I remember snippets, bits and pieces. There was that weekend, (or were there multiples?), where I stayed in their tiny mobile home trying not to get attacked by their tiny little Chihuahua Spud, which was difficult because he was so easily provoked. I can remember going to the flea market and picking out a bunny that I was so sure was going to be mine, but was told it would be Karen’s but I could play with it for as long as I was there. I remember purchasing this awesome wicker basket at a garage sale while Karen watched on. I can remember going to a mall with Karen and the determination I had in spending what little pocket money I had on a whoopee cushion. There was that day spent ice skating with her as my parents looked on. There was also the day she convinced me to get a new hairstyle (said hairstyle was a spiked mullet, and yet the memory still brings me happiness). Soon after those perfect, wonderful childlike thoughts, I immediately flash forward to their wedding, how beautiful it was, how that was a perfect end to a perfect summer, just whiling away my time at the beach, body surfing, finding shells and sand dollars and staying up until 5 am one morning crab fishing with my cousin. I remember flashes of the wedding and the rehearsal dinner and dancing and how perfect it was and how perfect Karen looked and how handsome T was.
I don’t remember the chronology, if Karen was pregnant with Clayton T or if they’d already lost him before the wedding, and because I don’t remember the timeline, I start wracking my brain to remember the chain of events as they happened, but I’m too besieged by sadness now, by the heartbreak they went through, which brings me to remembering my own heartbreak and loss. The story of their loss mirrored my own and it feels interwoven and connected in a way I dare not explain because I don’t want to risk reopening multiple wounds.
Suddenly I flash to that day my dad visited Karen in the hospital. She was on her deathbed and because I was too young at the time, I had to stay in visiting room. She died soon after that visit. I never got to directly say goodbye. She had a profound impact on so many aspects of my life and I never got to tell her that. I still think of her when I smell bitter apple or milk honey lotion. She’s so closely tied to who it is that I am and it always takes me by surprise. I love you Karen and thank you for shaping me in ways big and small.