by Emmanuel Peralta
"Buenos días, buenas tardes, y buenas noches, ¿cómo están los Peralta?" Esas son las primera palabras que oigo cuando papi me llama. Y yo le respondo, "Ción papi, por la gracia de Dios todo bien."
Papi me da su bendición y después me pregunta sobre mi esposa y la perrita de casa.
Ción papi, ción mami, ción abuela—you can receive or give an enormous blessing by saying those two words—holding power over you when you voice them.
Papi would remind us to besar la mano when we’d slip and forget to say it. We say it like we've heard it all our lives, ción papi, cutting the original word in half, but that's how it’s done in our culture. I don't know many people who say it fully, bendicion.
Papi isn’t your typical de lo mio, de lo tuyo Dominican. He’s a quiet, humble man; when surrounded by family he lights up the room around him. Un hombre simple, que ama a su familia—one of those people who would take the shirt off his back to give it to someone else in need.
My father is a role model that comes from humble beginnings. One of eight siblings, he had to toughen up quickly to hold his own. Don Miguelito, as his brothers call him, came to the United States at an early age to accomplish what every dreamer aspires, to create a better situation back home for his family and make a name for himself.
Papi met my grandfather at a pool hall and recognized him from the same town back in D.R. "Con una ceverza in one hand, cigar in the other, your grandfather told your dad he had a daughter that would knock his socks off," mami tells me.
Papi laughs and says the rest was history. I listen to papi recount how they wrote letters to each other after meeting—gone are those days when you could receive a handwritten letter.
Papi would send me to church con mami pero él no iba con nosotros. "Oren por mi," he’d mutter. Mami did just that; she prayed, "Señor te pido, quitale ese vicio de beber cerveza y de salir tanto.”
Papi eventually accepted Jesus into his life. I now sit with him at church because, like he reminds us, family is essential and time is fleeting.
He broke that stereotype of fathers being absent in their children's lives.
Papi’s presence has always been consistent—he always made time for his three sons. The most he's ever been away at a time has been a week to visit family or head back to the Dominican Republic for a funeral.
Papi was never the controlling type (although I’m sure that if my dad had any daughters, things might have been different).
Papi woke up early on Saturday mornings to fit all his son's bikes in the car and take us to the park. He spent all that time alone, possibly walking the park, waiting for us to tire out.
I was married in November 2019 and moved away from home before the pandemic’s debut. Reflecting on it now, I honestly didn't recognize the importance of having my dad in my life until I wasn't under his roof. Papi would always say "que vas hacer cuando te caseas, depender de nosotros?"
Papi calls me on Fridays, asking me what my plans are for the weekend. He drives over to make my favorite breakfast, yuca con huevos y salami. While we weren’t born in D.R, he fed us like we were.
Papi says he prefers to watch baseball on TV instead of going to an actual game because the commute is too long, and they don’t show replays.
Papi still hasn’t gone to a natural beach in all his years living in the States.
Papi introduced me to Redbull’s. Every time we had one, we had to sneak drink it to avoid my mom’s and wife’s death stare.
Papi taught me to drive, and when I accidentally backed into a car, instead of yelling at me, he comforted me, saying things happen—learn and move on.
Papi no era machista ni mujeriego. Nunca lo vi levantarle la mano a mami.
Papi is the reason I am the man I am today. My best traits come from watching him love my mom. Él era y sigue siendo un hombre de familia, que siempre dio ejemplo de lo que es trabajar fuerte para que nunca falte ni comida ni dinero pa la renta. He practiced what he preached.
Ción papi. Te amo.
Emmanuel Peralta was born and raised in New Jersey. He began reading and writing at a young age and briefly tutored other students in creative writing. When he isn’t reading a new book, it probably means he’s shopping for more. He is the author of “Mi Padre, Su Bendicion y Ensenanzas.”