As I watched the horror of the raid on our Congress, I could only imagine the fear so many of our legislators must have felt. I thought how a prior experience of a threat to life on some might impact their fear more than on others. Trauma experts have stated that such a reaction based on a prior event would and could makes these fears more than one might expect, and more difficult to live and deal with.
Upon my retirement, two things occurred. First, leaving the law practice gave me an incredible amount of free time for the first time in the last 50 years. Second, the virus forced us inside. What better time to clean up the clutter that had accumulated over the years? Searching through some old material while dealing with what I call pandemic cleaning, I ran across a series of short stories. The raid on the U.S. Capitol and the unbelievable terror for our senators and congressmen was still fresh in my mind. I then realized how germane one of those short stories was to current events even though it was written years before. I would like to relate that story here.
“A freight train could roar through the house, and I would slumber on. But let one of the children cough or murmur, and I was awake, alert and turned to the tiniest cry.
This night, a child’s faint call from across the hall awakened me. Normally, I would ask, ‘Are you all right, honey? Do you want something?’ And if there was no answer, I would know she was murmuring in her sleep, and I could relax.
There was no answer to my question but maybe a sixth sense propelled me to my feet.
I started out of my bedroom door and there, in the darkened hall, only six feet from me, was a man closing the door to the children’s room. His flashlight darted around the square hallway as he sought his escape. I screamed my husband’s name and backed into our room. He bounded from the bed and was only two steps behind the intruder who headed down the short stairway to the back entrance.
‘Let him go, Jim! Come see if the children are O.K.!’
I was absolutely rooted to the spot as I looked as the closed door and imagined what was behind it. A dozen horrible possibilities raced through my mind, and I could not move to open that door.
When we turned on the light, two sleepy children blinked awake and the three-year-old said, ‘What’s the matter Mommy?’
I went across to her bed to hug her while Jim tousled the baby’s head peering over the crib rail. ‘Nothing’s wrong. It’s O.K,’ but I saw her pillow which had fallen to the floor, and there was a big muddy footprint on it. I thought I might be sick.
When the police came, they said it was probably just a prowler who got into the wrong room. He would have tried our room next where Jim’s wallet and watch were on the dresser.
There is something about an intruder in one’s castle that causes one to revert to a lower animal. My premortal scream… Jim’s guttural shout as he tracked the man. I do believe he might have killed him as the thin veneer of civilized man peeled away in a split second.
The taste of terror is that of a copper penny. The feel is a large tennis ball in one’s mouth. And the sensation returned again and again as I relived those paralyzing moments.”
That concluded the story. Some of us have felt such terror. One does not have to be a soldier in battle to have the taste of terror. A horrible traffic accident. An emergency surgery. A missing child or loved one. All these not uncommon challenges to a peaceful life can give one a life-long fear in one’s gut.
One of my challenges in my cleaning was to sort through pages of documents along with photographs my mother had preserved. I found newspaper clipping from when I was a public defender in Iroquois County. There were my trials, both victories and losses. There were pictures and articles about my life and my family. Then there were those papers concerning my father’s premature death.
As I dug deeper, I found an amazing amount of data, and documents about my family tree. Clearly, my mother had time for herself upon losing my dad. She even kept a diary after my father’s death about her feelings as the months passed. But also there were her writings. Most were short stories about the family, or their retirement to Baja, or their trips to Spain. She had not shared many of these writings.
Then I came across the above two-page story of the burglar. You see this was my family. The author and the subject of the story was my mother, while my dad, Jim, had chased after the intruder. It was my sister’s pillow, and I was the one in the crib. It was all true. I had vaguely heard part of the story as a youngster, but I had never read the story, nor did I ever sense that kind of fear in my mother.
That was my mom. Tough as nails on the outside. Skilled in her expressions, complete in her love, but never one to burden her children with her deep fears. I can now feel her reaction to a door opening in the middle of the night or a strange commotion as she slept. As with our representatives and senators, those feelings of terror may never go away. My mother never shared those emotions with her children. Just shows what a brave mother can keep inside for so many years. May all the Congress members be able to set aside any lasting fears of those intruders charging into their inner sanctum. They no more deserve such fears than my mother so many years ago.