Stephanie and I, with my mother standing behind us.
For many years, I was largely estranged from my family, but we’d been back in touch, and this summer some of them were planning to visit. My brother Carl and his wife Cathy, my brother David and his wife Keum, and my almost 90-year-old mother were coming to Wisconsin for four days in mid-August, to stay in the tourist-trap Dells (about 60 miles from Madison) and see us.
In all the time Stephanie and I had been together, we’d only seen anyone from my family once, several years earlier, when Carl and Cathy had passed nearby and we spent an afternoon with them in Illinois. She had liked them, and the feeling was mutual. So Stephanie was looking forward to seeing them again, and meeting my mother and my other brother and his wife.
Let me emphasize, I was looking forward to seeing my family too, but Stephanie was almost giddy with anticipation, asking me to re-brief her on everybody and everything, and peppering me with questions. These are people she’d heard about for decades, and she was finally going to meet them, and she very much wanted to make a good impression.
But she also wasn’t feeling well, and she hadn’t been feeling well for weeks. She worried that she might not be up to spending much time with them, and indeed, the day they arrived, she asked me to make her apologies and go see my family without her. So I went to dinner with them at some restaurant, while she stayed home.
On the second day of their visit, Stephanie felt a lot better. She felt fine for the whole day, and we spent hours and hours with my family, laughing and telling stories and having a good time. Stephanie was smiling and talking and very much herself, all day. The seven of us spent the afternoon and evening chatting with everyone at the resort in the Dells, and we went to a Culver’s, where Stephanie had some ice cream, and to a cheese store, where we bought a huge bag of squeaky curds. Steph had a great time, and she was so very glad that she’d had a chance to meet my family and spend some time with them.
For the two remaining days of their visit she stayed home in bed, again not feeling well. But for that one day, Tuesday the 14th of August, 2018, she felt great, enjoyed herself, and she was delighted to be part of a new family, my family. Our family. I don’t believe in miracles – but that day came close.
I am so thankful that some of my family visited, and so very glad that Stephanie met them, liked them, and enjoyed a day with them. She was so very happy that day, so beautiful, so … Stephanie. It was her first real “Steph day” at full strength in ages, and it turned out to be her last day feeling well, her last day of really being herself, and my last happy memory of her.
More about Stephanie.