“Hello, Mr. Myers,” she said with a beautiful smile.
Startled, I replied in kind. She stood before me in anticipation while I watched the sun peak through her golden hair. Searching for something to say, I told her that I liked her dress.
“Thank you. When we went to the store, I made sure it had some yellow in it,” she beamed as she twirled slightly to let the flow of the dress boast its color.
“Kylie would love that,” I answered.
“I thought so, too. Well, I’ll see you later,” she said as she bounded off toward her friends.
I watched her rush off until she was engulfed in a sea of young women all flaunting perfectly-styled hair, manicured nails, and the prettiest dresses their closets could produce. The boys – awkward in their ties – stood off to the side bucking horns, pretending not to be fascinated with their more delicate classmates. At fourteen, I could see the beginnings of the magnetic pull that they would deny as long as possible then succumb to as if they ever had a choice.
I watched the group laugh and tussle beside the still pond until called inside by someone in charge. As they moved, I stood transfixed on the scene of this place and these children. It was so natural and right, yet a weight deep inside of me told me something was missing.
My golden-haired friend waved at me and beckoned me to follow.
“You comin’?” she called (In the South we tend to be forgiving of the lack of a closing “G” – especially when it rolls through the pouty lips of a pretty girl).
I raised my arm. “Yes, I’m coming.”
I needed to go in. After all, I was soon to be called to the podium to speak. I was there during this graduation week to thank her friends for how well they loved Kylie during her sickness. I should be in my seat waiting for my cue. But I couldn’t bring myself to budge. My mind reeled and my feet were frozen to the promenade beneath me because I had no idea who she was.
I should have known her instantly. She was one of Kylie’s classmates and a friend since the first grade. There was a glint of recognition. I’m sure she had been in my car on field trips and in the classroom when I taught enrichment days. I knew she had been to my house for birthday parties. Still, her name escaped me – a fact that rocked me to my core. It means I’m forgetting.
It is amazing what a couple of years does at that age. While Kylie is frozen at twelve, the rest of her friends have blossomed to fourteen and are all a head taller since I last saw them.
I will never know what Kylie would have looked like at this age. Cancer stole those years from us. It stole height, growth, maturity. It mercilessly took graduation, blessing dinner, a celebratory leap into the murky pond, and a rising high-schooler with an unlimited future. Cancer is a ravenous thief.
And now I wonder, what else will it steal? She is relegated to pictures, videos, and memories. Will it steal those? I am now forty-eight and she lived only a quarter of my life. There are swaths of my past that are but faint glimpses buried in the deep recesses of my feeble mind. Please! I beg! Let me remember her. Don’t let me forget the sparkle of her eye or the titter of her giggle. Let me hear her voice clearly until I hear nothing at all.
I feel like a victim held at gunpoint, only I’m not begging for my life – you can have that. Just please don’t take her out of my head. I want to savor each morsel. I want to remember her – every bit of her. I don’t want to forget a thing.
Aging is a tragic cruelty and memory loss is part and parcel to it. But I fear this isn’t loss. No, I feel like my insatiable enemy isn’t done with me and is taking more piece by piece. Hasn’t this thief stolen enough? Please, leave me the little I have. Don’t wipe her from my mind.
Yet I have forgotten the delicate face of her friend and I am utterly terrified of what cancer will steal next…
**Photo credits – 4:8 Photography by Tiffany Godfrey & Cindi Fortmann Photography
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