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.