“Mom,” Jacob whispered.
He felt his mother near. Gradually, her face came into view. Not her cancer-ravaged face, but the face she wore when he was a very small boy. Like a thirsty man, Jacob drank in her image.
“My baby boy,” Celia said.
“Not quite.” He felt her hand touch his face. “I love you.”
“I love you, Mom.”
“I am so proud of the man you’ve become. You’re kind and loving to everyone who knows you. Honorable. You are a wonderful person.”
Jacob stretched out his hand to touch her face.
In an instant, they were walking along a familiar shore. The day was bright and warm. There was a slight wind from the west that blew wisps of clouds through a bright blue sky. Their footprints in the tan-colored sand were washed away by a slow white-capped tide. They were alone on the shore. This youthful version of his mother slipped her arm into his elbow. They walked in silence for a while.
“I’ve missed you,” Jacob said.
“I’ve missed you. I’ve been around. It’s you who refuses …”
“To call you Naomi?” Jacob laughed. “Don’t you think that’s a bit … much?”
“The truth is always a bit much,” Celia said.
“Are you … all right?”
“I was in pain for such a very, very long time. It’s nice to not be in pain. But I long for Ruth and you children. I miss Sam like a hole in my soul.”
“He’s lost without you.”
“You’ve been a tremendous relief for him. I don’t think he realized how much he needed you.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine Dad needing anyone … Except you.”
“Poor Sam. I really messed up his life … and yours.”
“With the new wife, Tiffanie?” Jacob asked.
“Yes. I thought that …
“With loving support and resources, they’d blossom,” they said together.
Celia stopped walking to gawk at her son.
“You used to say that any time someone was … hurtful.”
“I was wrong.”
“Yes, but that’s part of your beauty. Your belief in people.” Jacob smiled. “Are you all right with Dad and Delphie?”
“Dad and Ruth.”
“Of course,” she said. “My best friend and my soul’s love.”
“They miss you and love you so much …”
Celia stopped walking and hugged her son.
“You don’t have to explain it. I’m not jealous. We belong to each other — Ruth, Sam and I. And with you and Jillian, Jillian and Michael, Michael and Valerie.”
Jacob kissed his mother’s cheek. “You’re very sweet.”
She smiled. They walked along the unending shore in silence. A river of palpable love flowed back and forth between them.
“I wanted so much life … Love … laughter … babies … I wanted to grow old … with Jill … Twenty-six years isn’t a very long time to live. After years of thinking … hoping, I only … one chance … very fast … with Jill. I wanted to live … I liked living.”
“Yes,” Celia said. “Why haven’t you stepped into your wisdom?”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I never pretended I didn’t know things. Never. I never told people … What is it that you say?”
“I just figured it would happen,” Jacob said. “What am I supposed to do? I’m not going to read tarot cards.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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