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"Happy girl!"

Stephanie and I spoke our own silly language, like annoying couples sometimes do. There were a dozen phrases we'd say to each other that might have mystified anyone else, and one was simply, “Happy girl!” or “Happy boy!” Either of us might shout it out whenever we were having a good time, and the other would reply in kind.

We said it almost anywhere, perhaps several times during the same day if we were having a fun field trip somewhere. Sure, it was a recurring moment of nuttiness, but announcing “Happy girl!” and “Happy boy!” made us an even happier girl and boy.

I vividly remember some places and moments when Steph was an especially "Happy girl!" — 

• after driving across the country, finally paying the toll and crossing the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, where we'd begin our marriage...

• the night we moved into the apartment she'd found for us there...

• and when we left San Francisco, chased away by rents that never stopped rising, and it felt like we were escaping to affordable freedom...

• when she checked out of a hospital in Kansas City after gall bladder surgery, tuckered out but knowing she'd be better...

• as we drove back to Kansas City, after a marvelous day in Lawrence, Kansas, of all places...

• when we left Kansas City, where we'd never quite felt at home...

• "Welcome to Madison," said the sign, and we were in a moving van, entering Steph's former home town that would be our home together, for the rest of her life...

• after any afternoon spent with her parents, the Mom and Dad she loved so dearly...  

• during any of our picnics at Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach in San Francisco, or Loose Park in Kansas City, or Tenney Park here in Madison...

• perhaps surprisingly, the first time she rode in a wheelchair — she felt liberated, because she could finally get herself from one side of a room to the other without wincing in pain, as she had more and more when she'd walked...

• and myriad moments when we were happy for no particular reason except that we were together...

Stephanie has been gone for three years and a month and a few days now, and for me there are smiles occasionally, sure. Life isn't hellish, but I am no longer a happy boy like I was with Stephanie, and I never will be.

On my drive home from breakfast at the diner on Friday, though, I was in good spirits, waiting at a stop light, and I heard myself say it. "Happy boy!" I had to pull the car to the shoulder for several minutes, to cry.

For the first time in years, just for a moment, I was a happy boy. It was a very, very strange experience, and I was kinda angry at myself — what the hell am I doing, being happy? But I had to laugh, too. Stephanie would want me to be happy now and again, and she'd be so damned proud of me. I could almost hear her shouting back, "Happy girl!"

10/3/2021

itsdougholland.com 

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1 comment:

🌌 Don't be a jackass, unless you're also funny while being a jackass. 🌌