Verklempt and amazed.

Shrine1.jpgSome days are better than others. Yesterday wasn’t one of those days. Lots of memories were flooding into my head at work, all day long. Lots of watery eyes, and at least two times I heard my voice crack while I was speaking with co-workers.

There’s no telling why, but some days at work are just basically a day at work, while other days are an eight-hour challenge to avoid crumpling myself into a fetal position and bawling. Some days, ordinary office duties almost fully occupy my mind, and the memories and overwhelming feeling of missing her don’t hit me hard until I’m on my way home; other days – like yesterday – Stephanie is in my mind virtually every minute I’m there. I’m auditing forms and finalizing documents and wishing I wasn’t, and doing it all with about 25% of my mind, while the other 75% is all about Stephanie, and I just want to shriek out, What’s the point?

Today, though, is Saturday. There’s no work, and there’s nothing on my mind that isn’t about Stephanie. At the top of my to-do list for the weekend, I wanted to get her favorite t-shirts onto the wall behind the Steph Shrine. Now it’s 10:00 in the morning and that task is done, and I’m verklempt (a Yiddish word, meaning overcome with emotion). I had thought that the t-shirts would add a nice touch of color to the Shrine, but it’s not just color – the t-shirts add Stephanie to the Shrine.

I’m verklempt and amazed. I wasn’t expecting the t-shirts to make the Shrine seem so much more substantial, but it’s overwhelming. I can hardly type through my tears.

The shelves have been slowly filling up with Steph memorabilia for a couple of weeks, and everything that’s been added means something to me because it meant something to her. The overall effect, though, has been low-key. It’s been making me wistful, reminding me of Stephanie, but, of course, I haven’t needed the reminding. The t-shirts, though, really hit me hard. The other things in the Shrine are things she liked, things she enjoyed, things she cared about. The t-shirts, thought, were what she wore when she was having fun, so how could they not bring tears to my eyes? In many of my happiest memories of Stephanie, she’s wearing one of those shirts.

So today, this morning at 10:00, the Steph Shrine went from being some weird widow’s idea to Warp Factor 7. Now I know, absolutely, that this was the right thing to do, that this is going to help, and that the Shrine is truly going to honor Stephanie. It’s set up so that it dominates my field of vision when I’m sitting in my favorite chair in the living room, and as I sit here and look at it, I want to cry but also laugh, and it makes my heart ache but simultaneously makes me smile, and I am tremendously sad yet ecstatic. It’s complicated, like she was.

Normal people, I suspect (because what would I know about normal people?), feel these strong emotions when they visit a loved one’s grave, but Steph has no gravesite to visit. And that’s as she would’ve wanted, because we both thought graves tend to be creepy. Instead, Stephanie has a Shrine under construction in her own living room, and today it began coming together. It works. It’s her.

I’ll post a picture, as soon as I can figure out one of the electronic devices lying around the apartment. [There’s a photo at the top of this post, now.] Meanwhile, I’ll offer a brief description, and ask a question.

The question is: Have you heard of anyone else doing this? It seems like such a good idea – too good an idea to be mine – so I don’t understand why all my life I’ve only heard of the dear departed being memorialized in graves and urns and speeches and ghosts. Trust me, this is way better.

A description of the Shrine, so far: The shelves are half-filled with things that meant a lot to Stephanie, with much more to come. So far we have her favorite books and DVDs, some of her favorite snacks, her pillows, her allergy medicines, her wallet, her watch, her glasses, her purse, baseball tickets, Fairy Tale Palace reservations … and of course, her cookbooks and loose-leaf recipes, her dutch oven and measuring spoons and cups, and all things related to her unofficial but undisputed Master Chef status. I even moved her entire spice rack from the kitchen to the Shrine, because I’ll never use anything but salt and pepper for what little I cook, but especially because the spices were a key ingredient to the joy she gave both of us via cooking.

And her five favorite t-shirts, hammered today to the wall above the shelves: “I met Li’l Sebastian,” with a picture of a pony from her favorite sit-com, Parks and Recreation; a Wonder Woman t-shirt that I gave her and she loved; a Beloit Snappers t-shirt, from the ball park where we watched so many minor league baseball games; a Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre shirt, from our favorite drive-in; and an ancient Bucky Badger t-shirt that she’d had since high school or college – longer than she had me, and faded and stained just like we were.

Posted 10/20/18.

More about Stephanie.

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