Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 29, 2018

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2018 #32

CLOSE TO THE SKIN


I am hateful of occasions like these because they bring out the worst in people.
It's a time when persons suddenly become selfish and self-centered. Some unknown force graces them with a mantle of stupidity and they wear it as if it were their right to be atrocious. I sit and give my thoughts and intent for whom this gathering is meant, my brother. His passing was unfair in the scheme of fate and other things, he had a wealth of plans and years ahead of him, a carved out path if you will. He'd been on his way home from Wellington to take care of one more matter before he embarked on his journey. In his heart, he'd meant to tell our mother that although she did not approve of his lifestyle he would love her no matter what, even if she should never accept him as her son again. It would have been three in the morning our time when the flight from New Zealand crossed the vast Pacific to Hawai'i as our ancient ancestors once did in a time which had no beginning. My brother asked for a blanket from the flight attendant who had given him one that was her own. They were out of the regular blankets and the young woman assured my brother that he could keep the one she'd given him. It didn't seem to bother him that the mantle was black, he was too tired to notice. It was large enough to cover him from his feet up until his neck. He had settled himself and in less than a minute he immediately fell into a deep sleep from which he would never wake.

Now you see that I am attending his funeral services. It's a circus, a mockery, a farce as I watch people who cry that held no real affection for Timoteo. That's his name. It's vexing to see my mother express her love for him while he lay there in his casket when it is well known that she had disowned him. It's for the show, of course. It's to gain sympathy for herself as the grieving mother. If the crowd only knew how she'd consulted a Kahuna in order to curse Timoteo, only to be told that the curse would backfire because of their blood relation they would spit on her.

Bitch.

It should be her lying dead in that casket with only her civic club friends in attendance and the few men she'd slept with. Be that as it may, no one has thought to acknowledge Timoteo's husband Rua. He's not even offered a seat in the receiving line with my siblings and my mother. They won't even look at him. I take a seat next to Rua and offer him a hug and he understands the situation.

"Bloody worse where I come from," he chuckles. " I couldn't even show my face at my own grandfather's tangihanga."

The sharing of thoughts and remembrances are carefully worded at best so as not to shed light on who Timoteo was. What he was, was my brother and that's all anyone had to know. My mother is helped from her chair as she approaches the podium to deliver the eulogy. She removes a one paged letter from her purse and purposely takes her time in unfolding the paper. If the eulogy is as insufferable as her dramatics I won't be able to sit through a sentence of it. Rua senses my ire and whispers, "We're here for Timoteo, nothing else matters."

At this point, I must tell you that I cannot recall what my mother said in her eulogy to Timoteo because the moment she began to speak, there was a high pitched ringing sound in my ears. It gave me a terrible headache and caused my vision to blur. Behind my mother was a tall one pieced wooden stand carved out of monkeypod. Toward the top, it opened up into a natural bowl shape that held water and a bouquet of Makahala which was a favorite of Timoteo's. Through the haze of my headache, I heard my mother say, "I loved him and always accepted him for who he was," at the same time I saw a shadow come from behind my brother's casket and push the one pieced wooden stand over. It fell at a right angle, not only hitting my mother on her head but pinning her under it. Just as the entire funeral parlor broke into screams and shrieks of horror my mind cleared. Rua was in a state of shock and his fingers were digging into my arm, "Did you see that? Did you fucking see that?"

"I'm not sure," I replied. "What did you see?"

"Timoteo! His....his ghost came out of the casket and pushed that flower stand on your mum!" He hissed.

"I'm not crazy then?" I sighed with relief. "Did anyone else see it?"

"No," Rua replied. "I think it was just you and I."

............

We did our best to contain our laughter but to no avail, we stole our way outside where the food was served. Helping ourselves to a heap of everything, we sat at the far end table and stuffed our faces. The grief of all that was wrong today dehydrated our systems and so we ate and drank with ravenous intent. A minute later my oldest brother Drake blistered into the eating hall with his shoulders and chest puffed out in his suit. His eyes were red with tears, "Let's go, you up next. You have to say something while the EMT look at mom outside!" He stood there and waited until I put my fork down and stood up.

I grabbed Rua and pulled him out of his chair, "Let's go."

"Uh, I don't want to upset the family," Rua hesitated.

"He's my brother, but he's your husband!" I poked my finger in his coat. "You have every fucking right to say something! Get off your ass!"

No one was prepared for the oli that I offered, it was not a kanikau, a dirge. That's not what Timoteo wanted. He requested something fun and uplifting, so my oli was about a bird with a long beak caught in an empty nest. He has no idea how to fill an empty nest with his long beak, but he certainly knows how to fill the long beaks of other birds like him, and is thereby skilled at quenching their thirst. The looks on everyone's faces were priceless. I turned then to look at Rua and urged him forward.

"This haka is about a place in New Zealand called Ruamoko. It's where I met my husband Timoteo. It's about the god of earthquakes, volcanoes, and seasons. It has a personal meaning for us, it's where we created many earthquakes together," Tears stained Rua's cheeks but the second he took his position and allowed himself to pukana and meld into warrior mode, he'd become someone else. The haka he unleashed devastated the congregation into silence, but after, everyone crowded around Rua to hug him and asked why he was not announced on the program as Timoteo's husband? He was asked to give an impromptu eulogy in the food hall despite what the rest of my family thought.

"For all that Timeteo shared with me about his life and his upbringing, his hardships. He was a man who was filled with love, genuine love. I saw it every day. Pulling over to the side of the road to give money or food to a homeless man. Lending his car to my brothers to drive until they could find their own vehicle. He did this knowing that my family didn't approve of our relationship. I couldn't understand that but he always said that in spite of what people think or say when they are in need of help, you help them. I never understood that and it frustrated me to no end." Rua shook his head. "However, my own family may not have liked him, but they grew to respect him. Timoteo didn't want to say anything until he got home...................but he'd come down with colon cancer and he wanted to come to Hawai'i and tell his mother that he loved her. Whether she accepted that or not didn't matter to him, he just wanted her to know that. Before we left Aotearoa, my family surprised us by throwing him a party. They gifted him with so many things, family heirlooms and such. Things which I thought would never be imparted to anyone. "We're your family now," my mother told him. "Our ancestors are now yours. As you've loved and watched over Rua, we now living and dead will watch over you."
The last time I saw him alive was when he left to board his flight....." Rua could not continue after because he broke down crying as did we all. The rest of my family never accepted him but I did, I had a brother from an extended family as far as I was concerned. That's not to say that they were not shamed by everyone else who attended, of course, they were. However, the question remains, if Timoteo was a man of compassion and aloha, then why did his ghost push the heavy wooden stand on top of our mother?  Well, he detested liars in all forms, even if that form came in the guise of the woman who gave him life.







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