My daughter lives across the country. She and her husband moved 2.5 years ago in a great leap of faith and with a soft landing of a job transfer.

For the most part, they are happy and have weathered the storms of being thousands of miles from their families and the lives they knew here. That first year they both came home separately for visits. My son-in-law (SIL) was homesick and missed his family and friends, my daughter (D) was overall having a tough time with depression and anxiety and felt the need to come back and touch base.

From the geographical distance, I have done everything I could to help and support them through the rough spots. Our communications have been sporadically consistent, but when she lived 5 miles away our communiations were sporadically consistent. It is my daughter. It is me. It is the pattern of speech and interaction we have established as we navigated the family dynamic.

D and SIL flew into town at the end of July and were in town a week. I know because D called and told me the dates when she purchased their tickets, described their projected activity and schedules, and we made some loose plans to get together and looser plan to speak privately about something on her mind.

About two weeks prior to their arrival I texted about the upcoming vacation. I was excited to see them after more than a year. She responded that the day could not get here soon enough!

On the Tuesday they were to arrive, I texted her again to see if they were in the air? I had a vague idea they would be arriving early afternoon. My SIL’s stepdad was picking them up at the airport, and they would staying with my son and daughter-in-law in town, but I was half expecting a phone call or text with any scheduling updates.

Silence. No text reply or phone call.

Finally, before I went to sleep that night, I texted again to see if they had indeed arrived safely?

This time, there was a quick confirmation, apology, and explanation that it had been a long day.

That was the last text I received.

On my DIL’s instagram, I saw photos with her paternal grandparents birthday dinner (their arrival a surprise that delights me still) as well as a pic from a concert she and my DIL attended the next day.

I waited for contact with suggestions about getting together. Or even a “hey, we are way too busy to get together this trip.” Nothing. Finally, on Sunday, I texted my surprise at not seeing or hearing from them and I wished them safe travels on the flight home.

Tuesday my SIL posted a photo of the window view from the plane on their way home. Not a text or phone call from either of them. I am disappointed in this turn of events.

My question: is this estrangement?

I think about this situation and wonder if this is it? Will we ever interact again? I chastise myself for being overly dramatic and conflating her silence with estrangement. I examine my own thoughts and emotions, wondering what I said or did that might have been hurtful or infuriating to bring this about?

Honestly, I don’t know.

My truth: I do not believe this is me, doing something egregiously offensive and shocking them into silence as their only defense.

More importantly, I do not know that I care to try to dredge up reasons for being shut out.

Make no mistake, I love my daughter and my son-in-law, so much that I respect their agency to make their own decisions. If I fault her for anything, it is not being clear and direct as far as her choices. I would never make demands for their time or attention, but I feel justified in mild expectation of communication, even if it was simple regrets about availability.

But in the big picture of families, being ghosted is small-ball. Maybe it blows over, maybe it lasts the balance of my life. I cannot fully understand what she is doing or why with the information available to me.

In my heart, I want her to be happy. Whatever her reasons, my hope is her silence and our distanct contributes to her overall sense of peace.

But in my head and beneath the pragmatism of my views on agency and personal responsibility, I feel hurt by the rejection … if that is even the appropriate term for this situation. It is not something I need to get over, yet it is something I wish I understood.

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