She never got on my nerves

Stephanie was funny. As I sit here, typing and reminiscing, though, I can't remember a single funny thing she ever said. She made me laugh not by telling jokes, but by being unpredictable and clever in conversation.

It's also amazing to me how few specific things I remember Stephanie saying. We talked non-stop for twenty-one years, but with scarce exceptions, what I remember isn't exact quotes, only the gist. The gist, of course, was always marvelous, thoughtful, and best of all, easy — conversation with Steph was always easy. We interacted with each other around the clock, virtually without interruption for all those years, and she never really got on my nerves.

Which is unprecedented — almost everyone gets on my nerves, and by "almost everyone" I mean "everyone except Stephanie." If you're a stranger you'll probably annoy me the instant you speak, or before you speak. If we know each other and we're chatting you'll probably annoy me within half an hour. Even if you're a friend or family you'll probably annoy me within a couple of hours, and if you're among my very closest friends, well, chances are I'll still be a little relieved to say good night if we've spent the afternoon together. I'm not saying any of this to be cute or clever or build toward a punchline; I'm saying it because it's true.

I was a hermit before meeting Stephanie, because I'm more comfortable alone than with other people. In her absence I've largely resumed my hermitage. When Steph was alive, I'd rather have spent any day with her than with anyone else. Now that she's gone, I'd rather spend almost any day alone.

Steph had a similar introverted outlook, albeit a milder case, since she was nicer than me, and more socially skilled. But after spending any length of time with almost anyone else, we both needed serious decompression time afterwards.

Weirdly, though, despite all the time we spent together, Stephanie just about never got on my nerves. Maybe I got on her nerves once in a while, but I don't think so, or she was so nice she never told me — when I said something stupid, she told me; when my breath stank and I tried to kiss her after eating an onionburger, she told me. My conclusion, therefore, is that she was not shy or hesitant about telling me things I wouldn't want to hear. Yet we could spend the whole day together, spend every moment together except bathroom time for a whole lot of years, and still we were happy to spend more time together. There's been no-one else in my life I could say that about.

I would've loved to spend the next twenty or thirty years with her, and I'm certain she felt the same way.

* * * * * * * * * *

Our 16-year-old Chevy needs to see a mechanic, and my dad's good advice was always to make sure your car is clean and washed before taking it in for repairs. A shiny, tidy car gives the mechanic the impression that somebody cares; a messy, dirty car gives the impression that nobody cares. We have a great mechanic, but still, Dad's Rule makes sense, so today I washed the car's exterior and tidied its interior, before dropping it off at the shop.

Steph had a rule too — it's a good idea to remove any political bumper stickers before taking the car to be worked on, since you don't want to risk pissing off your mechanic. For that reason I peeled off the magnetic sticker that says, "My dog is smarter than President Trump." We don't have a dog, but that magnet is still true.

Thus we continue with our previous entry's general theme of tidying up. Under the passenger seat, where Steph usually sat, there was a baggie full of her snacks — caramel corn, very stale by now. Behind her seat were her favorite sunglasses, which she'd lost and we'd looked for, but apparently we hadn't looked hard enough; the sunglasses had somehow worked their way underneath a folding lawn chair that had been stretched across the floor in the back seats.

For many years there were two lawn chairs lying there, which we sat in whenever we attended drive-in movies, or the annual Blues Picnic, or any sunny afternoon when we wanted to be on the lawn at our apartment. When Steph went into the wheelchair, one of those folding chairs became redundant and went into storage. Now the second chair goes into storage, too, since I'm not going to the drive-in or any picnics without her.

Some of Steph's stuff stays in the car, though. In the tray under the dashboard, her lipstick and make-up still ride with me, just because seeing them makes me feel good. Her "Navigator Girl" atlas of Wisconsin is still in the car, too; very much needed whenever I wander out of the Madison metropolitan area. And her wheelchair is still in the trunk, though I suppose eventually it'll become part of the Shrine.