Between the M and the A

Papi owned a leather belt with his name on it: Norman. It was brown and beige, and no matter how many times he wore it, it never seemed to fade. The belt buckle was big and shiny, but it was not the belt buckle that I feared. It was the space between the M and the A, that spot where the belt folded in two. When Papi removed his belt, and not for undressing purposes, fear rippled through me like a tidal wave, and my instinct was always to run and hide. But I knew that if I did that and he had to come find me, the punishment would be double, and having to endure it once was enough. So I stood there, the tears already streaming down my face while he slowly (or quickly, depending how mad he was), removed his belt, folded it between the M and the A, and beat me with it.

He was not a mean father, just an angry one, and since I was the mischievous daughter of three, I suffered the brunt of his anger. He loved me, I am sure, for he had told me a few times, even after beating me (it was not always with his named belt). He was proud that I was not girlish and that I could take the pain. But with that pride came the proof of burden, and oftentimes I wish he were not so proud of my silent endurance.

After my parents got divorced, and the physical violence ended, I missed Papi so much. We now lived countries away from each other and he now became a physically distant father instead of just an emotional one. I saw him two or three weekends a year, and he laughed with us and cried for us and doted us with gifts, but never stayed with us. I was torn between hating him for his absence and loving him simply for begin my father; I couldn’t help but love him.

As an adult, I confronted Papi with the past and came away with a friend and a brighter future for us, though being his daughter would never be the same. But it was short-lived as, once again, he became distant and inattentive, choosing not to speak and simply view my life from afar. It hurts, but I respect his decisions and refuse to judge, or hate, him for it, although I think a lot about him, our past, our present, and the reality that my children, like me, will know their abuelo.

no regretsI can honestly say that my life has not been the most ideal; that there were times in my childhood that love was expressed with violence, and disappointment tinged everything I loved. And during adolescence, I have to admit that death was a nearby acquaintance that wanted to be a close friend. If it weren’t for divine intervention and a strong character built by these very experiences, I would not have been the woman I am today, especially since the last several years between diagnosis and today, have perhaps been the most rewarding and blessed ones yet.

However, the term “No Regrets” always seems to defy that which I have upheld since the past. Despite the experiences I have accrued with risk-taking, curiosity, and experimentation, I have regrets, not so much because of these experiences, but because of the collateral damage it causes. No one is isolated when they make choices based on emotions, reactions, and poor judgment. There are always those around us who suffer our consequences, whether they know of the incidents or not, because at some level or another, we are cheating them. But more so, we are doing ourselves an injustice as well, by pretending that these consequences are worth suffering just to have lived through an experience and to say, “I’d rather live life knowing and suffering for that knowledge, than never knowing at all.”

I have to disagree as, I’m sure Eve did once upon a time. I am a proponent for attaining knowledge, but not one acquired at the expense of others and of one’s own self-preservation. When this knowledge, this past experience, becomes a painful memory, a deep sadness created by sin, ending in loss, then I question whether it was worth it after all. And like Eve, tempted by the knowledge she had no right obtaining, I have reached out for the forbidden fruit and taken a bite only to find bitterness and deceit at the end of my tongue, until those I love find out, and disappointment and mistrust enter into our relationship, alter it forever.

There are regrets (and I have many!) that have tainted relationships and shifted the course of our lives, for no matter how small the pebble, when thrown into still waters, a ripple will rise to the surface and change it, leaving doubt to fester deep within even as the surface begins to settle.