He takes care of his plants: Fertilizer. A watering can with a spigot, which he gently tips over a hanging basket of ferns. He clips the blackened leaves off an African violet.
I don’t give plants like that a chance; I toss them.
He sits on the mattress on the floor and unties his sneakers carefully. He spreads his laces to the sides of his shoes, as if they deserved respect.
I have stains on my clothes and never iron anything. I had so many runs in my stockings at one job — I didn’t notice them — that the union organizer wanted me to come to a meeting and show them off. He thought I couldn’t afford new ones.
I fold the corners of the pages of my books. He has bookshelves with a label for each category.
When he first saw my art studio with paper all over the floor, he said, “What happened here?” He thought a wind had blown through the room.
He recycles everything. To give me more space in his house, he took apart his old filing cabinet and put it in his recycling bin.
He reads the Tao Te Ching to train his mind and meditates every day. My mind is squirrelly, unless I’m in the mountains.
He cares for his dog: When it’s cold, he fastens her coat with its snaps. He gives her dental biscuits for her teeth.
He says good morning to the homeless guy on the trail.
Already I’ve knocked his pepper grinder behind the stove. I’ve broken a small porcelain statue of his. I asked if it was important to him, and he said yes, but I didn’t want to ask why, because I didn’t want to make him sad. I think it was a present from his dead wife.
The word care comes from the Old English caru, meaning “burden” and “sorrow.”
I care for the wilderness: I gave away most of my inheritance to the Sierra Club for the forests, for the streams, for the Arctic.
I care for him: I leave him notes of appreciation in his sock drawer and under the milk carton in the fridge.
He brings me daffodils, strawberries, string beans. He doesn’t mind when I burn the chicken in the oven.
I put a glass on the edge of a table and am surprised when I knock it over; he gives me a hug and gets out the broom.