That cut me to the core, and nothing Jasmine could say mitigated the pain. That’s when I mentally checked out of my relationship with my mother, and after that, I had as little to do with her as possible. She never mentioned her remark again, and I bet she didn’t even remember saying it. I stayed out of her way for the next two years, and once I moved out to attend college, I never looked back. I attended Carleton College, which was only twenty minutes away, but I rarely went home while I was at college. I felt bad for leaving Vivian on her own, but I rationalized it by telling myself that she was my mother’s favorite, so she wouldn’t suffer as much as I did. Even then, I knew it was bullshit, but I had to do whatever it took to survive. I talked about it with Vivian many years later, and she understood why I had made that decision. She said she would have done the same thing, but it still hurt her, I could tell. Jasmine went back as often as she could, but she was a mother with kids of her own—they had to come first.
My mother’s health deteriorated rapidly after that. Every few years, Jasmine would say that we needed to have another intervention. Vivian went to Boston U when she turned eighteen, and she loved Boston so much, she made her home there. She’s only been back a few times in the twenty-five years since, and once was for Mom’s funeral. Whenever Jasmine would call her, upset about Mom’s behavior, Vivian would sympathize, but refused to come home. She didn’t see the point, and, quite frankly, I didn’t blame her. My mom was a lost cause, and each of us sisters had to find a way to cope with her alcoholism without letting it ruin our lives. I did a few more interventions with Jasmine, but none of them amounted to anything. If anything, they just made Mom worse. When I was twenty-eight, Jasmine wanted to do another one. I refused because I was done with that. I hated how I’d get my hopes up, even though I knew better, only to have them crushed once again as my mother spiraled downwards for the next few days. That was the pattern after each intervention—my mother would drink twice as much as if to say, “You’re not the boss of me.” Jasmine did it on her own, and it went about as well to be expected.
Three weeks later, Jasmine went over to our old house where my mother still lived after not hearing from our mom in several days. Jasmine was the dutiful daughter, calling or texting Mom every three days like clockwork. No matter how drunk Mom was, she’d call or text back within a day, two at the most. When Jasmine didn’t hear from her in nearly a week, she went over to the house and let herself in. She found Mom face down on her bed, congealed blood crusted at the temple of her head. She had been drunk, of course, tripped, and hit her head on the headboard on the way down. That’s not what killed her, though. She had a heart attack, and that’s what actually did her in. As complicated as my feelings were about her, I did find solace in the fact that she probably didn’t suffer much as she died. Jasmine was devastated, of course, and for decades, she blamed herself for our mother’s death.
“I should have checked on her!” Jasmine wept, burying her face in my chest back at her house after the funeral. She’d had two glasses of wine, and as she normally didn’t drink, she was pretty tipsy. “It’s my fault she’s dead!”
“How could you have known, Jasmine?” I asked, patting her back in sympathy. “You couldn’t watch her twenty-four/seven.”
“I knew something was wrong when she didn’t call back. Selfishly, I just couldn’t deal with it. Robbie was sick, and I had my hands full dealing with that.” Jasmine continued to sob, and I handed her a box of tissues. She took several and blew her nose loudly as she still sniffled.
“She’s the only one who’s responsible for her death,” I say, my ire rising. Not at Jasmine, but at our mother for doing such damage to her daughters. “She hasn’t been to a doctor in at least a decade, and she knew she was drinking herself to death.”