Sometimes you don’t want any help. You just want to make soup. And maybe a pie.

So I made bean soup and a pumpkin pie today and that was the balm for our wounds. Just now, I looked up at the TV and heard a Spanish chef saying to Anthony Bourdain, “We solve all of our problems by cooking.”

We don’t have problems. We have recovery from back surgery. Like many things in our lives, we somewhat underestimated the full implications of having one’s spine operated on. The mistake is thinking everything is minimally invasive, laser quick, with only a stitch or two to show for the trouble. We should have known better, as old as we are, but we didn’t. Cavalier. I love the sound of it – cavalier.

So the past twenty-four hours since we drove home from the hospital have been a long run of let’s pretend. You be the patient. I’ll be the nurse. It’s a new thing because neither of us has ever really been sick, though we have been troubled plenty, and I knew he was fearful of my stamina on the caring front. How long would my tiny jar of compassion hold out? He didn’t say that but I could see it in his face, a man living on borrowed time.

I’d listened carefully at the hospital when the nurse with the wild red hair told me how to change his dressing, how to fold the gauze and rip the tape and how to make sure the tape covering the wound from the drain didn’t touch the staples on his incision. And I changed his dressing today, among other things, and felt as sure and able as any degreed nurse. He might have been her patient but he is my husband.

We have children in town but he wanted to put off their visits. People offered to help but there wasn’t help we needed. Not now. We decided to be alone in his mending, today at least, and not have spectators, even family, who might come and cluck at his sudden incapacitation. One thing about getting older and being unwell is that the image sticks. So even when a person recovers, the image of the unwellness persists and defines. He didn’t say that but I thought it. We need to have our secrets, us aging people. Our relatives, our children, no matter how much we love them, don’t need to know everything.

We hunkered down – the patient and the nurse – for a long day of healing. It was quiet on the ward. There was much sleeping and reading and getting in and out of bed and going to the bathroom and doing other things that make a person remember that marriage vows have ‘for sickness and in health’ for a reason. Eventually, I guess, it comes to this. And that is oddly okay. We are blessed to come to this day and to eat this pie.