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Roberto didn't notice anything wrong, at first.

Caught up in the joyous chaos of moving Ana home, he didn't catch the signs: Sometimes Ana's smile seemed forced. Other times, he would turn to find her lost in thought, staring at nothing.

JUST CURIOUS: Daniel Garcia Serrano, 6, touches the shoe on his mother's artificial leg. He and his brothers show no awkwardness about Ana's changed body.

He was too busy renovating the bathroom, bedroom and porch.

Inspired by the donations to the family, Roberto and Richard Chavez, the firefighter who had become a friend, discussed putting a modest down payment on a little house nearby. Roberto listened eagerly as Chavez outlined job offers he'd received on Roberto's behalf -- jobs that paid nearly double what Roberto had earned at the recycling plant.

The future looked bright for the Garcia Serranos.

Then came the morning Ana refused to get out of bed.

It was the same the next day, and the next. Roberto's urgings didn't rouse her. Neither did the boys' pleas to come out and play.

Counselors had warned Roberto that depression was common after amputations. But Ana's spirits had been so high, he'd paid them little heed.

What had driven Ana through two months of painful recovery was her fierce desire to return home. But home had changed. Along with their lives. And Roberto realized Ana did not know how to be this new woman, this new mother, this new wife with no legs.

She ate little and rarely changed her clothes. She spent listless days staring at the TV.

Fidel and Daniel tiptoed about the house. Tito squeezed in next to her on the bed.

Roberto was in agony. This was not the long-awaited homecoming he had envisioned.

He tried to keep the household together. At dawn, he pushed a shopping cart of clothes three blocks to the laundry. He used to go while the boys were at school but was embarrassed to pull out Ana's clothes in a roomful of women. So now he went in the morning, when no one was there.

The hum of the washing machines was soothing. Even yanking out the damp piles of shirts and pants and stuffing them into the dryers was comforting. They were acts he could set his mind to and accomplish. Just like washing the dishes, sweeping the floors, picking up the toys, cooking the meals and bicycling the 12 miles to his physical therapist.

OK, so he didn't get the clothes as soft as Ana. Then, too, the boys often refused to eat what he cooked because it came out burnt or runny, forcing him to order pizza or serve cereal for dinner. And he had to give up his beloved rabbits because there was no time for them.

But at least he served a purpose. He kept house together, if not home.

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