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 that we have had in years.
Going forward, I will do more of this to maintain peacefulness in my life.