Look at all the pretty vegetables

I've been writing about Stephanie for what's rapidly approaching two years, and I'm nowhere near finished. Huge stories remain to be told, and they're percolating. Some of it's painful and some of it's muchos y muchos complicated, and I'll admit that I've been putting off writing about the dark days when she was hospitalized, and about her months in the world's worst nursing home. Those are unpleasant memories, and my habit is to procrastinate with anything unpleasant, but those stories are coming.

Meanwhile, little flashes of Stephanie cross my mind endlessly, all day, every day. And I'm glad, of course. Some days those little flashes are the best thing going on.

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Today I threw away the last jar of jelly from when Stephanie was alive. We generally didn't keep jelly or jam in the apartment, because Steph would eat it by the spoonful. We laughed about that. I have the same problem with peanut butter.

When we did buy some jam, I was supposed to keep it hidden, and hidden it was — this jar of blueberry jam was way in the back of a shelf that otherwise held dishes. Hidden per the lady's request, and then forgotten, and now the jam is well past its expiration date, so away it goes. Sorry, sweetheart.

Maybe I'll buy another jar, just to hide it.

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A few days ago at work, I processed an insurance policy for someone with the last name Housley, and remembered Stephanie and I giggling in a darkened movie theater, as Fred Astaire sang to someone (probably Ginger Rogers), "You're so play-housable."

Today, Googling the internet, I can't even find a Fred Astaire song with that lyric in it, but there's no mistaking the memory. It became a compliment we gave each other hundreds of times. "So play-housable."

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Another of Stephanie's many cute Stephisms was, "Look at all the pretty vegetables."

She was a big fan of the Willy Street Co-Op, and whenever we went to that store she bought lots of their fresh, mostly organic produce. When we came home from the store and put the groceries away, Stephanie would again admire the cucumbers or tomatoes or onions or leeks, and she'd say, "Look at all the pretty vegetables."

Over the subsequent days, she'd turn those vegetables into fabulous food, and she was always nice enough to let me have some. "The Co-Op," she'd say, "always has marvelous vegetables, and marvelous meats, and the best hot food bar of any grocery." Indeed, the Co-Op also has a nice selection of non-toxic cleaning supplies, beer and wines, and some extra fancy frozen food we liked as an occasional treat. Minky didn't care for the Co-Op's cat food, though.

Everything at the Co-Op is better, and also costs more, but Steph deserved the best, no matter the price. I'm glad we went to the Co-Op and brought home the best of everything for Stephanie. Wouldn't have it any other way, and I'm still a member of the Co-Op, and always will be.

But I haven't been to the Co-Op in months, probably won't go there again for months. Today's groceries were delivered from Wal-Mart, and needless to say, these vegetables fall short of marvelous. One of the celery heads has a rotten spot, and there's something hairy on a couple of the carrots, and one of the onions is soft and wet and went straight into the trash.

But that's OK. Without Stephanie, I neither deserve nor want marvelous vegetables, and Wal-Mart is cheapest. "Look at all the barely-edible vegetables."

Which is really, it occurs to me, the way everything in life is, then versus now.

Then, it was always marvelous to be with Stephanie, anywhere at all. It almost didn't matter where we were; being with Steph made anyplace marvelous, any walk, any drive, any day. Simply marvelous.

Now, without her, most things are OK. That's the best things will ever be — OK. Sometimes worse than OK, but never, ever better than just OK.

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Last night I had a nightmare, and I'm scribbling this in the middle of the night. I've already forgotten most of the details, but what I remember is that in my dream I was talking a lot, arguing with someone. So I was probably moaning.

Never knew it until Steph came along, but she told me that I make a horrid moaning sound when I have nightmares, and we figured out that's the sound that comes out of my mouth when I'm talking or arguing in my dream.

When I made that noise, if it woke her or she was awake, Stephanie always nudged me or called my name to awaken me. She rescued me from my nightmares, so many times. And of course, I knew the sounds she made when her dreams were unpleasant, and I did the same. Hundreds of times, we woke each other from nightmares.

Now I can't rouse her, of course, and I don't need to. Stephanie has no more nightmares. She was here, and now she's gone, which still freaks me out and always will. She doesn't exist any longer. Her time ended, and I wasn't able to prevent it or protect her. Her Life Is Over, and that's still my worst nightmare, and she isn't here to rouse me.