“Dad, what happened?”
“Finally,” Sam said. “Thanks for that.”
He held out his hands and she gave him the roses. They walked together to Celia’s grave. He placed the roses in a flower holder near the bottom of her grave. Letting out a breath, he turned to her.
“Celia was sick for a long, long time. She fought the cancer for a decade or more. She wanted so much to live.” Sam smiled remembering. “We kept it from you kids because … Well … because raising you was … important to us. When we knew that fighting wasn’t an option anymore, she …”
He stopped talking for a moment. His expression reflected his love and frustration for his Celia.
“Oh, your mother … She always thought the best of everyone. If someone was awful, she would say that they didn’t know any better.”
They said together, “With loving support they will blossom.” They laughed.
“Tiffanie’s boyfriend was in and out of prison. She was just pregnant with Briana when he violated parole and was sent back to Cañon City. Your mother felt that if I married her, said that the baby was mine, I would save Tiffanie … and her children.”
“But why would Mom do that?”
“Why do you think?” Sam asked.
“Can’t you just answer the question?”
“Who did your mother love more than anyone in this world?”
“More than me and more than Jake.”
“No one. Jake was her favorite.”
“God damn it, Valerie. You know that’s not true.”
At that moment, patience left Sam Lipson. The last twenty hours had left him raw, exhausted, and unwilling to play into anyone’s bullshit.
“Me.” Valerie whispered.
“But this destroyed me. I …”
“Your mother knew things,” Sam said.
“Like Jake and Delphie.”
“More like Jake. Long-term visions, big picture stuff. Life was a chess board to Celia. While all our friends went into building houses, we switched to underground utility. Celia knew the Californians would come to Colorado and build cheaper than anyone else. Everyone we knew went out of business except us. Delphie is good at the next six months and specifics in the next day or hour.”
“Mom knew about Mike,” Valerie said.
“And your baby,” Sam said. “She knew I wouldn’t make it … six months without her. With her death, my death, the baby, and Mike … She didn’t think you’d survive.”
“I barely survived as it is.”
“Exactly,” Sam said. “The only thing that would keep me going was having people depend on me. And I do love babies. I didn’t care about living without her, but …”
Sam face shifted to a kind of quiet love. His eyes filled.
“She believed your anger … at me … would pull you through all of the loss.” He put his hand on her shoulder. Valerie looked up into his face. “She was right.”
“Oh, Dad.” Valerie reached up and her father hugged her.
While she cried into his shoulder, he said, “It was so worth it, Val. So completely worth it.”
“Val! Val!” Mike yelled from the car. He ran across the grass to them. “Jake’s dead.”
“So that’s it?” Jacob asked.
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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