Tell us about spiders.
Until now, it has never occurred to me that a spider taught me how to forgive.
In all honesty, I never knew how to feel about my father. I loved him because I was supposed to. But I feared him even more. I feared him like I feared spiders. Perhaps those minuscule creatures are harmless, but the very sight of them cause the hairs on my body to stand up. The sight of my father always caused my stomach to turn upside down. His tone was always menacing and thunderous. His fists were always clenched and threatening. There was rarely a moment when the sinister fire in his eyes stopped burning.
There is only one vivid memory of my childhood when I stayed at my mother’s home under my father’s care. My parents were separated for reasons I was unsure of at that moment. Though, I was certain hat my father caused my mom a lot of pain, both physically and mentally. I recall that a family emergency left her with no choice but to leave my two older brothers and me in the care of my father for a few days.
Amongst the days I spent in my father’s care, he scavenged through my mother’s documents and personal belongings. It was like a scene from Law & Order: SVU, my favorite show as a child. I had developed enough deductive reasoning skills to conclude that his intentions were malicious. But I could not ignore the fact that he also tried to comb my kinky hair, prepare meals for my brothers and me, and entertain us. Though I may have thought otherwise in the past, my father was not a monster.
There were countless nights when I would console my mother and beg her not to cry because of my father. At such a young age, I did not know why my father neglected my mother. I did not know why he would storm into my house causing havoc, only to storm out for the next few months and eventually never come back. It pained me to watch my father mistreat my mother. It pained me to know that my brothers and I were not a priority in his life.
But he was my hero that weekend when my mother was away, even if it was for a mere moment.
As I reluctantly prepared to take a dreaded bath, the earth was plotting against me. Before I could step into the bathtub, I felt a peculiar, tingling sensation making its way to the tip of my nose. Fear itself held my eyes hostage as I dared to see what was infiltrating my space. One pair of legs. Then another. Then another.
I let out a screech from the top of my lungs, “Papi! Papi! Come here!” In a matter of seconds, my father stood before me in the bathroom. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I begged my father to save me. In that moment, the fire in his eyes was not mean and menacing, but warm and tender. He chuckled as he turned the running water off and removed the eight-legged creature from me. That night, my father assured me that spiders are only mere creatures who cannot cause me more harm than I allow them to. “You are bigger than spiders,” he told me, “don’t let them hurt you.”
Today I still do not have a solid relationship with my father. In fact, we have not spoken to each other in years. His abuse and manipulation has caused significant burdens for my family. His absence still pains me. Though, I have recognized that his absence cannot cause me more harm than I allow it to. Perhaps I still have a small fear of spiders, but that eight-legged creature from that one moment in my childhood taught me to never view anything through the lens of fear.