Mental Health and Unconditional Love
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom

I wrote a blog titled, ‘Mental Health – You Can’t Go Home Again’ in January 2014.

It’s with love and thanksgiving when I read Tom’s comments on my blog. Tom doesn’t blog and he rarely comments on what I write verbally and normally I don’t know if he’s read my blog or not. He posted a comment on January 22, 2014 using my avatar and I want to acknowledge how much his comment meant to me.

Tom wrote: 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 I’m trying never to forget the role model that was Loyd Lawrence. Signed  –  Tom de Grom

Dad after shooting rapids with Tom on Umpquah River

Dad after shooting rapids with Tom on Umpquah River

On January 23, 2014, I responded to Tom on the same blog.

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 1999. You lovingly invited Dad into our home time and time again and yes, we often did without many 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.


Dad was distraught that he’d no longer have a place to keep his old cow pony, Smoke. You made it your number one mission to locate Dad a place to live wherein we’d own the property and he’d never have to worry about moving again. Not only that, but his house was in a town where he went to high school and already knew everyone, and probably best of all is that we bought the empty lot on one side of Dad’s house with an additional house for a rental. This gave Dad something else to be responsible for. Suddenly he found purpose again.

Smoke probably had the best retirement plan in the world. We all tried to keep him in the country where he’d be well taken care of and Dad could visit him every day whenever he wanted. But, Smoke didn’t like that arrangement and continued to jump the paddock fence at age 18 and traveled the eight miles into town to stand on Dad’s lawn most days.

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 you forty years, but you 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 going home to a man who loved her as much as he did.

Loving you more today than yesterday.  Sheri

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. I loved reading about your dad. My father didn’t start out like your dad, but he is learning to become a better man every day. My dad is a lot like the “John Wayne” side of your dad! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by to read my blog and comment. I always love revisiting this blog because I get to revisit Tom and my Dad all over again. I see Tom everyday and of course we have multiple pictures of Dad in our home, but that doesn’t make us miss him any less. Not a day goes by that we don’t mention Dad somewhere in something we talk about. I’m pleased your father is learning to become the man you and perhaps every daughter needs in her life. I know I would not have become the person I am if it hadn’t been for my very own ‘John Wayne.’

  2. Lynn Garrett says:

    The circle of life–where one falls short, thankfully in your case, another fills the gap. It’s a reminder to all of us that when you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Just hug someone. Small words carry a strong punch.

  3. Mrs De Grom,
    Notice the “Mrs.” because after that story I know that is the correct title. Ms. is politically correct but Mrs. is the actuality. I love the way you write. Period! I just love it! My question to myself as I read this is, “Am I the only one with tears in my eyes?” I think not! So emotionally touching and moving I will never forget this story. I know you know what I mean. There are those few movies or stories or happenings you will never forget and this is one of them for me….I think of the old Jewish saying, “One man can take care of 10 children! Then 10 children can take care of one man!” Except there is only you but you count just as much. What a lucky Father but then I realize that he raised you and in fact it is not luck! It is all he put in coming back ten fold… I just think your words are so exceptional and hope the world discovers the unbelievably intimate and personal moving account of this most lovely woman…Mrs. De Grom…
    I am honored to read your words for they show a love of language, life and all things….
    Thank you for me and all the generations 1000’s of years from now that get to read you… Wow!

    • Claudy – Thank you my friend for the wonderful comment. I wish you the same unconditional love. My father was an amazing man and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to be his daughter. My mother passed many years before my father, and through his devotion to her, I truly learned from the best. It never ceased to amaze me that no matter how many times the government moved me, Dad always wanted to meet my staff. He had a way of listening to each one and over the years they would individually call him, send birthday and Christmas cards and my secretary even visited him several times. Thanks again, Claudy. Your comments always warm my heart. It’s almost 4 a.m. and I have insomnia, again. It’s wonderful to have virtual friends such as yourself to talk with. Sheri

      • Yes, Claudy, you are indeed a clever one. Mr. de Grom made blown glass magic wands during the time he was blowing glass. I wish they would photograph better.
        Nice play on words. What are you doing awake this time of day?

        • I am excited to be moving for the 3rd time in 6 months… I usually hit the sack about now but so much fun ahead I just can’t miss it! Actually I just got off Twitter and went back I think about 4500 years on your Twitter site reTWEETING as far back as I think life goes…. I really like Twitter the best because I can count to 140 mostly…. I have a non healing broken back and will be in surgery next month and of course I am feeling it now and the movers meaning my disabled Brother in law will be here with a truck in 2 hrs.. Weeeeeee! Weeeeeeee! Wish you were here…. claudy

          • Claudy – Yikes – When do you have surgery. I haven’t checked Twitter in ages. I have a hard time trying to stay half-way current with the blog world. I keep saying I’m going to get back to Twitter but somehow it simply seems to escape me. Please send me an e-mail at and let me know when and where your surgery is. I want to know so that I can offer up prayers on your behalf. Do you have other family and friends to help you? Please provide me your Twitter handle, okay and if you’ll send me a mailing address, I’m pretty good at sending cheerful cards, etc. Claudy, please give yourself a big hug from me and my prayers are starting right NOW. Sheri

            • Mrs. de Grom,
              That is so nice of you to offer your spiritual support and I thank you kindly. I do have a huge family that I see regularly so I am covered. It isn’t a slice and dice surgery but the kind where he uses little tiny instruments smaller than a pencil to do whatever he is going to do. It is to help make my pain medicines work better. I know I have only so much time with pain medicine and have to be very conservative in my consumption or a day will come when I have no more options! So again you are wonderful and please get me that photo so I can do what I do. I love my new home! It is so clean and the people are so nice I couldn’t be happier. I am mostly unpacked but have a lot of details to tend. I am going to start my final edit on my text book and then my business will be ready, set, lets go! Mrs. de Grom it is going to be so successful and I am going to need to hire people along the way if as popular as I know it will be. I know you have lots going on but at some point maybe I will be in the position to offer you an employment deal you can not refuse. It will be a year or so from now or maybe a little more but I am not in any rush for it will be the best I can do. The day will come when you see! It is going to be so successful you will be surprised. It has been needed by its industry for so long I am the first and only information ever on this topic. In fact the Department of Labor on their website in the very first paragraph says, “We have no criteria to judge the expertise nor a certifying agency! That’s like asking for my book and business. The DOL account would be good for 10-15 million a year. I can go on and on but you will know soon enough. I have you in mind and …. Thanks again, claudy

              • Claudy – I’m happy, happy that you have a large family for support. Oh how fortunate you are to have them close by. My best friend of 30+ years has chronic back pain and I’ve watched her crawl, claw and demand her way through the medical system yet, she still lives with chronic pain. I’m also oh so pleased that you recognize the role your pain medication plays in your overall health program. I’ve been doing a lot of research about the ease of doctors passing out opiates (especially among our military) instead of actually treating them for their pain.
                I can’t wait for a sneak peek at your DOL text. I’m always amazed by what the average person doesn’t know. Then when I mention to them what federal law dictates and allows them to be protected, workers are afraid to stand behind the Federal Law and demand justice. It’s the same as the field I worked in for 30 years – ten of those years while I was learning on my own before working for the government and practicing my own technique and then 20 years inside the government.
                You mentioned the book would be good for at least 10 – 15 years but as with most directives, once a really good basic book is written on a topic, from that point on, all you have to do is up-date it every couple of years or so with new laws, etc. Additionally, master level courses in Public Administration do not teach ‘Labor’ as a rule and that’s because no one really understands it.
                Onward, Claudy. We need to move this discussion to e-mail. Sheri

  4. Bonnie J. Gaines says:

    Words escape me. Just wanted to let you know that both you and Tom have touched my soul.
    A *W*O*W* post.

  5. Thanks for sharing this wonderful, caring exchange between you and Tom.

  6. After reading this post, I envy Tom that he had a positive father figure at all. My dad gave me only crippling negative feedback, and both of my grandfathers died before I was born. My wife had lost her farther a couple of decades before I married her. It wasn’t until I read this post that I realized that I never had any positive father figure in my life.

    • John – I’m with you on not having a mother figure. I did have a favorite aunt and as a child spent every bit of time I could with her. However, it wasn’t nearly enough. Tom and my father had a wonderful relationship. They had the ability to make the simplest activity an adventure. Without Tom, I would never have been able to do all the things we were able to do for Dad.

  7. A beautiful post filled with respect and love. You have a lovely family.

  8. This is a warm good feeling story. You, Tom and your father were so bless to have each other.

  9. timelesslady says:

    Sheri, This post is pure gold and started my day off with a tear and a smile. There ARE good people in the world. This post multiplies my hope and reminds me once again, that in the end…the good will prevail and conquer.

  10. Dear Sheri, I am overwhelmed with emotion. This heart stealing post makes me happy the world still has real people who live real lives and make real families whether they are blood-related or not.My heart turned over a few times but with pleasure not angst. 🙂 You THREE deserve a standing ovation. 😉

    • Tess – Thank you, thank you. I’ve written so much angst connected with the tough issues we’ve had to deal with regarding Tom’s bipolar disorder. A disease he didn’t ask for or did nothing to cause. He was simply born into the unfortunate set of genes and it dealt him a devastating disease. We lost my father on his 94th birthday in 2007 but I don’t think a day goes by that Tom or I one don’t mention one or more times something about my Dad. My mother passed after they’d been married 57 years but after 2 years of serious grieving, Dad lived every day the remainder of his life (13 years).

      • Life sure isn’t mean. So glad to hear your Tom had a great relationship with your father. Sounds like a win/win to me. 😀

        • Tess – I believe anything is possible when an open heart is available. My father and Tom both possessed that wonderful vulnerability that allowed others to walk in and take up residence. One of my father’s sons lived 5 miles away and for whatever reason, he elected to steal everything my father had worked for all his life. I say my father’s son as I refuse to recognize him as my brother. ‘That’ brother has to live with what he did to Dad the remainder of his days and Tom and I live with the wonderful times we had with Dad. We did indeed have a win/win.

  11. Sheri and Tom, it is a miracle to find that one true love, a soul mate and friend, a lover and a confidant. How lucky you were to find each other. It might have been late, but it happened when it was time to happen. Enjoyed both these “letters” and the glimpse of your love you shared today 🙂

    • Florence – I thought probably no one had read the comments Tom had made on the blog as it came in last and I wanted to show some of the up-sides of our relationship and move away from all the angst. I’ve only posted the hard times to date and of course there’s more angst to come — but, in the meantime — Tom and I were oh so fortunate to meet when we did.

  12. Mae Clair says:

    Beautiful thoughts to share, Sheri.

  13. Sheri, I’ve come to know you pretty well through your blog posts, but I’ve never felt like I knew Tom much. Thanks to this post, I feel like I know him a bit better.

  14. cindy knoke says:

    What exceptional men you have in your life Sheri!

    • Cindy – Well as Dad said, it did take me awhile to ‘finally get it right.’ My Dad passed away on his 94th birthday in 2007 and not a day goes by that I wish I could pick up the phone and have a chat or say, “Hey, Dad, pick up your ticket and flight information from the travel agent.”
      My mother passed away in 1994 and after grieving 2 years, Dad called me and said, “I have to get on with my life, don’t I?” That was music to my ears. Dad traveled the world with me and my work and other times I took off work and the three of us traveled together. Dad and Tom were a great team. Dad and my mother were married for 57 years and a week before he died he told a nurse, “I’m dying from a broken heart. I have been since Nita died.” Nita is what he called my mother.

  15. Elyse says:

    You are all three so very lucky. Four. Smoke was pretty lucky, too.

    • Yes, Elyse, I totally agree. Dad passed away on his 94th birthday in 2007 and not a day goes by that we don’t still miss him. Smoke lived to be 21 and he never gave up on jumping the fence and making it to town to visit Dad. Dad’s original saddle sits on a stand in our dining room with many of Tom’s art works. Tom insures it’s kept waxed and free of any dust. Thank you for reading what I consider a happy post. That was my intent when I decided to post this blog. I was tired of everything in my ‘Fourth House’ series to be doom and gloom.

  16. Joe Bradshaw says:

    A beautiful and heart felt post… Thank you for sharing the tear and the smile! 🙂

  17. Wow, this made me cry. What a wonderful life you’ve both had by finding each other and loving each other so much.

  18. ksbeth says:

    how bittersweet and heartbreakingly beautiful this is, sheri and tom.

  19. Lignum Draco says:

    I feel like an intruder on this wonderful moment. I won’t say anything except that you’re both lucky to have one another.

  20. gpcox says:

    Trying to make us all break down and bawl like babies, aren’t you! Fantastic letter! Sheri, you are something else!

  21. What a beautiful story…and so sweet of you to share with others. You are an inspiration, Sheri and Tom. 🙂

  22. Sweet Sheri & Tom, you spread light in a dark world! Your love for each other is more than beautiful; it’s inspiring!! This post was as moving as if my own family had wrote it. I could see the years of building a life together & the love that kept that life full. There are thousands of people who would give anything to have a quarter of what you two share!! Inion & I would like to share this to inspire folks out there to see what real love looks like and that it is achievable!! I love your words taken from your wedding & right from the long walk down the isle, Sheri. ““It may have taken you forty years, but you finally got it right.” A father’s approval & joy in knowing his little girl found true happiness & love. Love….real love can come at any time in our life. And when it does, it’s…magical!

    • Thank you, thank you. You hit it right where I hoped. I wanted so much to show that Tom’s and my relationship is so much more than his bipolar disorder. You certainly have my permission to pass on any part of our story you find useful. My goal is to let others know that with unconditional love, a marriage can remain strong and survive when bipolar disorder exists within the marriage.

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