Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 8, 2022

Mum 2022

Throughout my life, I could not shake the feeling that my mother didn't like me.

Yes, I was her son, and she raised me and did everything a mother should do for her child, but it always felt as if she were disconnected like she was suddenly on autopilot. There was never any kind of affection or encouragement. Of course, she pointed me in the right direction, but it was always void of an I love you or have a good day. Mostly it was, 'I'll see you later,' or "Be in this exact spot when I get back.' Was there ever a hug or a kiss? For the other kids, yes, but not for myself. When my other siblings came along, the floodgates of love and affection burst open like a dam, and I suppose at that point in my life, my mother noticed my reaction. One day she said to me, "You're the oldest, Dan; I need you to be strong for your younger brother and sister. That's why I raised you the way I did, so you could be strong for your siblings when they came along,"

"You be strong for them," my reply was not purposely cold. It's just how I learned to be around my mom. My father and I got along great, but my mother and I? We were like cordial strangers. Dad would always say that I needed to go easy on mom because she had a hard life before giving birth to me. I asked him on more than one occasion about what happened that made her life so hard. He never gave me a straight answer; all he would say was that her family was never nice to her. That was such a stark contrast to who mom was in public. She was quite the social butterfly. Dearly loved by everyone she came in contact with, there wasn't a place we could go where she wouldn't run into someone who would give a quick hello or at least stop for a brief conversation. Life went on; I grew up, graduated college, got a good job, met a nice girl, and married her. Mom and dad, Bryant and Bree Anne, lived at home in Mānoa.

Sam (Samantha) and I lived at the tale end of Hawaiʻi Kai. We did the birthdays and holiday dinners, and I mostly hung out and spoke to my dad while he tooled around on the hibachi. We loved all the same things, wrestling, horror films, and old chanbara flicks from back in the day. My conversations with my mom were mostly relegated to one-word answers or short sentences but nothing beyond that. Even at my college graduation, I got big hugs and tears from my dad and my two "B" siblings, whom I affectionately called the B-lots because they could be a lot at times. Mom simply placed the fresh cigar lei around my neck, put the palm of her hand on my chest, and said, "Good Job Dan." Talk about flood gates. Not really. Insert sarcasm here.

My wife got more out of my mother at our wedding than I ever did. A hug with tears and a big smile. I got nothing and I wasnʻt disappointed because nothing was precisely what I expected. The following year, Sam and I had Desmond, our little ball of love and non-stop laughter. I told Sam the whole story regarding my mom, so she could be prepared when the old lady rejected Desmond. Samʻs family and mine came over to our house once Sam was home with the baby, and of course, her folks couldnʻt be torn away from their first grandchild. My dad was so proud and tickled by Desmond that he could not stop smiling. Bryant and Bree promised to spoil him and shower him with all the candy he could ever want. My mom was there the whole time, letting everyone have their turn to say hello to the baby and at least carry him for a second or two. At the same time, she hovered and then quietly made herself scarce while disappearing into the living room where we found her on the phone, talking to her friend Ida, whom she claimed had just called a minute ago. After that, we never went back to the old house again. My dad would come over and hang out for a few, or the B's would show up armed with toys and other things and spend hours playing with Desmond, but my mom never came, not on her own. It was the same with birthday parties and holidays. It became the norm eventually, and no one ever thought anything about it. Years later, when Desmond was away at college and Sam was out delivering cases of her homemade honey, there was a knock on the door, which wasn't loud, but it was present enough that you couldn't ignore it. I answered, and standing at my doorstep was my mom. 

"Clara," I over affected.

"Don't call me that," she replied with a pang of irritation.

"I can't call you something that you never were," I replied. "Thus, Clara."

"I'll make it short," she hesitated before she continued. "Dan, you're not my son; you've never been biological in that sense,"

"I have to tell you that at this point in my life, I'm not surprised," I shrugged my shoulders. "I'm figuring that when you met dad, he'd already had me from some other woman and that you were so vile and jealous that your way of getting back at dad for something that could not be helped was to take it out on me, right? Guess what, Clara? I don't give a shit; it is even better to know that I'm not your son, so now, when you get off my porch, you'll be fucking gone for good!"

"You're the son of the woman that your father was having an affair with; she died in childbirth," she couldn't continue after that.

"What? Wait, what did you say?" I stepped forward, nearly looming over her. "Say that again?"

"Your father brought you home, Dan, and explained the whole thing," she choked back tears. "I was forced into this life that I didn't want, but I was raised old school where you just keep quiet about things, and you take it. I've taken it my whole life, and I can't take this to my grave, so I've come to tell you the truth."


I think it was nearly eight in the evening when my father heard the knock on his door. In typical Mānoa fashion, it was raining, but ever so lightly, not really a deluge. He pulled the portal back, and I landed a straight right on his jaw, knocked him right on his ass. He got up, and I hit him again. Bryant tried to intervene, and I punched him in the balls to keep him out of the way. I let my dad have it one more time for good measure. 

"Who am I?" I asked him calmly. "Who am I?"

"What are you talking about?" He croaked while wiping the blood away from his broken nose.

"Who the fuck am I, Calvin? Mom told me everything; mom told me about the woman you were fucking while you were still married to mom! She told me about how that woman died while giving birth to me and brought me home, and forced mom to raise me! No wonder why she hated me!" I was screaming at him and losing my voice in the process.

"Oh my god, Dan," he shook his head, snickering to the point where I would punch him again. "You haven't seen your mom in such a long while that you don't know she's come down with dementia. You ARE her son, but you're not MY son. Your mother and I were married less than a year when she was working at Queen's Hospital. She was coming off a sixteen-hour shift when she was attacked and raped in the parking garage. That's who you are; you're the result of what happened that night. She tried to put that behind her, but she was too far along when she found out she was pregnant with you. I didn't want you to be given away and raised without a good family. I assured her that everything would be fine if we focused on giving you a good life, with you as our son. It worked for me, but she could never get past what happened. Do you understand now?"


Clara Eugenia Mahukona died later that year. I spent as much time as possible with her, letting her know how much I loved her. Taking her hands and rubbing them against my cheek, she'd smile and say, "Dan, Dan." I wheeled her about the hospital and took her outside to see the trees and the birds and to get fresh air. When she passed, she went in her sleep in the deep quiet of the night while we were all passed out in our chairs around her bed. Some things are too painful to think about, much less address face to face with someone you've hurt or with someone who may be the source of that same hurt. We waste a lifetime being angry, and it begins to affect our physical well-being and our mental state. I guess I'm trying to say that my parents thought that not telling me anything about who I was might have saved me from a lifetime of anguish. Instead, the anguish was on them.

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