Jasper’s Mother

My daughter, the youngest — the baby of the family — is especially tough on me. She hasn’t much patience. She’s never had any. This I first noticed when she walked at eight months, so she could keep up with her older ones. Naturally, they pushed her around. She had scrapes and bruises and was always crying about something.

As a kid, Jasper was downright needy, so it became my responsibility to teach her to cry herself to sleep. Lord knows, I did enough of that when her father was out on a bender. Even more after he’d left for good. My efforts were daunted though by interfering siblings who always lifted her out of her crib to soothe her. It’s no wonder she never learned to look after herself.

Jasper holds this against me.

There’s a growing list of grievances that she can’t seem to let go of, even now as she lays dying in the hospital bed. Her body, at last a size or two smaller than usual; she has been carrying extra weight since her teen years. Lordy, those were crazy days. Through light breaths and long naps, she told me she is waiting for apology. What for? I asked. I couldn’t get it out of her. She must have been referring to her father.

No matter how many years pass, I am still paying for that man. He’s long dead now and I refuse to keep paying for his sins. He should’ve looked after his own apologies and reconciliation.

Why is it down to me?

The list she wrote for her therapist, which was on the table, now pushed to the foot of her bed included a note I sent, written in red ink on yellow foolscap, about a failed pregnancy. She took exception to what I wrote about her boyfriend, but even more so, to the paper and pen I used to write it. She has always been odd that way. Overanalyzing everything.

She was living an improper lifestyle, one that was not healthy, and I’d never met the man who was the father. Now, I didn’t want to. She should have just kept her knees together, but she needed to be told these things. She was always too promiscuous. When it happened the first time, all that blood, and the blot clots. There was something going on with that kid from the West End. I don’t know how it ended, I was just glad that it did. The next thing I know, she’s knocked up.

Jasper said I should have supported her.

These are her dying days, and she wants to lay blame? She needs to keep her strength, to fight this thing, to make it go away. She needs to rest. I told her that. And she turned on me. She said I’ve never been there for her. Emotionally, she means, but I had a job, I couldn’t just pick up and go. Unlike her, who jumped from job to job, moving every time something didn’t go her way. Plus, she liked to hang up on me. Nearly every one of our telephone conversations ended the same way. I don’t know what she was so angry about, or why she bothered to call when she was in a state of anger. Which she was. In a state, I mean. A state of anger, state of irritation, state of anxiety. I never knew from one minute to the next if she was going to fly off the handle. I wanted her to be safe. She had already claimed financial bankruptcy and this seemed like moral bankruptcy, to me. I was worried. She was pilfering change from her sister’s wallet. She was consistently late with rent money and she was always calling for more. In short, she was sponging and expecting her roommate to cover the long-distance phone bill. She even stuck me with a three-thousand-dollar bank loan for a car she no longer owned. I did not raise her like that. I don’t know why she became irresponsible.

She needed a talking to, and I took the opportunity to do just that. What did it matter what sort of paper, or pen I used? She couldn’t even care for herself. It was a blessing that she did not carry the baby to term.

She never thought things through. Jasper jumped into life without thinking. Like moving. She moved out one night. Just like that. No savings, no plan, no notice. She was 17 years-old. I mean who does that? She just packed her car with all of her belongings, which wasn’t much, let me tell you, and moved in with that boyfriend of hers. Next thing I know, she’s calling me collect once a week, asking me for money, or to ship her my typewriter. What did she want that dusty, old thing for? I did not feel obligated to send her something that I worked hard to pay for. What didd she need it for, so she could remain unemployed and type poems all day?

What she needed to do was get a job. It was ridiculous. She was — is — too sensitive. She always has been.

I remember her as a young child, everywhere we went, she clung to my leg. Shy, fearful. I felt weighed down by her neediness. She reminded me of my younger sister, always in need of mothering, by the time Jasper arrived, I was tired of being a mother.