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"Arnold gave him that nickname when we brought him home from the hospital," explained Vera, running her hand sentimentally over the worn pictures. "It doesn't seem possible that forty-two years have passed already," reminisced Vera. She turned a few pages, lingering at a photo of a young man in a cap and gown. "Your father's high school graduation picture," pointed out Vera, as Charlie leaned over to get a better look. "Arnold was so proud of you, Chuck," said Vera, wiping a tear from her eye.

"I didn't know that, Mom," replied Chuck, surprised.

"Oh, he was! He was!" exclaimed Vera. "He knew how hard it was for you to graduate."

"I wish he had told me."

"Arnold always had trouble expressing his feelings-- you know that," reminded Vera.

"Yes, I know," replied Chuck, grimly.

"Good grades came so easily to Jerome, that when it looked like you might not even graduate...," explained Vera, her voice trailing off.

"Dad had a hard time accepting the fact that I was doing the best I could," finished Chuck, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "I wasn't a goldbricker."

"He never should have called you that," replied Vera. "I know he regretted it the moment it came out of his mouth."

"How did you know he had regret, Mom? Did he tell you?" asked Chuck. "Did Dad ever say he was sorry for being so unforgiving with me?"

"Your father never played favorites between his sons," denied Vera.

"I didn't say he did, Mom," replied Chuck, getting up from the armchair.

"He didn't know he was hurting you, Chuck," pleaded Vera. "If he just had the right opportunity-- I know he would have made things right between the two of you."

"It's too late for that now," Chuck said, sadly walking back to his room to change. Vera sighed, heavily.

"Well," Vera said, returning her thoughts to the present, "I have to go fix breakfast, Pumpkin." She closed the album and placed it on the living room coffee table.

There was a sadness that clung to Charlie after Vera and Chuck left. It was as if the past had temporarily stepped out of the shadows and visited the room with its bittersweet memories.

She opened the photo album once more and looked at the faces of her father, her uncle, and her grandma, all much younger. Then there was the taciturn face of her grandpa. Charlie couldn't help noticing that he bore a resemblance to Jerome. But of all the photos, the one she liked the most was of her parents, just after they were married. Charlie had seen pictures of her mother before, but this one was her favorite. Chuck had his arms tenderly around Martha. It was as if the photographer had walked in on a private moment between husband and wife. Charlie sighed wistfully. If only someone would hold her the way Chuck was holding Martha; if only someone loved her like that. Before Charlie had time for another "if only," Vera called everyone to breakfast.

After Charlie sat down at the table, she immediately began to help herself to some toast. Chuck cleared his throat, giving her a disapproving look.

"Charlie, from now on, we're going to give thanks to God before we eat," informed Chuck. For a second, Charlie wanted to laugh. Was this a joke? Sure, he had prayed before dinner last night, but that was only because he was so excited that the family was together again. Surely, he wasn't serious! Back in Montana, they never prayed. But as Chuck bowed his head and thanked God, Charlie realized that her father was serious. Charlie threw Chuck a look afterward that gave him a knot at the pit of his stomach. It was the same patronizing look he had seen a thousand times before.

"When are you planning to put Charlie in school, Chuck?" asked Vera, pouring some coffee into his mug. Vera waited expectantly for a response, but Chuck did not answer. His mind was elsewhere, trying to think of the best way to reach his daughter. It was not until Vera repeated the question, that Chuck realized someone was speaking to him.

"I hadn't given it much thought," admitted Chuck.
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