Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 21, 2022

Aupuni 4 2022

Yandra's support meant a lot to me. On those nights when she couldn't be with me at mom's place, she finished up late at work and then brought dinner for the three of us, after which she would head home. Some nights, the lessons were short; others, the time would pass quickly before we realized that six hours had gone by. Yet, all that time, Yandra was there, supporting in whichever way she could without complaining. Mom always made a point to remind me how thankful I should be to Yandra. If she was asleep when I got home, I'd ensure she got coffee first thing in the morning. If she was still awake, she got a foot or shoulder massage. On her days off, she'd stay at mom's with me, just hanging out until whenever we were done. Mom didn't mind if Yandra hung out in the kitchen or living room while we worked, even though she was within hearing distance. Between the lessons, when mom or I or both of us needed a break, she would say something like, "You should marry that girl," or "If you screw up and lose Yandra, you'll never find anyone like her again. Girls like her are hard to find, you know why? Good parents, that's why."

While Mom taught me about spirits, she suddenly stopped in the middle of the lesson and looked over at where Yandra was sitting in the living room. "Yandra, you have that Zoom or Skype thing on your laptop?"

"Yes, I do, mama," she replied. "You need to talk to someone?"

"Yes," Mom replied. "I'd like to talk to your parents if it's alright? I'd like to meet them in person so that we will already be well acquainted when I finally meet them face to face."

"It's one in the morning here, so it should be about seven in Miami," Yandra said. "Those two are early risers, so they should be awake."

"What do your folks think about my son here?" My mom asked.

"Oh, they spoil him to death," Yandra laughed. "Every time he comes over, they treat him like a king; you just wouldn't believe it, mama; it's like I'm not even in the room!"

"My son doesn't take advantage of that, does he?" My mom looked at me the whole time; she said she was ready to pinch me with her fingernails if Yandra said yes.

"You would have to see it for yourself; it's like a mutual admiration society," she laughed." So they shower him with affection and food, and he's politely refusing. Yet, he'll sneak over on the weekends, mow the lawn for them, or rake the yard. It's soo funny to watch. But, wait, you'll see once they get online!"

"You weren't taking advantage, were you, Timoti?" Her one eye brown raised in my direction; mom meant business.

"No, mom, of course not," I assured her. "What's this about all of a sudden?"

"I just realized that I haven't met Yandra's mākua, and now seemed like a better time than any," she said.

"Is that it for the lesson today then?" I asked.

"Even after you leave here, the lessons never stop," she gave me this serious look. "We'll take a break; for now, I want to meet your future in-laws. I'm assuming your folks are in favor of the both of you getting married?" Mom spoke to Yandra as she walked over the where she was seated in the living room.

"It's all they ever talk about," she sighed. "You would think Timoti was their son, and I was the girlfriend from some other Cuban family,"

Yandra had mom sit in front of her laptop while she got a hold of her folks on Zoom. Once Yandra's folks popped on, she introduced them to Mom, and the lovefest began. The three of them talked for a long time. Yandra and I were busy in the kitchen, making breakfast for the three of us. Camilo and Adoncia Marin were beautiful humans who moved through life with passion and love. How could you not love them? They claimed their love for me was because they could see how much I took care of Yandra and loved her. She smiled and laughed more than she used to because up until then, her days were dark, and her heart seemed to be unmendable after being broken to pieces. Her previous boyfriend, Alejandro, was abusive to her in many ways, but there was nothing her parents could do because she wouldn't let them. One evening, I happened by the house. I parked on the street, and as I walked up the driveway, I saw Yandra's parents struggling with who could only be the infamous Alejandro. Camilo and Adoncia were between Yandra and Alejandro, trying to get him to leave; otherwise, they would have to call the police. He was cavalier and dared them to do it and spat in their face. Something in me snapped right at that moment. I would never do that to my mom or grandparents; that was just unheard of. I kept my pace, calmly walked up to them, yanked Alejandro away from Yandra's parents, scooped him up over my head, and slammed him to the ground. I did it a second time to make my point. Alejandro struggled to catch his breath; his eyes were wide and glassy, and he was in a lot of pain, but he wasn't crippled. Yandra and her parents were stunned; they had no idea what to say or do. I gave Alejandro time to get his bearings and let him get to his feet. Before he could say anything or make any threats, I kicked him in the head and knocked him on his ass for good measure. He finally got up and hobbled off without a word. 

"I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Marin, you were trying to save Yandra from her abusive boyfriend, and then I showed up and acted with more violence," I said. "I'm not violent, but when I saw him spit on you, I couldn't take it. I've never raised my voice to my mother or answered her back; that's just not how I was raised. This really isn't who I am, babes," I looked at Yandra, hoping she would understand. "I am sorry, I won't bother you guys again."

I remember turning to leave, walking down the driveway to the street. I remember the three of them coming after me, surrounding me with a big hug, and crying. We haven't been able to get rid of one another ever since. It warmed my heart to see that they loved mom as much as they loved me, like they'd always known one another. I was unaware that mom had had a talk with Yandra after she'd just moved here to Hawai'i permanently. She told Yandra that after her annual check-up with her physician, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer. With chemotherapy, they could help extend her life; without it, she would have three years to live at best. After seeing what chemotherapy did to her friends who did have cancer, she opted for the three years. That's when she realized that she needed to pass on the knowledge of her grandparents to her children. The why of it wasn't important; what mattered was that they absorbed the lessons she imparted. Mom wasn't expecting half the room to walk out when she announced her reason for our meeting. She also never expected that I would be the one to want even an inkling of learning anything Hawaiian. Yet, here I was with no clue as to the actual reason for her teaching me. In hindsight, it was better that I never knew; that way, there wouldn't be any distractions. Yandra was more valuable than I knew.

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