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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 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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Parental Deception; chapter one, part two

“Hello, Megan. Didn’t we just talk?” Jasmine’s voice is mellow, unlike it was while Bob was missing.

“Yes, but something weird just happened.” I breathe smoothly and softly before adding, “A man claiming he’s our father was just here, and he’s on his way to your house.”

“What?!!” The ease leaves Jasmine’s voice, and she sounds like I did when the man made his announcement. “Are you making a joke, Megan? If so, it’s not funny.”

“I’m not! This old Taiwanese man showed up on my doorstep and said he was our father. He had a letter he wrote us to prove it. Mom sent it back unopened.” I blurt it out, not wanting to hold anything in.

“I can’t believe this,” Jasmine says, her voice taut. “I do not need this right now. Not after the last few weeks!”

“I know. But, he’s on his way, so you better prepare yourself—and Bob.”

“I guess. I’ll talk to you later.” Jasmine clicks off, and I call Vivian next.

“Hey, Sis. What’s up?” Her voice is distracted as it often is. “You caught me at a good time; I just finished a statement piece on the horseshit that is Donald Trump.”

“Better you than me,” I reply. “Are you coming for Thanksgiving? Jasmine said you might, but that you haven’t bought a ticket yet.”

“I’m coming. Pablo knows someone who works for Delta, so we won’t have a problem getting tickets.” Pablo is her lover, and he’s also an artist. Pablo’s not his real name, though. He adopted the moniker when he decided he wanted to be an artist. His real name is Peter Jorgenson, but he refuses to answer to anything other than Pablo. You wouldn’t think he was such a diva just by looking at him. He’s six-feet tall with blond hair and dark blue eyes. He has a muscular built, and he looks as if he belongs on the cornfields of Wisconsin—which is exactly where he grew up. He’s also fifteen years younger than Viv’s forty-two years, but I’m not one to talk as Rembrandt is thirteen years younger than my forty-five. “We’re coming Wednesday afternoon, and we’re staying with Jasmine.”

“That’s great! I can’t wait to see you.” I haven’t seen my younger sister in a few years, and I’m looking forward to her visit. “I have to tell you something. A man claiming to be our father came to my house tonight.”

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