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Nearly a decade after my father died, his last wife decided it was time to deal with his papers.

Winnefred had had a stroke not long before she and my dad met, so soon he became her lover and live-in caretaker. He guided her walker around the Safeway while they stocked up on twenty-four–packs of Olympia and cartons of cigarettes—Marlboros for him, Virginia Slims for her.

By the time he died in 1985, my father’s memory was in tatters and his legs were so swollen he could no longer climb the steep narrow stairs to the attic. Winnefred had transformed from querulous invalid to munificent caregiver; she guided his halting steps around the Safeway now.

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