Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 4, 2022

Kumumea 2022

Did I feel sorry for myself, knowing that I was dying?

No, not for myself, but for my children, I did. This was unfair, in my opinion, because my impending death could not have come at a worse time. My three older children were transitioning into their teenage years. The younger ones were bold and bright, and I loved watching them learn and discover the world around them, and then suddenly, my doctor called after my last examination to let me know...well, you know.

I've spent much time alone while the kids are in school. Mostly walking along the beach at Kaimana and then sitting for long periods thinking about that exact thing. Time. Funny how time is suddenly essential when you know you don't have much left. Before all of this, it didn't matter; I never thought about it. Up until now, I haven't told anyone. I'm punching up a number on my phone that I haven't called in ten years. The last time I spoke to this person, I was judgemental of her life choice of a girlfriend, who eventually became her wife. She wasn't one of us; our kind-that was my stupid reason. I would apologize first, and that's only if she didn't hang up in my face. If she didn't, then I would explain the rest. Deep breath, breathe, breathe, calm. It's seven rings now; I'd hang up and figure something else out if she didn't pick up by the next ring. 

"Hello?" She was having a good day; I could tell by the lilt in her voice. I almost hung up right then for fear of ruining her good mood. "Hello?"

"Lei? It's Palani," I held my breath, waiting for the shoe to fall. 

"Brother," she replied evenly. "How have you been?"

The tears burst like a swollen rain cloud over the Nānākuli mountains, drenching the place entirely and giving it life anew. "Brother? Whatʻs wrong? What happened?" She asked. "Where are you?"

"I'm at Kaimana beach," I told her.

"I'll be right there," she said before hanging up.

When she arrived about forty minutes later, there were no words exchanged. Instead, she hugged me, and we held on to one another for almost an hour; she rocked me back and forth, and there I was, as always, crying in her arms as I did when we were children. My big sister saved me from bullies and girlfriends she didn't like, and when she helped me understand our parents ' rules and why I couldn't go out with my friends on a weeknight. That was Lei, and I hurt her deeply with unkind words. 

"I'm dying, Lei; I have cancer," I told her. "The doctors caught it too late,"

"Oh my god, Palanz, did you tell the kids already?" 

"You're the first person I've told," I said.

"Don't worry about the kids, Shandra and I will take care of them," she said without a second thought.

"Fricka! I am not dead yet! Is she here, by the way?" I asked.

"She's in the car, waiting," Lei was hesitant.

"Come," I stood up, wiped the sand off my shorts, and extended my hand to my big sister. "Take me to her; I want to meet my sister-in-law,"

Lei was stunned, which is probably why she couldn't stop nodding, "Okay, we can do that."

Shandra was a beautiful, sultry, big-boned local girl with ehu hair from hours spent in the ocean. There was strength in her features, most especially her eyes. It was obvious to me why she and Lei were a match. She came out of the jeep and walked toward us; Lei joined her, and they held hands. I introduced myself before my big sister could do the honors. "Shandra, I'm Palani, Lei's idiot baby brother," I hugged her, and then I held her hand and Lei's. "I was wrong for what I said all those years ago; I have no excuse except that I was stupid back then. It's up to both of you if you forgive me or not, but looking at the two of you has helped me realize that no one has a right to judge love when it's pure and true, like how it is right now with the both of you,"

"Your sister is my world," Shandra began. "She's everything to me, so when she hurts, I hurt too,"

"What she's saying is that you were a huge gaping asshole," Lei confirmed.

I nodded and held my hands open to correctly measure how huge of an asshole I was. We all laughed, and the tension slowly melted away, and before we knew it, there was a hibachi fired up with teriyaki burgers, beer, and soda, which Lei just happened to have in their jeep. I went home and got the kids, brought them back, and introduced them to their aunties. It was difficult to tear the children away from Lei and Shandra when it was time to go. The kids were all crying that they wanted both of them to come live with us forever. 


Six months later, I was gone. In my will, I bequeathed my house to Lei and Shandra and specified that the house would stay in the family after they passed, and so on. My passing would be traumatic for my children, no matter how we tried to prepare them for it. They would have to experience and rectify it in their own way, but Shandra would help them through it as she was a grief counselor and a death doula. She helped me deal with my own transition when the time came, and with my entire family there, we all transitioned, and life in its myriad forms went on.

Listen to this song while reading the story.

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