Twenty Years Is But A Moment
For some people twenty years can seem to be a very long time. For others it is just a moment ago, still fresh on the senses.
Before I retired I had a client family where the past was there in every second of every day. In 1995 the mother had gone to work one morning and then her world erupted.
She worked in the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
When the dust cloud enveloped the building the mother lost her world. Her two children were in the daycare center. They were gone. The mother had other family members working there. They were gone. Forever.
The television cameras that focused on the rescue efforts saw the mother trapped in the rubble, screaming.
When she was finally rescued she was missing one of her legs and her family.
Ten years later, in Terre Haute (That’s French for “A place where you can’t forget.”) I met the mother, her husband and her son, born – after.
Work had brought them to Terre Haute, the worst place it could have taken them.
When Timothy McVeigh was captured, tried and convicted of destroying the mother’s world, he was sent to the only Federal prison with a Death Row. It is in Terre Haute, not far from the small green house on the quiet street where the mother, her husband and their son were living.
Her son was about eight years old when I first entered their world. He was only eight but he did most of the cooking for his mother. And the laundry, and the shopping, and the cleaning. His mother was still screaming inside.
I visited the home every week. Most days the mother was in her bedroom with the door closed, the lights off and the curtains drawn.
Her prosthetic leg never did fit well, so when I did see her she would just hop around the house.
The father did what he could and was incredibly kind. He worked hellacious hours for the local cable company to provide for them. It all fell onto the tiny shoulders of the son.
He rarely complained about it all to me. He could never understand why his mother was so sad all the time. He rarely talked about that, the past. He did want to talk about the future and how he wanted it to be.
The son is older now, ready to finish high school. He is a handsome six foot tall young man. It has been two years longer than he has been alive since his mother had her world taken away.
I looked at the newspaper last week and saw a story about the anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma City and the story talked about the mother and how the TV network had found her in Terre Haute. They would not stop knocking on her door. She eventually answered her door and they convinced her to allow them to fly her and her husband and their son back to Oklahoma City.
I’m glad I never saw any of that. I cannot imagine anything more painful and damaging that could have been done to that mother. Twist the knife in her wound.
I don’t think that the TV network people cared. After all, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
When I think back to the time I spent in that small green house I remember those infrequent times, sitting with the mother in the shadowy living room. She would try so hard to focus on her young son, to do for him what was needed. She told me her dreams for him, but I could see that these were the same dreams she had had before. She would talk, pause and, for a few seconds, her eyes would look back in time.
The years were just a moment. They always will be for her.
A breath away.