May 12, 2016

After Ty survived the first critical weeks, his father and brother flew back to Metamora. Becky and Renee stayed behind, moving into a suite at the local Fisher House. The women rotated shifts at Ty's bedside. They fed him and helped him shower. They stretched his remaining two fingers-both badly burned-to increase their range of motion. "I remember days I'd think, I can't walk in that room and put on a happy face," Becky says. "I don't know how I did it. I just did. My kid."

That May, Jeff came to visit and brought Becky a ring with three diamonds-past, present, and future -to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They strolled on San Antonio's River Walk and took in the sights. Becky had been living at Fisher House for five months. One more anniversary would come and go before she got back home.She'd never spent much time away from the patch of country outside Peoria where she was raised. She married Jeff at 20, and they bought her grandparents' old house, which is still her home."I never could have imagined living somewhere else and not having family and friends around," she says. But her 19 months in San Antonio opened up "the little box" of her world. "Now I can go anywhere and make friends and find family."

Becky was delighted to see Ty moving toward independence. Aside from headaches, he showed no signs of lasting brain damage. With Ty making progress, Becky took some time for herself. She walked for miles on a track near the hospital. On the "your-son-getting-blown-up-diet," she shed 60 pounds. She let her short blonde perm grow shoulder-length and dyed it auburn.

"I was finding me," Becky recalls. "I felt better about myself." She even began doing public speaking to raise support for Fisher House. Then finally, in July 2006, Ty and Becky headed home.After Ty got married, his mother enrolled in the college courses she'd looked forward to for so long. Even after Ty and Renee separated, Becky held on to her new freedom. Ty stayed in the white clapboard bungalow he'd lived in with his wife. He'd been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but medication helped lessen his anxiety.

Zach sent an e-mail to Becky from Iraq, where he'd been deployed the previous fall: "What was God thinking? Why does all this stuff have to be happening to us?"

Becky typed back, "Because we can handle it."

Sometimes-not often-she feels almost overwhelmed by the hand life has dealt her, and she worries. "What if something happens? What if I don't get there in time? It scares the hell out of me." She finds comfort, though, in her circle of loved ones and her "second family" of wounded vets and their parents. She tries not to dwell on what she can't change.

"Ty asked me once if I was angry about what happened to him," Becky says. "But who would I be angry at? The bomber? He's dead. Ty? I'm proud of him. I couldn't pick anybody to be angry at, so I wasn't angry."

Her studies on hold, job offers let go, Becky fully expects to pick up where she left off sometime in the future. She imagines the day when Ty will need her less, even marry again. "The woman who ends up with him is going to be lucky," she says. "I can't wait till he has his own kids.

"I don't expect to be at Ty's beck and call for the rest of my life," she adds, curling up on the sofa where her son often sleeps. "But you're never done being the mom."