I don't want it to be over.

Stephanie's favorite TV show was Parks & Rec, about a tough, smart woman in a small town. The first few seasons, we always knew what night and what time it was on, and we always watched, even the reruns. Then as we switched to a paid streaming service, we binge-watched the show, over and over again. We must've watched the first six seasons a dozen times.

Curiously, though, after re-watching the sixth season, we watched only a few episodes of the show's seventh and final season, before we looped back and started over with the first season. I'd sometimes suggest that we finish watching the final season, but instead Steph wanted to watch something else, or start over from the first season of Parks & Rec.

"Why don't we ever watch the final few episodes of Parks & Recreation?" I asked after she'd declined again. "Do you think it jumped the shark and stopped being funny?"

"Nah, the new episodes are still funny," she said. "Maybe better than ever."

"Well, we have six or eight episodes we've never seen, but you never want to watch 'em."

"I don't want it to be over," she said. "If I don't watch the last few episodes, then it's not over. I still have a few episodes to look forward to."

"I guess that makes 'Stephanie-sense'," I said with a smile.

"Feel free to watch the final episodes without me. My feelings won't be hurt."

"Nah," I said, "I'd much rather wait and watch them with you. Any time you're ready, but no rush."

We had that conversation on her birthday in 2017, two years after Parks & Rec went off the air. Stephanie passed away the following summer, and we'd still never seen the last few episodes of her favorite show. She wanted a few fresh episodes in reserve, something she could look forward to, so she never saw those last episodes, and I'll never watch them without her.

There are other shows we watched together. 30 Rock — about a smart woman in the big city, a little like Steph in San Francisco. Buffy the Vampire Slayer — about a smart girl who battles monsters, a little like Steph vs the Dialysis Demons. Judge Judy — about a smart woman who takes no crap from anyone, a little like Steph in a bad mood. Orphan Black — about a smart woman who discovers she was cloned, and keeps meeting other versions of her smart self. And also Firefly, The Office, Shark Tank, The West Wing, and more. Watching any of those shows with Steph was a pleasure, but more than the shows themselves the real pleasure was watching with Steph, so I haven't watched a moment of any of those shows since "with Steph" stopped being an option.

That's the way it is with a lot of things Stephanie and I did together. Slowly I'm building up my strength, and eventually I'll do some of those things again, without her. I've been to Tenney Park without her, eaten at Ogden's Diner without her, taken the cat to the vet without her, and rewatched Breaking Bad without her, and I might try making a few more of her recipes that I especially liked.

But there are other things Stephanie and I did together that I can't do without her, not yet and probably not ever. The memories would be too strong, and specific moments or just the general ambiance would overwhelm me.

The first example that springs to mind is bingo at the casino. Something about the numbers and the math behind bingo really appealed to Stephanie, and she'd be in a good mood from the moment we decided we were going, even days before we actually went. During the hour-long drive to the casino, man, she'd be downright giddy. Me, I wasn't as wild about bingo as Steph was, but it was great seeing her so hugely happy. Never acknowledged it even to myself, but now I realize that we played bingo more and more often as her health issues mounted, just because she deserved the escape to happiness.

Playing bingo or going to the casino without her, though? What would be the point of that? Without Steph being happy, it would only be Doug being sad. I'd melt into blubber and tears soon as I set foot inside that casino, just remembering the times we walked the long carpeted walkway to the bingo room, and the other times when I pushed her wheelchair. Absolutely, neither Ho-Chunk nor Potawatomi Casino will ever see me again.

Of course, there's the Willy Street Co-Op, where we've long had membership, and where Steph shopped for cooking ingredients. Many times she came home from to Co-Op cooing about "all the pretty vegetables" we'd purchased, before she turned them into excellent stews or side dishes. Their pasta was unrivaled, Steph said, and she usually found treats worth trying in the Co-Op's deli, and in their dairy and frozen food sections.

My most cherished memory of the Co-Op is that during times when Steph could barely eat anything, she sustained herself largely on their fresh-fruit smoothies. I'd stop and buy two on the way home from work, and when I came home Stephanie would inhale the first one at once, and save the second one for later. Sometimes those smoothies were her only nourishment of the day, so I can't convey how highly I think of the Co-Op, and yet …

Nowadays I shop at the Co-Op rarely, and only for two items no other stores sell — their excellent fragrance-free dish soap, and their frozen cauliflower-rice risotto. Still, when I'm there, almost every aisle holds memories of Stephanie at her happiest, and wow that hurts. It had been the better part of a year since my last visit to one of their stores, and when I stopped in a few days ago, I bought way too much dish soap and risotto, explicitly so there would be plenty of time before I need to return.

Once a month most summers, we drove 45 miles to Beloit, to watch the Snappers play minor league baseball. But again, why would I do that without Stephanie? How would that even work? Would I buy my solo ticket at the opposite end of the stadium, as far as possible from the seats where we always sat? Or would I bravely sit exactly where we'd watched games for the last several years of Steph's life, in the disabled seating section? The question is moot, and the answer is nope. Never again am I going to a baseball game in Beloit.

Another summer tradition for Stephanie and I was a movie at the drive-in. There are four drive-in cinemas within an hour or so of Madison, but we usually went to the Highway 18 Drive-In outside of Jefferson, where we bought their fabulous corn dogs or chicken strips or cheeseburgers, always with popcorn. Steph never wanted to stay in the car during the movie; instead we brought folding chairs and sat in front of our car's headlights, and got bitten by bugs, and had a fabulous time. And again, there's just no way I'd want to do any of that without Stephanie, so adios, Highway 18 Drive-In.

There were some movies we watched together, over and over again, in screenings at movie palaces when we lived in San Francisco, and on DVD when we lived in Kansas City, and with on-line streaming here in Madison. Stephanie's absolute favorites were two movies about smart women — All About Eve and The Women. We'd watch those movies 3-4 times every year (yup, really) and we'd have somewhat the same conversations whenever we paused the video, but always Steph would have something new and insightful to say about the movies, too. Make no mistake, they're inarguably terrific movies, but what made them (and several other favorites) so much fun and so darn re-rewatchable, was rewatching them with Stephanie. Without Steph, it's rarely even occurred to me to watch any of our favorite movies, and when it has, I've always decided against it.

Without Steph, I don't go to movies at theaters, either. Haven't done the film festival without her, and it's doubtful that I ever will. There's a discount cinema in Madison where we saw recent releases that seemed promising, but I haven't been there since her death. And there's Cinematheque, the local venue for odd and obscure and old movies, where we went often. The Cinematheque's calendar still comes in the mail, and I still pin it to the wall and check to see what's coming soon … but I never attend, and probably never will.

We often went to the zoo in Madison, and we once went to the much bigger zoo in Milwaukee, and always enjoyed ourselves. We had a great time at the Crane Foundation, too — a big zoo near Baraboo, dedicated only to endangered cranes. But the idea of going back to any of these zoos without Stephanie is just nonsensical, impossible, inconceivable.

We went to LaBahn Arena, to watch the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team, several times each winter. Always we had a blast, and always we were too cold, no matter how well we'd bundled up — it's winter in Wisconsin, so it's 10° or 20° outside, and not much warmer inside when you're so close the ice rink (which is, after all, made of ice). The games are fun, and the team always seems to be in contention for the national championship, but I could never return to LaBahn without Stephanie.

The arboretum is a sprawling prairie and savanna on Madison's west side, where we wandered onto dirt trails, including a spooky tunnel that goes under the freeway to an even more remote, disconnected part of the arboretum. We lost the Arboretum, though, when Stephanie could no longer walk. "It wouldn't be fun just staying on the paved paths," she said, so we never went back. And now? No. The trees, the brush, and all the paths at the Arboretum are only about Steph; without her they don't exist, not for me.

And oh, how she loved Olbrich Gardens, the local exotic botanical park. Several times every summer we strolled or rolled the grounds, usually taking the same winding pathway, and always having a wonderful time. I've been back only once without Stephanie, to somberly celebrate her birthday last summer. Probably I'll go back again, for all her birthdays so long as I'm around to commemorate them. But Olbrich isn't someplace I'll go nearly as often, or as gleefully, as we did when we went together.

And then there's her parents' house in Racine, where Stephanie grew up. I've been to the homestead a few times after Steph died, and her parents have always been warm and welcoming, but the house just oozes Stephanie memories — pictures on the wall, steps where we sat and talked, the basement where we slept when we stayed overnight, and walking all around the neighborhood, holding hands. It's overpowering to sit on the couch where I sat beside Steph so many times, or eat at the same table where Steph and I ate and played board games with her folks on so many enjoyable afternoons. So … I'll return to the house, of course, if her parents invite me again, but honestly, I'd rather meet them at a diner.

We made an ample supply of happy memories here, and I love living in Madison. I'll never live anywhere else. But Wisconsin is also where Stephanie became sick, endured dialysis, and died. We followed our rainbow, and Wisconsin is where the rainbow ended.

Remember what Steph said about Parks & Rec, "I don't want it to be over." She didn't want to watch those final episodes, and I feel sorta the same about returning to some of the places around here, where we had our last happy memories.

There's another place, though, where Stephanie and I left another hoard of happy memories — San Francisco. We met there, and we fell in love there, and we spent our first few years together in that city by the bay. That's where Stephanie still had her health, so our only worries were the ordinary anxieties of money and work and "What will we do for fun this weekend?" San Francisco was the rainbow's beginning, the place where we shared a limitless future together. And that's something I need to see again.

I need to walk across Golden Gate Bridge, as Steph and I did when everything in the world was optimistic. I need a cup of coffee at Café International, her favorite place to loiter. I need to sit in the park across the street from our apartment on Dubose Avenue, as we often did, just watching people and streetcars go by. And I need to scatter some of Stephanie's ashes at Ocean Beach, where we had so many picnics in the sand.

Tentatively, if the coronavirus hasn't killed everyone on Earth, my plan is to visit California for a few weeks this autumn. Wish I could bring Stephanie with me, but of course, she's with me everywhere, and she'll be waiting for me there.

     I left my heart in San Francisco
     High on a hill, it calls to me
     To be where little cable cars
          climb halfway to the stars
     The morning fog may chill the air,
          I don't care

     My love waits there in San Francisco
     Above the blue and windy sea
     When I come home to you,
          San Francisco
     Your golden sun will shine for me