The week we move in together, Pam breaks her leg. They call it a fragile fracture, and I argue about the word fragile. “Why fragile? This woman right here runs marathons. She’s not fragile.” I’m pissed. The doctor explains that any fracture in a person over fifty, much less sixty, is called fragile. I sputter about rampant ageism. We get home, and I’m tasked with feeding, fetching, and charging devices. I make a sarcastic with a whiff of bitterness joke about how we need a little bell. Pam doesn’t think I’m joking or notice the attitude and thinks she’s being helpful when she points out that she can just text when she needs me. I’m angry again. I’m angry about my mother and the years I took care of her before she died and her anger about needing help. That exhaustion, physical and mental, still seems close, and now, so soon, I’m doing it again. What have I gotten myself into? I’m angry that I’m not a better person than this.

We’re both in our seventies now. Pam’s treatment is mostly done, but from the first surgery we enfolded each other in a tenderness I didn’t know was possible. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been possible when I was younger. Discussions about caretaking are full of warnings and cautions about maintaining a balance and watching out for the inevitable buildup of resentments. But I’d never heard anyone talk about the sweet pleasures and elated companionship. The obligations of care came to feel like freedom.

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