Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jun 11, 2020

Doctor Nino

I think that my time recovering at home was the hardest because I remember what deathly ill felt like. My stay at the old Children's Hospital was more like a vacation. Other than the need to have surgery, everything was fun. I spent a lot of time coloring and drawing in the activity room with some of the other children. They were there because of sickness. Some got better and went home, others did not. At that age, you can't help but notice something like that. For the most part, I sat in front of the big black and white TV and watched a lot of old movies. That was my world for the time being.


In the afternoon, in between lunch and dinner, a woman doctor wandered in and sat at the piano. She removed her white coat and draped it over a big leather love chair in the corner of the room. The doctor took in a deep breath while simultaneously pushing back the keyboard cover. She treated it with such reverence that it was almost like a dance. Her hands hovered above the ivory while she inhaled. A second later, her entire body plunged forward, enticing the most gentle music I've ever heard from a piano. Sitting there, I was mesmerized by the way she closed her eyes and turned her head up to the ceiling as if some unspoken muse divinely inspired her to communicate its message to us, ordinary mortals. She went on for several more minutes until she finally let out a sigh of finality, and the music came to a close.

"You enjoy that?" She turned to me and smiled warmly.

"It was beautiful," I confirmed with excitement.

"Thank you," she replied wistfully. Then, as easy as she entered the room before, she now departed from it with equal grace as she nudged the stool back and reached over for her white coat. While exiting the room, she unfurled her jacket like a matador's cape and shot her arms into the long sleeves with balletic ease.


Later that evening, when the regular nurse came into my room to place my dinner on a tray, I asked her about the doctor I saw earlier in the activity room playing the piano. I described her to the nurse as best I could, but her reply was that she didn't know any doctor who fit that description.


The day came when I got the all-clear to go home. My bags were packed and ready to go. On the way out of the ward, I waved good-bye to everyone I'd gotten to know—the other kids like myself, the candy stripers, and the nurses. My primary doctor, who took care of me, walked to the elevator with us. Along the walls were pictures of some doctors. Some were new, some were old, and some were really old. That's where I saw the black and white photograph of the doctor who played piano in the activity room. Her nameplate read Grace Nino.

"That's the lady who played piano in the activity room," I said to my doctor.

"Oh, Doctor Nino USED to play piano in the rec-room, but that was a long time ago,"

"What happened?" My parents asked.

"She passed away a while back, good doctor though, everyone loved her. She had such a good heart. A lot of times, the children here are too sick, and they don't make it. Doctor Nino would take it hard whenever that happened, so she would play the piano every time just to get her mind off of it."

All three adults looked at me and realized that I had probably seen the good doctor's ghost. My doctor revealed that while I was in the activity room on that day, one of the younger kids in my ward died of leukemia. He'd been sick for a while. If what my doctor said was true, then that would verify Doctor Nino's appearance.

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