Saying it out loud

It puzzles me when I'm told that some married couples don't say "I love you" very often. Some couples hardly ever say it, and saddest of all, some people have no-one to say it to.

If you have someone to say something sweet to, it's important that you say it. Tell the person that you love that you love that person.

Stephanie and I said it, often. Usually it was the short version — just plain "I love you" — but frequently we did the long version, with extended reasons why we loved each other.

The last time she gave me the long version, we were on a day trip, driving through some remote corner of Dane County, enjoying the scenery at 40 miles an hour. It was probably late July or early August, 2018. We'd packed a picnic, and eaten it at a small park, and we'd chatted about all the ordinary things — her drama at dialysis, my drama at work, and both of us wondering why the cat had left poop in the bathtub overnight, instead of in the litter box. It was an ordinary Sunday afternoon with Steph, which is to say, it was lovely, pleasant, exquisite. The best of all possible Sundays, just like the previous Sunday.

We tidied the table where we'd eaten, and drove away from whatever that tiny town was, and a few miles later Stephanie said, "You know, you're just the best."

"Nah, not me," I said.

"You're the best, Doug. You're the best friend I've ever had, and the best man I've ever known. You take me on picnics, and you put up with my bull, and you're taking care of me through all the kidney crap, which is more than you ever signed up for, when a lesser man might have left. I just want to say thank you again. I love you so much."

We traded syrupy sentiments like that once or twice a month, and always it was beautiful. Can't remember what I said in response, but no doubt it was something less than I should have said.

The last time I said such sweet things to her was a few days before she went into the hospital for the last time, so it would've been mid-August 2018. I opened the door, home from work, and she was sitting at the desk in the living room, and I kissed the back of her neck and said, "Holy smokes, I love you, Steph. All day at work I look forward to coming home to you, and all through every evening I enjoy hanging out with you, and all through the night I just love having you next to me. Thank you for being the best thing in my life."

Wish I'd said more, but who would've suspected it would be the last time she'd hear me say such things? And I don't remember what she said in response, but it was something kind, something thoughtful, no doubt. Something sweeter than I'll ever hear again.

Those are moments we treasured, and we're so lucky that we weren't the sort of people who let such sentiments go unsaid. If you have something kind to say to someone, well, what are you waiting for? Say it!

I still say sweet things to Stephanie sometimes, out loud here at home, or in the car, or whispered at work so no-one else can hear. Maybe not as often as when she was here to hear it, but just as heartfelt.

"Thank you, Stephanie, for every kind word, every little favor, every smile, every squeeze of your hand, everything you gave me, every way you made my unimportant little life seem wonderful. Thank you, Sweetheart, for teaching me, for holding me, for putting up with me, for feeding me, and for making me so much more of a decent human being than I'd been before you. Thank you, Steph. Always, I love you."