When a Man Loves a Woman
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom
Several weeks ago, Gallivanta at http://silkandthreads.wordpress.com and I were chatting about some of the special moments I’ve shared with Tom. Those times when positive remembrances shine through. Gallivanta suggested I might weave some of those remembrances into my Fourth House series. I’m delighted she made the suggestion.
Once again I turned to my journals and I picked one dated 1994. As I read I became lost in memories and wondered how I had gotten through some of the hardest days of my career. The answer always came back to Tom loving me unconditionally and believing in me.
We’d lived in Washington DC about six months when I’d compiled sufficient evidence to dismiss with cause a federal employee with thirty-two years on the job. To make the process even more difficult, the employee had never had a negative performance review in those thirty-two years. She was also an officer in a powerful federal employee union that had already filed numerous discrimination claims against me. I had to be on point with this discharge, as the employee would lose all retirement benefits. I knew I had to have everything perfect or the union would attempt to force me out using the race card one more time.
The federal union employees labeled me that white woman brought in from the West Coast with a reputation of cleaning house (firing people who weren’t performing their work to established standards) and investigating white-collar crime.
From the beginning, I was told it would be impossible to fire this person. My chain of command wouldn’t back me. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t taken action years before but DC bureaucracy has its own strange way of doing things or—perhaps I should say—of not doing what needs to be done and not taking ownership of its actions.
A difficult challenge stood in my path and although I wouldn’t admit it to anyone, I was afraid.
Two nights before the union hearing, my employee’s husband was released from federal prison. He’d been sentenced to forty-two years in a maximum security facility in Virginia for gun and drug racketeering. He’d served ten of his forty-two year sentence and released due to prison overcrowding.
I’d heard the gossip among the union members and, of course, they made sure I was aware of the threats he was making toward me and my family. I’d received death threats before, but these made my blood run cold. The threats sent me to the firing range more often and I enrolled in a refresher course of self-defense.
The morning of the firing arrived and, as I gathered my things to leave for the office, I felt fear. When faced with this particular emotion in the past, I usually had an adrenalin rush roaring through my veins until every nerve ending was alert. That morning the fear was stone cold and I didn’t like it.
It was time for me to leave for the office. I couldn’t shake my anxiety, but I had a job to do.
Picking up my briefcase, Tom asked me to wait and said, “I have something I made for you. I hope it will help make the day easier for you and to remember good triumphs evil. Sheri, you are the best of the good guys in your profession.” Tom reminded me of the promise I’d made to myself when we’d made the move from the central coast of California to DC that I would make positive change here.
He asked me to turn around and as with all of my gold chains, Tom had made another and slipped it over my head. Having a chain without a clasp ensured I’d never have to worry about losing one of Tom’s magnificent creations.
The gift Tom slipped over my head that morning so long ago is pictured below. Each time I wear it, I remember that day in DC and how afraid I was and how confident Tom had been that I’d be okay.
I tried without success to calm my nerves. My commute that day was one of those rides when you don’t remember going from point A to point B. It just happened. I didn’t know Tom had placed a second gift in my brief case. A gift for the inner-child, the one who knew enough to be afraid.
I didn’t dare cry. I could talk with ‘the child’ later.
I extracted my daily calendar from my brief case and along with it came a soft and stoic companion who I’ve since named Ralph. I’ve always had a thing for lop-eared rabbits and Ralph was just the right size to be my warrior for not only the trying day ahead of me but for every day thereafter.
Ralph tagged along to the union hearing with me and we lasted through a long nine hours of testimony and witness statements. Finally, sweet victory. The employee was terminated with cause. Security escorted her to her desk while she retrieved her personal items and then from the premises.
Ralph sits proudly beside me tonight as I type. Normally he lives on my nightstand, but lately I’ve needed him closer.
I openly admit I’ve been extra fragile the last few months and I thank you for standing strong with me.
A special thank you to Gallivanta for suggesting the topic of this blog. Trust me, you’ll be seeing more of them. My journals are filled with hundreds, make that thousands of moments in time of loving and living life with unconditional love.