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It Broke My Heart When I Didn't Recognize My Daughter's Best Friends

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“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 14, I could see the beginnings of the magnetic pull 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 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.

mark and kyle
Photo by Cindi Fortmann Photography

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 12, the rest of her friends have blossomed to 14 and are all a head taller since I last saw them.

kylie's classmates
Photo by Cindi Fortmann Photography

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 48, and she lived only a quarter of my life. Swaths of my past 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…

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: What do you wish you had found on Google when you were first diagnosed? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Originally published: June 10, 2016
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