Tag Archives: memories

Rainbow Connection; chapter ten, part one

The next few days are a blur of work and talking on the phone with Lyle and Paris.  Despite what he said, Paris is grateful that Lyle made the trip to Memphis, even if it means Lyle staying at a nearby Holiday Inn.  Mr. and Mrs. Jenson refuse to allow Lyle to stay in their house which pisses Paris off no end.  Lyle is the one who calmed Paris down, making him see that it wasn’t the time nor the place for a hissy-fit.  The funeral is set for Wednesday.  It will be a quiet, family affair, and there is a battle raging on whether Lyle will be allowed to attend or not.  Paris has already threatened not to go if Lyle is barred from the proceedings.  Half of me is glad that I escaped the drama while the other half is sorry that I can’t be there to support Paris and Lyle.  When I’m not on the phone with them, I’m worried about them.  For all the good I’m doing the agency where I work, I might as well have made the trip South.

Tuesday, I’m keyed up for group.  I don’t want to be the cops’ spy, but I don’t have much choice.  I drink cup after cup of coffee at work to get through the day after a terrible night of not sleeping.  It discourages me that I am regressing back into the land of nightmares after I thought I had put it behind me forever.  I have four nightmares Monday night, each scary enough to wake me with a pounding heart and dry mouth.  It takes a half hour to fall back asleep after each one.  Needless to say, when the alarm finally rings in the morning, I don’t greet the day with enthusiasm.  In fact, I seriously consider skipping work, but as I said, my cred at the agency has maxed out.

“Hello, everyone.”  Carol is smiling her usual smile, but it’s frayed around the edges.  Even she is finding it difficult to keep up her soothing therapy voice in the midst of the drama that is our group.  “I hope you’ve all had a restful week.”  The group members are stealing looks at each other, but no one is saying anything.  Carol has her ubiquitous notebook out, which doesn’t help the confidences flow.  Carol sighs but tries again like a good facilitator.  “I think we need to clear the air before we can get back to what this group is really about.  Who wants to talk about what’s on her mind?”

“I will,” Sharise says, thrusting her chin out defiantly.  “It be hard to think about what we here for what with all this murder business going on.  I come here thinking, ‘Am I going to be next?’  I be looking over my shoulder all the time, waiting to get KO’d, you know what I’m saying?  I’m thinking this be my last time here.”  She sits back, folding her arms across her chest.

“Ok, Sharise.  I’m glad you’re being open.  That’s what the group is for, after all.”  Carol nods encouragingly.  “I’d like to remind you that you were against shutting down the group last week.  What changed your mind?”

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Parental Deception; chapter four, part four

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.”

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Parental Deception; chapter four, part three

“Dessert tonight is compliments of my sister, Megan,” Jasmine informs the table.

“Rembrandt did most of the work,” I say, smiling at Rembrandt across the table. “He’s a true gourmet in the kitchen. I basically sat around and looked pretty.”

“That’s not true,” Rembrandt protests. “You made all the pie crusts, which is arguably the hardest part.”

“It was fun, especially as you’re such a patient mentor,” I reply, winking at Rembrandt. I notice that Viv is smirking at me, and I smirk back at her.

“Let me know what you want,” Jasmine says, holding up her spatula.

“Sweet taters!” Ing-wen says, holding out her plate.

“Pumpkin!” Michelle chimes in, holding up her plate as well.

“Blueberry!” Jason gives his opinion, and he’s quickly followed by Jenny.

“Grammy, pumpkin and blueberry, please.” She bats her eyelashes at Jasmine, who smiles at her in return. She turns to look at Jordan, who nods his head.

“Just a small piece of each, Ma,” Jordan says. “We don’t want her to get over-sugared.”

“I understand,” Jasmine says, nodding her head. She does exactly as Jordan requested and gives Jenny a sliver of each of the pumpkin and blueberry pies. She’s been giving each of the kids ice cream with their pie, too, which they all like.

“Pumpkin?” Jonathon asks it more like a question than a statement. Jasmine cuts him a piece and he thanks her gravely.

“Henry, what would you like?” Jasmine ask, turning to that man.

“I’d love a piece of the sweet potato pie,” Henry says. “And, is that real whipped cream? I’ll take a scoop of that as well.” Jasmine cuts him a generous portion of the sweet potato pie, much to my dismay. I was counting on having leftovers because the last time I brought one, I was the only person who ate a piece. That was four or five years ago, however, and it was before half of these people became a part of the family. Jamal also requests a piece of the sweet potato pie, and it’s down by half by the time Jasmine gets to me.

“Sweet potato and pumpkin with whipped cream for me,” I say, holding out my plate. Jasmine cuts small pieces of each and puts them on my plate. I don’t protest because I can always have more later if I have room for it. I take a bite of the sweet potato pie, and I almost regret asking for a piece of each. I take a bite of the pumpkin pie, however, and it’s just as good as the sweet potato pie. I close my eyes so I can fully appreciate the complex and delicate flavoring of the pies. I notice that conversation is at a minimum around me; I assume that everyone else is preoccupied with their pie as well.

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Parental Deception; chapter four, part two

“Megan!” Henry moves forward to hug me, but I hold my hand out and force him to shake hands instead. He has a hurt look on his face, but fuck him and his expectations.

“Hello,” I say stiffly. “Come on in.”

“I brought some jiaozi,” Henry says, holding out a bag. “Pork.” He steps the hallway and takes off his shoes before putting on a pair of slippers that are on a rack near the door.

“I love those,” I say, my voice polite and take the bag from his hand. I thaw a bit when I smell the dumplings because they really are a favorite of mine. “Follow me.” I take him into the kitchen because I know Jasmine will want to make sure I let him into the house.

“Henry!” Jasmine throws her arms around Henry and hugs him hard. He hugs her back, and I’m sure he’s grateful at least one of us is happy to see him.

“He brought dumplings,” I say to Jasmine, handing her the bag.

“Perfect! What’s a Taiwanese meal without them?” Jasmine smiles at Henry, and he smiles back at her. I leave the kitchen so I won’t vomit on the two of them. I stomp into the living room, quietly stewing as I sit next to Rembrandt. He’s talking to Jamal about chess, and I’m listening with half an ear. Viv cocks an eyebrow at me, and I shake my head slightly. I turn to watch the kids who are now playing with Duplo blocks on the floor. I close my eyes and doze until it’s time to go into the dining room. Jasmine has name cards on each plate because she’s a control freak. She’s placed me between Henry and Viv because she has the old-fashioned belief that people and their partners shouldn’t be seated next to each other. She’s across the table from Henry, of course, and I hope she’ll keep him occupied. My eyes widen at the sight of the table. I had thought Stephanie had gone all-out, but this is epic. There is a thirty-pound turkey, maple-glazed yams, chunky smashed potatoes dripping with butter, bread stuffing and rice stuffing, Brussel sprouts in butter, a cranberry salad, rustic loaves of bread, sausage gravy, dumplings, sticky rice, wonton noodle soup, Chinese spare ribs, Chinese spinach, glass noodles and carrots, radish cakes, and Chinese sausages. There is also a sizable plate of almond cookies, which makes me smile. One of my best memories of my mother was when she was sober and decided to bake almond cookies. My sisters and I would sit on stools in the kitchen, eager to be the first to eat a cookie. When they were done, my sisters and I would eat dozens of them while our mother beamed at us in happiness. My sisters and I eat almond cookies on the rare occasions when get together, and I’m touched that Jasmine made them. I know everyone contributed to the meal, but I also know Jasmine did most of the cooking. She is a champ.

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Marital Duplicity; chapter five

“Lee. Taiwanese Evangelical Church in the Twin Cities.” I groan as the results come back to me. My sister and her husband belong to has over 200 members, and Lee is a very common last name for Taiwanese people. This isn’t going to work. Instead, I search for their online directory. Once I have it, I isolate it to 14 people with ‘L’ first names. They only show the initial and not the whole first name, which makes my job harder. Without thinking of it, I pick up the phone and start calling. When someone answers, I say, “Hello, may I speak to Lee, please?” Eight people actually answer their phones and tell me there’s no Lee there. I leave messages on the other five people’s VMs. Two call me back within an hour to say there’s no Lee there. And then there are three. I don’t hold out any hope, but at least it’s another checkmark in my notes.

Next, I Google Matthew Brewer, Minneapolis, and attorney. The results are astronomical. That might not even be his last name. I quickly email Jordan, and he emails me back immediately. Michael Bowman. Attorney to the rich and not-so-famous in Edina, which is just how they like it. Michael Bowman. What am I going to say to him? I can’t just ask him to betray the confidence of his clients, can I? That has to be against the law. Then again, it can’t hurt to try. I pick up the phone once again and call the number Jordan gave me.

“Michael Bowman. How may I help you?” I blink because his rich, plummy, British voice isn’t what I was expecting.

“Hi, Mr. Bowman. My name is Megan Liang. Jordan Cheng is my nephew. He gave me your name and number. Please hear me out.” I say it all in a rush so he won’t hang up on me.

“You have five minutes, Ms. Liang. Go.” I imagine him starting a timer, then dismiss the image from my mind.

“Jordan’s father is missing. Jordan said he asked about divorce laws, so Jordan referred him to you. Is there anything you can tell me about that?” I count to ten, slowly, before he answers.

“You know I can’t break confidentiality, Ms. Liang, but I can tell you that I did talk to Mr. Robert Cheng for quite some time about divorce lawyers. That’s really all I say. Goodbye, Ms. Liang.” Mr. Bowman hangs up without saying anything else. I make a note of it, though it doesn’t tell me much more than I knew before. Rather, it confirms what I’ve been told. Bob was talking about divorce. Jasmine is adamant that it’s not about their marriage. What if it was, though? What would Jasmine do if Bob told her he wanted a divorce? I stop, appalled. Am I really having this thought about my sister? I can’t help but remember the time she got into a fight with her best friend when they were sixteen. Over a boy, if I remember correctly. Jasmine started punching Sandy repeatedly in the gut until Sandy started spitting up blood. Goddamn it. My sister is not a killer or anything like that. I am ashamed for even thinking it. Still. The way her eyes go from warm to deadly in less than ten seconds. The way her body goes rigid when she’s trying to hold in her temper. The way she goes preternaturally still when she’s upset.

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