I want to kick myself to Botswana and back, for all the times when Stephanie and I spent the evening doing different things. She'd be playing video games, or watching Ru Paul's Drag Race, and I'd be reading a magazine or goofing around on the internet. We were nominally spending time together, but not really.
Of course, on the side of my brain that thinks things through, I know that what we were doing those nights was smart and made sense. We were two different people with some different interests, after all. But there she was, alive and well and right there in the room with me, and inexplicably I didn't spend every minute of all that time telling her how marvelous she was and getting to know her better? How could I waste that precious time when we were together?
We were stupid. We were wasteful. There certainly was advance warning — she had three diseases where the long-term prognosis is death. So of course, we had big conversations about what to do and what to avoid in life-prolonging medical treatment, and about what the surviving spouse should do after one of us dies. And we knew that the surviving spouse would be me.
But if we'd known that the end was approaching so very quickly, we would've talked more about love and appreciation and memories and passion and regrets and dreams-come-true. How different some of our last conversations would have been if we'd known that the magic was ending, and said the things we'd never have a chance to say again. Our idle chit-chat about the news, or my work, or a movie she wanted to see or some amusing article she'd read online — all that would've been superseded by heartfelt words about what we'd meant to each other. I know the things I would've said, and I want so much to hear the things she would've said, if only we would've known that we had so little time remaining, that the clock was running out.
There are so many things I want to ask her, so many stories she told me that I wish I could hear again, so many things I should've told her when she was alive, and so many things I did tell her but wish I could tell her again, more emphatically. I'm trying to say it all on this little website, and wishing there was a way to reach her one more time, but that only happens in the movies. In reality — time's up.
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After several weeks of thinking about Steph's Shrine in the living room, today I started putting it together. The Shrine will include some of Steph's favorite books and other possessions, displayed on a couple of bookcases, as well as several of Steph's favorite items of clothing, some tacked to the wall and some hung on a coat-rack purchased for that purpose. Also included will be her half-finished knitting or needlepoint project (I never know which is which, and she did both), some of her oft-nibbled snacks, a bottle of A&W root beer (she loved the stuff), the Afrin she sniffed nightly at bedtime, and a thousand other bits of Stephanie memorabilia.
Even at our best financial state, we were never quite middle-class, so all of our bookshelves are either particle-board units that you buy and assemble yourself, or they're something we found at a garage sale and dragged home. Steph's shrine will include one shelf-set of each pedigree. This morning, I dragged our biggest particle-board shelves from their long-time spot in the spear room to their new spot in the living room.
Stephanie always did the assembly of our particle-board furniture, and she was good at it, so the shelves hardly even wobbled in the move. Nice work, Love. There was nothing she put her mind to that she didn't do well. If I had put those shelves together, they would've fallen apart.
So, the Shrine is underway, albeit barely. Most of the shelves are still empty, the coat-rack is bare, and nothing is yet on the wall. Eventually it'll be a much bigger Museum of Stephanie, displaying everything I can squeeze into the space. Right now, it's perhaps 5% of what it's going to be, but still, when I sit in my chair it dominates my view of the room, and it warms my heart.