I want to kick myself to Korea and back, for all the times when Stephanie and I spent the evening doing different things. She’d be playing video games, or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and I’d be reading a magazine or farting around on the internet. We were nominally spending time together, but not really.
Of course, on the side of my brain that actually thinks things through, I know that what we were doing those nights was smart and made sense. We were two different people with some different interests, after all. But there she was, alive and well and right there in the room with me, and inexplicably I didn’t spend that time telling her how marvelous she was and getting to know her better. How could I waste that precious time when we were together?
We were stupid. We were wasteful. There certainly was advance warning – she had three separate fatal diagnoses, three diseases where the long-term prognosis is death. We dealt with all that by having big conversations once in a while, about our frustrations with (and the occasional incompetence of) the medical system, and about what to do and what to avoid in life-prolonging medical treatment, and about what the surviving spouse should do after one of us dies. And we knew that the surviving spouse would be me.
Stephanie had been short-changed in life, and we were angry about it. But if we’d known that the end was approaching so very quickly, we would’ve talked more about love and appreciation and memories and passion and regrets and dreams-come-true. How different some of our last conversations would have been. To know that the magic was ending, and to say the things we’d never have a chance to say again. Our idle chit-chat about the news, or my work, or a movie she wanted to see or some amusing article she’d read online – all that would’ve been superseded by heartfelt words about what we’d meant to each other. I know the things I would’ve said, and I want so much to hear the things she would’ve said, if only we would’ve had a chance to say goodbye.
On the other hand, we were pretty good about telling each other sweet things. “I love you” was traded between us several times daily and whenever either of us stepped out the door or went to sleep. There were also deeper conversations of heartfelt love and appreciation, and frequently. If I was hit with mushy thoughts on the way home from work, I would walk in the door and ramble on for several minutes about how much joy she brought to my life, how much I admired and respected and loved her. She could be equally honest and, I guess, syrupy in her professions of deep love for me.
We had brief conversations like that two or three times every month, and one of those conversations was just a few days before her final hospitalization. I’m glad to remember that. It was me telling her at length how I’d spent the whole day at work looking forward to seeing her, how she brightened up even the worst of days, and she responded that the feeling was so very mutual, that she’d spent her day farting around on the internet and playing with the cat and looking forward to me coming home.
We never fully understood that we had so little time remaining, that the clock was running out. There’s so much more we should’ve said. So many things things I want to ask her, so many stories she told me that I wish I could hear again, so many things I should’ve told her when she was alive, and so many things I did tell her but wish I could tell her again, more emphatically. So I’m trying to say it all on this little website, and wishing there was a way to reach her one more time – but that only happens in the movies. In reality, time’s up.
More about Stephanie.