to me when I was helpless.” It’s hard to believe good honestly exists if the only thing in your life is bad. In Tom’s case, he left home as early as he could to get away from the environment he knew was destroying him. When the chemical imbalance of bipolar disorder struck, he was defenseless.

  12. Patty B says:

    I too was moved to tears and thought of the young boy your Tom was – I cannot even imagine the pain he must have felt all those years. I admire both of you and the stand you are taking to educate and encourage others. God bless both of you – I can see where you are both a blessing to each other.

    • Hello, Patty: I hope you aren’t covered to your ears in snow.
      Thank you for stopping in to read with me. I always appreciate your comments and the encouragement to keep on going, no matter what.
      So many children are emotionally battered every day and since it’s one of those invisible injuries, it goes unnoticed until something really dreadful happens. I believe many children are so abused in their home environment that they eventually turn to guns and mass shootings. That’s one thing they believe they can control. They have no control at home and often go unnoticed and their minds are thinking, “I can do something that will get me noticed.” Unfortunately the events of gun violence is escalating and the steps we need to have taken will never happen. I know that sounds defeatist but I battled that very issue for many years in DC and hit brick walls over and over.
      Again, thanks for reading with me and stay warm.

      • Patty B says:

        I agree with you even to the point that these events are escalating. There is no easy answer but it is people like you that keep us informed that will one day make it possible to help these children.
        Yes, I am keeping warm. Been sick with a cold but on the road to recovery. 😉
        Blessings ~

  13. Denise Hisey says:

    Sheri, Tom’s dad sounds all too familiar to me. It was with bittersweetness to read of your conversation with him. I ached for my dad to want to know me, and to apologize for how he treated me. It was no doubt a gift to Tom, yet maybe laced with mixed emotions.
    Visits with my parents were agonizing, too, and this is why I finally had to estrange myself. It was hard for my husband and kids to understand, too.
    Your posts parallel my journey in many ways.

    • Denise: Thanks for stopping by to read with me. You are so right about my conversation with Toms father’s conversation with me being bittersweet and filled with emotion for both of us. I kept wanting to tell Sid, why can’t you tell Tom what you are telling me. One word of kindness from his father would have been more healing than anything else I can think of.
      You hit on a common theme for us. Tom’s daughters, cousins, and on and on simply refused to believe his parents were the way Tom described them. Needless to say, none of them wanted to hear from me. I’d witnessed the trauma over and over.
      I can so relate to your wanting your father to apologize for how he treated you. I waited 20+ years of my adult life for that to happen and it never did. Thankfully I’ve had enough therapy to have moved on from that part of my life but I also know how that abuse is as damaging as being knocked around. I always appreciate your comments.

  14. matts1970 says:

    Your story reminds me of my relationship with my Dad
    although perhaps not AS CRUEL but I feel a lot of my issues are because of him
    When I lost my Mom to cancer in 2002, I felt I lost my lifeline. I didn’t even except my Dad’s moment of comfort at the funeral because I felt it may be used against me.
    Regardless, wonderful well put post

    • Hello and thank you for your comment. It’s so unfortunate that we as grown children still have ‘issues’ or extra burdens as a result of treatment we received as children. My lifeline was my father and after my mother passed, I had the opportunity to really get to know him as the man he always was and to have him for a wonderful friend and daughter. I consider it as one of the greatest gifts of all time. My issues were always with my Mom and her sister (I refuse to acknowledge her as my aunt). I was going to wait and comment on your contribution to this post after it appeared on the primary page but it hasn’t moved there yet and I didn’t want you to think I didn’t appreciate your comment. I always do.

  15. The “Home” Sheri is talking about is mine, and the “Tom” is me. Growing up in a house without love is especially hard for an only child. The only thing that brought me hope was Sheri and a rancher from Kansas that sat tall in the saddle, Loyd her father. He treated me in a way that my real father never did and I still consider Loyd to have been more than a father-in-law to me but a father. I worked for years to get my father’s harsh words from ruling my life (the first thing he said to me after being away from home in Germany was “G** D*** boy you are fat” I was good enough for the Army but not for him) now am trying never to forget the role model that was Loyd Lawrence.
    Tom de Grom

    • Dear Tom: How could I possibly read the above message from you and not cry for the father you never had and the fact that my dad, my very own John Wayne, showered you with love and appreciation. Dad’s love for you was never about your willingness for us to take care of him financially after he lost so much in 2000. You lovingly invited dad into our home time and time again and yes, we often did without some of the things our peer group enjoyed because we elected to make life easier for a man we both loved. When dad wasn’t with us, he had stories to tell his friends about the places he’d been and the exciting things he’d been able to do. You also saw things that I didn’t have a clue about. You knew how much dad loved working in his shop after he was no longer on the ranch and you provided the best equipment possible for him to work with. Dad was distraught that he’d no longer have a place to keep his old horse, Cowboy and we were able to find a house to buy, on a corner lot, that had an empty lot on one side (perfect for Cowboy) and a lot on the other side with a rental house. Cowboy probably had the best retirement plan in the world. We tried to keep him in the country where he’d be well taken care of but he’d keep jumping the fence and going home to dad. Tom, I’ll never be able to thank you for loving my father unconditionally, the same as myself. Of course, Dad did say, when he walked me down the aisle to become your wife, “It may have taken me 40 years but I finally got it right.” Tom, I’ll always remember Dad’s sense of pride on our wedding day. He knew his youngest child and only daughter was finally coming home to a man that loved her as much as he did.
      Loving you more today than yesterday,

  16. russtowne says:

    Thank you for sharing this powerful and touching post. I feel for everyone involved. What a hellish existence Tom’s father must have led to be so cruel to his son. I’m glad Tom’s father cried out to you in the night and that you courageously answered his call. He was finally able to convey to his son through you things that he desperately wanted to say but didn’t know how. You gave both men a great gift. I suspect it took a great deal of courage–most likely borne of desperation–for Tom’s father to reach out to you after he’d treated you both so badly for so long. He took an emotional risk that he may never have been able to take make in his entire life to that point. It speaks volumes to me about you that of all the people in his life he chose you to convey what he so desperately needed to say to Tom, and to learn the things he’d longed to hear about his son that would finally give to a sad, guilt-ridden, and lonely old father a measure of peace.

    • Russ: Thank you for reading with me and leaving such a well thought out comment. I’d always been the buffer between Tom and his father each time we went home to visit his parents but the existing scars Tom already had were simply cut deeper each time we visited. Tom was already a world class artisan with works in museums around the world and highly sought out for one of a kind jewelry designs and stained glass cathedral windows and on and on. His blown glass adorned lobbies of five-star hotels. Yet, his father had the ability to put him in the hospital for weeks and even months at a time. Tom works on a much smaller scale now but his client base from 20+ years ago continue to call and ask for one of a kind items in any number of mediums.
      After Tom’s father passed, I’d hoped his mother would open up some but perhaps she’d been in the same behavior mold for too long. As far as I know, she went to her grave without knowing what a wonderful and talented man her son was and continues to be.

  17. Mae Clair says:

    Sheri. That post moved me to tears. As Elyse said – – Wow. Just Wow.

    • Hi, Mae: It’s good to see you again. I finally have a new computer so if we get along, I hope to do a lot of catching up.
      I looked at my journal entry regarding this post so many times considering what I would do with it and how I would handle it. There was only one way I could do a blog and that was to tell the truth. Thank you so much for continuing to read with me. And, may I take just a moment to tell you how proud I am of all your writing successes. You are indeed an author on the move and I’ll be able to say, I knew you when!

      • Mae Clair says:

        You’re so sweet, Sheri. Your friendship and support has been a blessing in my life.

        Your post about Tom and his father and the conversation with a man who realized his mistakes too late was powerful and heartfelt. Definitely something many can learn from, even those who have been blessed with loving relationships.

  18. Reblogged this on stuff i tell my sister and commented:
    A heart felt story from my friend, Sheri.

  19. Sheri ~ Hearts to you for sharing these truths in the special way that you do. Sadly, this is a story too many can relate to and that many need to hear! Bless you ♥ paula

    • Hello, Elyse. Thanks so much for continuing to read with me. It’s individuals such as yourself that leave a comment that tell me I should continue to tell the truth of our story. I so want others to know they too can come to understand the triggers that set up some of the most devastating of issues for the one they love with bipolar disorder. It is indeed a continuing journey.

      • Elyse says:

        I think it’s an important story. There are bits and pieces that are true in my life — but I think that there are people out there who need to know that they are not alone. Seriously. So keep telling. (I also know how therapeutic the telling is!)

  20. No wonder Tom was depressed and suicidal still the eviction notice shows his internal strength was so intense. I love the way the notice was written! I have experienced many people like Tom’s father who can drain your energy and suck you dry. They are the people who make your mood take a nosedive, who you feel sick or tired around.

    Thanks for sharing Tom’s story again!

    • Hi, I’m not sure why my responses on my notification page don’t move over to comments but for some reason there seems to be a hang-up. I do want to thank you for reading with me and commenting. Were you able to open any of the links I supplied at the bottom of the page.
      I finally accepted the idea that neither of Tom’s parents knew how to parent. He was born 15 years after they were married and by that time, they were both full-blown alcoholics. Evidently his mother stopped drinking when she discovered she was pregnant and started again after Tom was born.
      I’ve always believed the environment we were raised in had much to do with our adult personality and ability to cope. However, Tom has become successful in spite of his parents and his father’s continually battering.

  21. ksbeth says:

    wow. sheri what a powerful and life-changing conversation that was with tom’s father. it was kind of you to even be open to listen, yet tell him all he never knew about his own wonderful son. i also think that the eviction notice was a wonderful idea and i’m sure it was strongly symbolic for him. even though they relatives, some people are emotional vampires and toxic to be around. this is a choice you can make as an adult. hugs to both of you ) beth

    • Beth – Hello and how are you. Each time I see whirling snow and sub-zero temperatures I think of you and your devotion to your sport teams.
      You are right on when speaking of emotional vampires coming in the shape of those that we’re told are supposed to love and even more, we’re told we must love in return. I wanted Tom’s father to have a high-light of what he had missed by being absent from his son’s life. The fact that Tom’s father was missing from his life, his mother was also emotionally detached. I still remember the first time my parents met Tom and they greeted him with big open armed hugs without reservation – Tom loved visiting my parents and having them in our home. All the years Tom’s parents were alive, never once despite the many invitations, did they ever visit our home. I finally had to accept the fact that just maybe neither one of them knew how to be parents and that they were both emotionally bankrupt to start.

  22. After your conversation with Tom’s father, it’s a shame the truth was never shared from Father to son. But, Tom has made his peace. The eviction notice memo is brilliant.

    • Hello, Tess. I thought the therapist suggestion to have Tom write his father an eviction notice was a brilliant idea. Tom ‘sat on the assignment’ for weeks before tackling the work.
      Tom often said to my father, “You are more a father to me than the one that lived in the house all the years I was growing up.”
      My dad was a widower for 20+ years and usually spent a lot of time at our home. We’d fly him to wherever we were living at the time and he’d generally stay three weeks to a month. Dad loved to travel and he was game for most anything. We each made as much time as possible to be with Dad whenever he’d visit. We’d have great adventures both in the states and abroad.

      • I feel a little teary. Nice to hear your father filled in and so well for the missing link. He was a special man and it’s obvious how much your husband took this relationship to hear. Thank heavens and special people for miracles that count. . .

        • Tess – Thanks again for your comment. My father was a kind and loving man and Tom and I both miss him everyday. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 93 [he was buried on his 94th birthday] and it has taken both of us a long time to be able to talk about Dad without becoming teary. Tears run down my face as I type these words. Not only was Dad my father, but he was also a best friend. Many bad things happened to my dad in 2000 that were beyond both his control and mine. But, Tom said if it were up to him, nothing like that would ever happen to our dad again. [My brothers had treated my father shamefully]. Long story short, we took dad under our wing and I told him to think of it as his retirement fund for having insisted I have a college education the same as all of my brothers. [My mother was sure I didn’t need one and dad wouldn’t have it any other way].
          We had been doing a lot of things for dad long before 2000 but when we saw what was happening in 2000, we said enough is enough. Dad loved to visit our home and he loved to travel so we didn’t go to Kansas often and Tom and I were isolated for much that was going on there. Bottom line, it was ugly. From 2000 on we made sure that Dad had everything he needed and probably somethings he didn’t want–but he never asked for anything so we simply played the guessing game. We’d do it all over again in a heartbeat if afforded the opportunity.
          I finally have a new computer and it’s driving me crazy. I almost didn’t get my last post in. WP would not allow me to import my word document and I never did get the hang of importing the pictures. I’m on a steep learning curve and I don’t like it. Thank you for being such a wonderful cyber friend. Sheri

          • I only know one thing for sure, Sheri. Stories are meant to share and help heal anyone they can. I’m sorry your story has been difficult and sad. I wish you and your husband well. Why do awful things happen to good people? 😦

  23. I love the “eviction notice”. It shows that one’s internal strength can be so profound.

  24. Sheri, I am so happy to be back on the circuit again and happier yet to read your post. You write these with love, for your love and about what happens when that love is withheld from a child.
    It’s so important for your readers to know that they don’t have to carry the baggage of their past with them … that they can let go and find a better way. I also read that you can sit that person in a chair opposite you and tell them all the things you can never say.

    I have a good friend that goes to the cemetery each year on the anniversary of her mother’s death and yells at her tombstone. She also was an only child that her mother resented all her life.

    Thanks for more of yours and Tom’s story 🙂

    • Florence, Welcome back after your holiday break. I hope you were able to do many things you wanted and relax in general.
      You are so correct, I’ve read and heard stories of individuals that have had the assignment you mentioned. It’s my understanding that often to open up the channel, some therapist have the client start the conversation with ‘the individual in the chair’ while they are actually in a therapy session and then they continue on their own whenever the need appears again.

  25. gpcox says:

    PS. Did I ever give you Colonel Mike Grice’s site link? He has terrific links and advice for veterans, especially those making the transition.

  26. gpcox says:

    I will never understand people who behave as Tom’s father did. I know the psychological reasons for his actions, but how they get in that shape in the first place still befuddles me. I am proud of your handling of the situation and for Tom’s final eviction notice to his dad. Only good can come from that.

    • Hi, GP: Tom had told me not to expect a warm reception the first time I met his parents. They didn’t attend our wedding but I talked with his mother on the phone the morning of the day we married. His mother was always very nice to me but reserve at the same time.
      Tom had a wonderful relationship with his grandfather and often told me when he was a kid, he tried to model his behavior after his grandfather. The grandfather had immigrated to the US and was every bit the English gentlemen and Tom has many of the same traits I’ve heard about over the years.
      His grandmother arrived in the United States from Germany and from what cousins, etc. passed on to me, she had the temperament of a wild cat. I never had the pleasure of meeting either of them as they passed long before Tom and I met, but it does make me wonder what kind of childhood Tom’s father might have had. [I’m still not cutting his father any breaks].
      I believe Tom father’s personality was shaped around the belief of feeling less than. Toms mother’s family had money and Sid never felt he fit in. He turned to drinking and was a full blown alcoholic by the time Tom was born (15 years after his parents married). He drank on the weekends and sobered up and worked all week.
      Tom’s mother was also an alcoholic, sobered up when she found out she was pregnant with Tom and after Tom was born, went back to drinking.
      Can you imagine being married 15 years and his mother had given up on ever having a child of her own. I think she wanted to be a good mother and simply didn’t know how.
      Both of his parents sobered up when Tom was 16. Unfortunately they didn’t go to AA or receive counseling and lived the remainder of their lives as dry-drunks.

  27. cindy knoke says:

    As a lifelong therapist (it certainly seems this way!!! laughing….) I well realize that my job would not be in quite the demand it was, if families were not often the locus of serious emotional damage. People need to wake up to this fact and not press people to remain in contact with toxic relatives. Nurses seem to often press for reunions with dying relatives when someone is estranged. I support anyone’s right to remove themselves from toxic family dynamics if it is tearing them down. This can be a real step towards healing and strength.
    Your writing is so moving Sheri and I found myself getting emotionally drawn into Tom’s right to not visit and to get a divorce from his FOO. I am so glad he (and you) did!
    Tell Tom I admire him. Tell yourself this too. Because I truly do! Both of you~

    • Cindy, I know Tom’s parents and the remainder of his family of origin had a hard time understanding his illness. His ex-wife liked to say, “He was never sick a single day when he was married to me.” No one ever really ‘got it’ and after attempting several simplified explanations to Tom’s mother, I simply said the heck with it, it’s not worth the effort.
      We’ve had our share of run-ins with nursing staff telling us what was best for Tom. We’ve learned they haven’t a clue about what they are talking about and carry on with our lives in the healthiest way we can think of. As always, thank you for taking the time for reading with me.

  28. Sheri, I cannot tell you how wonderful your story is. I don’t mean wonderful in the sense that Tom was emotionally abused by his father. I mean that you shared it with us and it shows so much about Tom and you and your relationship with him. What a horrible way to grow up – with a man who put him down all his life when he should have been congratulating him on his successes. No wonder Tom was depressed and suicidal. Thank you for letting us get to know you and Tom better. It’s really quite impressive. And I love the way you tell your story.

    • Hi, Patti: It’s nice to see you again. I hope you are doing well.
      So many different events happen in an individual’s life before we even meet them and develop our own relationship. Thousands of individuals grow up emotionally battered and it becomes yet another invisible illness to the outside world. There was absolutely nothing Tom’s father could say to me that would change the way I felt about Tom.

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