One hour at a time

Published March 10, 2005

He missed Cheyenne's first steps.

Missed her first Thanksgiving. First Christmas. First tooth.

Just the other day, he missed her learning how to slurp spaghetti.

He hasn't held her in six months, hasn't watched her play with her favorite toy shopping cart. He hasn't heard her cry in the middle of the night or giggle in her crib beside the bed he shared with his wife, Cheyenne's mother.

"I've missed everything," he says.

He has measured his daughter's life in hourlong visits, twice a week. They meet in this drab concrete block room, separated always by a thick sheet of glass. She usually wears pink; he always wears orange.

Looking at her feels like looking through the window at a pot of gold, he says. Beautiful and priceless, but always out of reach.

Thomas Herold, 29, has only himself to blame.

He has tangled with the law for years - burglary, marijuana, weapons charges. In October, a year after a massive raid in Pasco County, he was convicted in federal court of conspiring to distribute cocaine.

The world will forever know him as a criminal. But when Cheyenne looks through the window, she sees the man who makes her laugh with his funny faces. She sees the man who presses his lips against the glass, trying in vain to kiss hers.

This morning, at 8:30, the father will stand before a judge and learn his fate. At best, he thinks, he'll get 10 years in prison. At worse, he could get life.

Either way, he'll wake up three weeks from now in some distant federal penitentiary, far from home and far from Cheyenne's deep brown eyes. It will be March 31.

Her first birthday.

Editor's note: 300 Words presents glimpses of everyday life that often go unnoticed.