I was grateful to be in the process of making bread when I received her text message. She wanted to talk. What about? I had no idea, and after a year of not speaking, I felt sick to my stomach even thinking about it.
Kneading the dough, squishing, and pounding helped to relieve a little of the anxiety I was feeling about even hearing her voice.
Our last conversation had disintegrated into a full nuclear meltdown. Full of so much ugliness and rage that I had no desire to speak to her and honestly did not know when I would.
She is my 50-year-old daughter, born when I was just 15 years old. The amount of pain and anguish I went through to bring her into the world was enough to convince me that it would never be possible for me not to want her in my life – I was wrong.
Beating the dough harder, I thought of all the things I would like to say to her, but I knew she was probably not ready to hear any of them.
She loves confrontation and arguing, and she is very good at it. Me – not so much. It takes me back to when I was married to her father.
He was a jealous, controlling, abusive man. I never knew what was going to set him off, so I worked very hard to avoid doing anything that I thought might upset him.
The truth is, he never needed a reason. He was so angry that he had been forced to marry me and blamed me for ruining his life.
His mother was a kind and loving woman, and I clung to her for whatever comfort I could find.
My mother was so disappointed in me that we barely spoke. She lived close by but rarely came to visit.
Now, I felt the same judgement and coldness from my own daughter.
I sent a message back that I could talk between 12:00 – 12:30, during my lunch break if that was a good time for her. I thought setting a time limit would help to keep the conversation from going off the rails.
What I didn’t want was to cause any additional injury to this already damaged relationship.
It was 12:20 when she rang. I was nervous but decided I would stick to my timeframe. I began by telling her I only had 10 minutes to talk so she would know that I needed to keep our conversation short.
She was calling to ask, in the event of my death, what my final wishes were. A friend’s mother had passed unexpectedly, and she realized that she had no idea what I would want.
It was all very matter-of-fact and detached. She went on to say that as the eldest, she expected to have to make some of those decisions. I was taken aback, especially considering the current state of our relationship, and very happy that I had set the time limit.
She always has a way of catching me off guard and then when she doesn’t like my response an argument ensues.
With less than 5 minutes left, I was able to think of the most appropriate response without getting emotional.
I told her I had already taken care of my will and legal power of attorney in the event of any incapacity or death and would send her a copy.
Mercifully, the timer for my bread went off and our time was up.
I ended the call by telling her that I loved her and the children. Honest, civil, and respectful. I felt relieved and grateful that we could even speak for a few minutes without upsetting each other.
Just like not letting the bread dough rise too long, setting that simple boundary produced a better outcome than we have had in years.
Going forward, I will do more of this to maintain peacefulness in my life.
What have you learned late in life that has served you well? Were there interpersonal relationships that felt out of control that you wish you could change? Share your stories with the community!