There was a time in my life when I kept this woman somewhat of a secret.
If there was an opportunity to change a story so that I could avoid the heart heavy, the possible tears, I did it. I’m guilty. I told white lies.
Because it was hard for me to mention death, hard for me to talk about disease and chemotherapy and living life as a 13-year-old girl without her mom.
I thought that people wouldn’t know how to respond if I told them she’s dead. That maybe I could alleviate a bit of awkward by leaving it out altogether. But the truth is, it wasn’t truth.
And what they say about white lies is sorely accurate – the part about covering your tracks and getting lost in all of the bits and pieces of stories you blended together, or made up, or in my case, edited.
Editing my memories, I pushed myself away from thinking about her, from letting my mind drift back to her. To my mom, my beautiful, gentle and outrageous mom.
So today, I’d like to provide a brief introduction to her, Karen Lynn Flego Smith.
I wrote this when I was living in Italy in the spring of 2011 – a time when I have never felt more healthy and also the first time in seven years when I let myself remember her, miss her, and realize that there will be a day when I will see her again.
When we walk
5’10”, blonde, red-lipstick-wearing woman.
Walk with me. Trade shoes with me. Take a sip of my coffee when I’m not looking. Tell me what you were like when you were twenty, about your first crush, the time you drank Champagne from one of your gold-sequined high heels.
Let me tell you a secret. Can I sneak into your room tonight and crawl under the covers with you?
People tell me I look like you. Every so often, someone calls me Karen instead of Taylor. It makes me smile, but I’m no you. I’m me. I’m the girl who loves to smile, who wets her pants when she laughs too hard, who misses her mom.
No grief, sorrow or mourning anymore. It’s no miracle, it’s just the way you raised me – to see joy in every sunrise, life in every breath and possibility in every tomorrow. It’s not optimism; it’s the way the world was meant to be experienced. You told me that. I remember it clearly.
I remember a lot of things, but it’s you that is hard to recall sometimes. Your image is fuzzy, right around the corners of your lips and the white tips of your fingernails. I can remember the exact address of the San Diego Zoo, the Pythagorean theorem, the names of my second cousins, but I can’t quite recall the sound of your voice. I desperately want to, but it’s hard.
It’s not death that’s hard. It’s not the photos of you that bring tears to my eyes. What hurts is that there are days when I want to walk with you, Mom, days when I want to look into your eyes and see that we would almost be a mirror image of each other.
I have this dream that keeps fluttering through my mind. It’s just you and me in the middle of the sidewalk, the breeze gently blowing through our hair. You glance at me, lean over, and whisper in my ear, “I’m proud of you, Tails.”
What you don’t realize, Mom, is that it is I who am proud of you. Proud to know the years you spent fighting to stay alive, proud to speak with those who remember your kindness, proud to say that I am your daughter, and that you left me on earth with those who would be kind enough to love me as if I were their own. There is such joy in knowing that you and God had planned that for me all along, even if my story was to be woven with loss at an early age.
There might be a time when I forget what your shoe size was, your favorite color or what type of car you drove, but no amount of time can ever cause me to forget that I love you and that I look forward to seeing you again and taking that walk – a walk I long to remember.