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.