Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Nov 13, 2022

Homeful 2022

Having these last few beers on the most beautiful day I've seen in a while was not easy.

The sun was out, but the heat was not as bad as it should have been because of the continuous light breeze that filtered through the large acreage which fronted our home. The adult kids had the little ones help them with chores around the yard, raking leaves, and such. Some of our dogs lounged on the cool tiled kitchen floor while the others sat near enough where I could reach down and pet them if I wanted to. Finally, Rayland flipped off the cap from the bottle with the edge of his pocket knife and handed me another beer. German dark doesn't hit you until you stand up, then you know you've had a real beer.

Along with it, we're chasing it down with shot glasses of mead. We're not really having a conversation as much as were are silently enjoying the presence of one another. Rayland, my son, and I, his father. There won't be another day like this again, so I am making the most of it. It's a rite of passage where a son is old enough and responsible enough to drink with his father. No words need to be said because there's an unspoken understanding that the son has assumed the mantle of manhood, where his family's responsibility rests squarely on his shoulders. I, his father, will not interfere in how he raises his children, nor will I interfere in his marriage unless he has become unreasonably abusive to his household. To say that I am proud of Rayland is an understatement. He has exceeded my expectations. An hour later, the acreage before is lit by the ambient lights from the large kitchen behind us. My wife brings the dinner out to us, not wanting to interrupt the time we have. Rayland graciously thanks his mother as he's always done. 

"I'll cut your meat for you, dad," Rayland offers.

"I'm fine, son," I reply. "You go ahead and enjoy your meal,"

The other boys come out with their plates and chairs in tow. The youngest, Pi'i, is wheeling a large cooler filled with more beer for us and soda meant for himself since he's still seventeen. Kalani brings a couple of lanterns and places them in the middle on the manicured grass. Limahuli has two rolls of paper napkins tucked under his arm; smart boy, that one. We all sit silently, having our meal together and taking sips from our drinks every few moments. The most beautiful day I have ever seen has become a splendid evening, with a clear night sky that makes the stars look like clustered ornaments on a dark Christmas tree. I place my dinner plate on the giant arm of an even more oversized wood chair I've been sitting on for a few hours. Then, I stand up and give it a second for all the blood in my body to filter back to its proper places. Then, I let out a deep breath, down the last drop of my beer, and chuck the bottle in the trash can. I remove the keys from my pocket and notice the slight shift in everyone's body language.

"Time to go, dad?" Rayland asks.

"Yeah, it's time," I tell him and his brothers. They all stand together, and there's no awkward silence or hugs that go on too long. 

"We'll see you next time?" Kalani asks.

"There's not going to be a next time," I tell them.

Lima has his head down, nodding slowly as the words sink in. "Do you know where you're gonna end up?"

"Here, if I'm lucky," I reply. "If not, then this is it,"

"Why?" Pi'i asked as I went to leave. "Why is this it?"

"It's cancer," I told him. "It's too far gone; that's why there won't be a next time,"

They watched me walk to my old truck and get in. I started it up and made my way down the long driveway until it led me out of the double front gates. I paused for a second and rolled down the window, taking one last look at my old estate. It's old and burnt down, with only the poured concrete pillars standing like lonely guardians of a forgotten time. For most of my life, I could never figure out how I lost my entire family in that blaze and that I was the only one who survived because I was out of town on a business meeting. An electrical fire, the authorities said. It was too late when anyone in the house knew there was a fire. The property was still mine, I still owned it, but I left everything the way it was, never building anything new again. Every year I'd drive up there to sit and have a few drinks to remember all of them, and one year, the house was whole, the way it used to be. All my family were milling about their daily routine like nothing had ever happened. It's been this way every year on the vigil. For a whole day and evening, everything is as real as it was once a year. Then, a wind comes and takes it all away. I'm old now, way past my usefulness. I guess cancer coming along was a way to quicken the inevitable. I honestly don't know what will be out there after I'm gone, but I hope I get to come back and be with them. I hope I do.

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