I was just 5 years old when my parents split, yet I remember that day like it was yesterday. I heard every cliche when they broke up. “You’ll understand when you’re older.” I knew exactly what was going down.
It wasn’t unusual for Papi to come home late; he sang at various restaurants and his gigs were always in the late evening. Often, I’d stay up late to wait for him while Mami got her beauty sleep. It was the only time I could skip my bedtime.
This one night something felt off. My father walked through the door and I wasn’t very excited to see him. My eyes instantly landed on the bright red lipstick that stained the collar of his white button-down shirt. Mami is asleep, it couldn’t possibly be a kiss from her, I reasoned as any toddler would. Immediately, I ran to her bedside and spilled the beans.
“Papi tiene pintalabio en su camisa!” I screamed.
My mother tried pretending everything was normal, but I saw it in her eyes – she wanted to pounce on him like a puma. And that she did. Mami pinned him to the wall. “Where were you?!” she yelled. In that instant, they had forgotten I was in the room. Before the situation took a turn for the worst, Mami shipped me off to Abuela’s, who lived right down the hall. Despite Papi’s unfaithfulness, Mami didn’t want to tarnish my opinion of him.
When I returned Papi wasn’t living with us anymore.
“Where’s Papi?” I’d ask Mami.
“He’s on vacation,” she’d lie. For an entire year I asked about my father’s “vacation” and she’d lie. Finally, she fessed up. “He’s not coming back,” Mami admitted. I felt like Papi had just died.
I blamed my mother for everything. Including my frustration and depression. That’s when Mami took action and signed me up for counseling at my elementary school. They’d pull me out of class for about half an hour where the counselor would reassure me that what I was feeling was temporary, that it would pass. It did.
Now, I see my parents’ divorce differently. I know that my mom deserved better than a husband who cheated. Mami also changed drastically after the split. She wasn’t an angry person anymore. As for me and Papi, our relationship remains intact. He has always been there for me when I needed him, that’s what I focus on. It also helps that Mami has never talked shit about him. She always reminds me that he loves me very much.
So I’m glad that my parents split. It’s odd, but some people just don’t belong together. Some people are better and happier apart. Not every relationship has to be permanent. I get that. My parents divorce may have been the best thing that happened to my family. So I guess Mami was right; I understand everything now.