Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 9, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #18 Papa Lua Pt. 4


Tita made a life for herself in Vegas. Indeed, she knew there was a significant presence of ex-patriots from Hawaii who lived in and were moving to her county in droves.

Still, some instinct told her that she never needed to concern herself with ever running into Naua. She did see Colin across the casino floor at the Bellagio with his wife, kids, and parents in tow one night. He looked right at Tita briefly but did not recognize her with all the heavy makeup, thick eyelashes, longer hair, and a waitress outfit that didn't hide much. Before long, she would meet a wealthy realtor, a McKinley High School graduate, now plying his trade by getting well-to-do investors to buy big into the ever-expanding Vegas land market. Thomas Truh, or Tru for short, ran with the modified car crowd through high school until he got in trouble with the law after being busted for racing on the freeway between the 6th and 16th overpass. The kid driving the opposing car lost control and went over the railing, fatally crashing into the parking lot at Times Kahala. Tru's parents kicked him out and disowned him. Somehow, he found his way to Vegas and made a success out of himself. On a night when Tita served drinks to a group of men at the craps table, she noticed the class ring on Tru's finger. Mentioning that she was also from Hawai'i, the two started a conversation, and soon they were going out on their first date. Tru arrived at Tita's apartment, and that is when Tita introduced him to Nauakipu'upu'u, or Nan, as she called her little girl. Tru didn't miss a beat, and he and Nan got along as if they'd known each other their entire lives. Tita stopped serving drinks at the casino and went to work for Tru soon after they married. Tita could not have asked for a better life for herself and her little girl. Twenty years later, Tita died from an aggressive cancer of the liver. By the time it was discovered, it was too late to do anything. During her last few days, Tita requested to be buried at home in Hawai'i. Sure, they had all been home now and again, walking down memory lane and showing Nan all the places they grew up in and all the historical sites. She was also taken to where her grandparents were buried; it was there that Tita first requested to be buried at home should anything happen to her, and now she made that request again of Nan. Added to that, was another matter that Tita had to make Nan aware of. She had told Tru but could never find the time to tell Nan.


"I'm your daughter, named after you, Nauakipu'upu'u," the young girl said. "My mom asked me to specifically come here to have the frame done for her picture for the services. At the same time, she said I would meet you and that I should introduce myself. Don't worry," she said, looking at Marilyn. "I don't want anything; I just wanted to get this picture done, introduce myself, and meet you in person."

Marilyn knew Naua's side of the story; she had to pry it out of him after they were an official item. He never talked about it himself, which explained why he was so standoffish when she first met him. In his own way, Naua knew he had a child out there somewhere, as did Marilyn. It affected the two differently; being on the spectrum Naua had his own method of understanding the circumstance. Marilyn threw her hands up in the air and squealed with delight before she embraced the girl and hugged her for a long time. Naua disappeared into the back and locked the door behind him. 

"Your father is on the spectrum if you didn't already know. He's dealing with the sudden news in his own way, so don't be upset. He just has to figure it out. In the meantime, come upstairs! I have to introduce you to your uncle and everybody else! This is a family business, so your entire family owns the place and works here too! And you have sisters and a brother!"

With Tru's parents disowning him all those years ago and Tita's parents having passed long ago, the funeral parlor would have been like a ghost town. Still, our family filled the place, giving Tru and Nauakipu'upu'u all the support they needed. Needless to say, at this point, I was pissed because of all the people my niece needed to be there with her; it was her father, and he was nowhere to be seen. I called his phone again and again, but no luck. The time had come for the eulogy that Nan was giving when she stopped mid-sentence. Coming up the aisle with what looked like a surfboard over his head was Naua, in a suit and tie. Whatever it was, he placed it aside the wreaths and flowers where Nan could see it clearly. It was Tita's life-sized picture in a beautifully ornate frame carved with hibiscus flowers and rain around the top part of the frame. 

"Your mom liked Hibiscus if I recall correctly; the rain I carved in at the top is you, Nauakipu'upu'u, the Kipu'upu'u rains, just like my name. I had to start right away. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten it done in time," My boneheaded brother was always full of surprises. Nan rushed out from behind the podium and hugged her father, and they both cried together. There was no dry eye in the house that did not shed tears of happiness. I like to think that near the end, Tita knew what she had to do to bring closure to everything and not leave my niece bereft of the knowledge of a father she never knew and why she carried such an unusual name. It's not a ghost story but a story worth telling. 


Credit: University Of Southern California Libraries.

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