of Rodney Chang,  by Rodney Chang

September 18, 1998, 2-4 am


I got out of my car and entered my late parent's home at Aina Haina Valley in Honolulu.  It's a nice balmy and sunny afternoon and I'm ready to go running before the party.


Upon entering,  my three sisters greet me and then say "No way, Jose, you're not going jogging because we have to leave soon for the big family get-together in Kaneohe." "Ok," I reply, "I'll just go on a short jaunt around the block", stepping back out before they can issue their rebuttal as sisters do.

Upon exiting the front door I spot my deceased father, standing in the front yard. He looked trim and relaxed, in an aloha shirt, about 65. Suddenly, as things pop up in dreams, I had a football in my hand. "Hey Dad! Catch this, I want to see if it will go through you!" I threw a tight spiral and it bounced off his outstretched hands. "Ouch!" he muttered. It WAS Dad! - he was always lousy in catching a football when he played catch with me as a kid.

I ran down the street to retrieve the ball. Walking back, three neighborhood kids said "Hey man, throw the ball!". I threw it and the one with the yellow and green shirt made a nice snag of the ball, impressing me and his friends. I yelled "Touchdown, Green Bay!". The boy looked proud.

They disappeared in a puff of smoke. "Hey, you took my ball!"

I reentered the house and my sisters nagged me to "change my clothes" because it was really getting late and we had to leave soon. I entered the hallway and was attracted by the commotion of the middle bedroom. There, it appeared, was an informal gathering of relatives socializing, waiting to leave. Among them was, lo and behold, my deceased mom and dad, sitting lovingly together. "Hi Mom," I said, "how do you two always know when to come (from the Other Side) for our family parties?" Mom replied, "Well, when Verna (my older sister) prays, her prayer is received by this angel receptionist. Then she relays the message to our place".  Cool, I thought, they got a paging system in Heaven too.

Always the scientist, tinkering with improving anything, I suggested to Mother, "How about the next time Verna prays she tells you a letter and number. Then when you appear in one of my dreams again tell me what they are and I'll ask Verna if this is what she sent up in her prayers". Mom was impressed and said "Sure, something like Bingo".  Mom so liked Bingo and Vegas in her lifetime.

Before I left to change in the other bedroom, standing there I looked down and noticed Mom's thinning and tinted black hair on the top of her head. Just like I remembered her. She was around 65, contently smiling and not as heavy as she became in her seventies.

Talk about returning to your childhood! There I was again in the "boys" room that I shared in the 50's with my younger brother. The two windows' blinds were rolled up and evidently it was a holiday because both neighboring houses had parties going on. Across the way was rowdy child's play and irritating young girls poking their noses in my direction from behind their windows. I half heartedly attempted to lower the blinds with impossible tangled cords,  then left the room thinking no way could I change in there.

I suddenly woke up, saw the clock hands pointed at 2:30 a.m., relegated the dream to memory, then finally passed out again, probably at about  3:15.


Now I was in the same house entering the old restroom to relieve myself. I closed the door to this quaint aqua tinted  bathroom. Suddenly an  awesome force overwhelmed my complete body,  paralyzing me into immobility. It flung me about like a fallen  leaf agitated by a whirlwind. I heard myself hollering for help - "Erlinda (my wife), help me!" No help came. It was horrific, to be at the complete mercy of some irrascible unknown invisible force or being. I started crying like a baby, even under the circumstances feeling a bit silly as a grown, middle-aged man. When the opportunity came I pounded and kicked the wall as I brushed along the sides of the room.

FINALLY the door opened and there was Erlinda and Verna. They peered inside and said,"What's going on in there?" I told them of how my body was abused  by some unknown power. 

Verna confidently uttered  "It's Japo (maternal grandmother in Chinese), ... she died in this room!"

Talk about coming full circle! I remember when Po Po (fraternal grandmother) passed away decades ago. The Chinese believe that the soul visits its favorite living relatives during the first three days after death - like my father who was the pet of  her eight  sons.

Dad  wasn't home but there was a 2 yr. old sleeping in a crib in his master bedroom on that faithful afternoon in 1964.  My mother babysat as a home business during those late 50's. Suddenly the child, Alan, started screaming incessantly. You could tell from the shrieks that it was not your usual "feed me or change my diaper" cry.

Us five siblings were already awaiting a phenomenum, "psyched" by the word-of-mouth myth of spirit visitations to kinfolk by the recently departed. We had been counting the days till we would be safe from such spooky "ghosts".

I shouted, "Something is happening to Alan!"

Nobody, I mean NOBODY, moved towards that closed door to see what was going on.

Then Japo, who lived with us, brazenly grabbed her Roman Catholic crucifix and stormed flatfootedly towards the door at the end of the darkened hallway - with all five of us  behind, clinging to her dress. A scene straight out of Dracula as I recall imagining. The only things missing were the booming thunder, howling wind and crackling lightening!

She opened the door, flipped on the light and barged into the room holding her cross straight-armed, directly in front of her. We looked on, with juvenile curiosity intensified by fright, protected behind our grandmother's rotund body and her symbolic shield.

Behold! There was the child, standing, trembling and bawling in the crib. He then pointed at the adjacent vanity mirror and dresser, where mother put on her make up and groomed her hair, and we all heard him scream wide-eyed and repetitively -


"PO PO!"......  "PO PO!" .....     "PO PO!"


During the last weeks of grandma's life, mother used to drive over to the next valley to Po Po's house and bring her herbal soup and nourishing home cooked Chinese food. Alan of course was brought along for the ride

- and was taught to greet the bed ridden old woman as "Po Po".


But I digress from the dream....



(Instant entry into new scene as dreams tend to enact - or is it that we forget the less dramatic transitionals?) -

Now Erlinda and myself are idly walking down some city street, seemingly a cross between Honolulu's Pearl City and Waikiki. It appears we're casually browsing. Who knows were our kids are at the moment.

Suddenly, as we approach a street corner, an awesome force seizes both of us, similiar to the one I had experienced in the restroom at my parent's old place.

"Oh No," I shouted, "It's happening again! Now you know how it feels!".

She looked distraught and fearful.

We were elevated off our feet and hurled about, around the corner of the street and unto the other side of the corner. There we found ourselves unharmed, standing yet on the sidewalk, next to this old sleeping woman with a box of wilting flowers besides her.


It was Japo.


Until she passed away in 1980 Japo had spent decades as the famous "Flower Lady" on the main street of Wakiki Beach, selling fresh flowers and garlands to tourists from around the world. They loved her, felt sorry for her mistaken homeless identity, revisited her and relentlessly took her picture as tangible evidence of their Hawaiian  vacation. She was for many an icon of Waikiki. A song entitled "The Little Lei Lady" (kind of Western), along with  numerous photographs in the local papers over the years made her a local legend of sorts. For many generations of tourists she an integral part of old Waikiki Beach and WAS a living part of the Aloha Spirit.

Yup, there she was, like I remembered her, round pixy-faced, rosy cheeked with a Bandana scarf wrapped over her head and tied daintily below her chin. She was around 70, wearing a dark Navy Blue knitted sweater that overlaid an ankle-long Hawaiian Mu Mu dress.

Suddenly her impish eyes opened and she stared at us. Actually they were bulging, big and round-eyed, a cross between someone with severe glaucoma and Peter Lowie, the horror movie actor of long past.

She bounced up, all four feet, ten inches of her, and   inspected Erlinda real close,  like drill sergeants do to recruits at boot camp inspections. She eyed my wife, top to bottom.

"Who dat?", she growled displaying  the lack of hardly any teeth. "It's my wife, Erlinda."

"Hmm, she make good baby" she said  approvingly in her notorious broken Pidgin English.

She had had a hard life, only finishing the 4th grade at the turn of the century as an elder in a family of eleven.  Hey, don't knock her - at  least she could and would  read daily (the newspaper and Bible), squinting with that frying pan sized magnified glass. Which is better, incidentally, than many of today's local graduating illiterates.

She was a bit obnoxious and spooky (not like when my parents appear in my dreams- caring and loving).

Actually I never did get along with Japo - she called me a "loser" in Chinese (nawong-ten-sue) when I was growing up and used to hit me over the head with her work-hardened, well callused knuckles. That,  I admit, really used to piss me off and unleash things from my mouth that I instantly regretted articulating (WHACK!), thereby reinforcing the less-than-perfect grandmother-grandson relationship).

So I hastened my wife to walk on, even as my elf-like grandmother lumbered behind us.

"Quick, lets duck in here!" There were steps leading up to grand Medieval-ish doors of an inner city Catholic church.

It was dark in there and a service was going on.  Japo entered too but took a seat somewhere else away from us, which gave us a bit of relief.

For decades she would go to early morning,  daily Mass before working the streets. At day's end she would then take the bus to leave unsold flowers at church altars before catching yet another bus.  She returned home late six nights a week, eating by herself. The local diocese should have made her a saint.

A few moments later I whispered to  Erlinda "Lets go!". We moved swiftly to the doors but as we were about to exit I turned and saw the old woman tracking right behind us.

I took the moment of find out just who's side she was really on, this spirit who flung me mercilessly around in the bathroom. I dunked my hand into the container next to the door that contained  holy water. Then as she approached,   I extended my dripping wet hand to shake goodbye.

I was relieved when her hand didn't fry.

Then she winked, turned away and disappeared back into the aisles shrouded with darkness.

We left the parish and walked about a block or so, finding ourselves at the entry to some sort of shopping mall. Erlinda left to check out something.   Like most wives during shopping trips the moment had come when she states, "Honey, wait here, don't move, I'll be right back."

Suddenly I felt that goose pimple inducing instinct of danger, as I stood obediently on the designated spot.

Holy Cow!- along came that force, engulfing my body and unrelentingly powering me towards the covered mall entrance. As I was being transported against my will, a priest, surrounding by alter boys, was in a procession walking in the opposite direction. Fully garbed in ritualistic wardrobe they chanted and prayed as they passed, seemingly unaware of my dilemma (and fate!). I could almost smell the annointing oils and hear monotone Latin interspersed among the clanging of swinging brass..

The force left  me at the intended destination. I was in the mall covered entrance area. Concrete above,  below and on all sides. There were people kneeling everywhere with hands clasped in prayer. Overseeing the per chance "congregation" of worshippers  was yet another priest, standing behind a makeshift pulpit in front of an elevator (to where?).  I quickly took my cue and knelt subserviently unto the concrete pavement, glued my palms together with all fingers bunched, straight and directed to the Above. I even held my praying hands higher than anyone else, elbows swung completely open to maintain my rigid arms like uprighteous planks..

With that, the ultimate multi-media sensory extravaganza ensued. Full blown decibals, ultra-woofer quality, harmonic choir and pipe organ totally overwhelmed my senses! If it was "for real" and not a dream I'd be left for deaf today.

But the music was so rich, so glorious,  so PERFECT -  it not only had to be Made in Heaven but was even better than disco

(sigh, have to admit I  never thought I'd  see the day this could happen for me)!


Then I woke up and saw the luminous hands pointing to 4:15 a.m.

I poked at my sleeping wife's shoulder and said, "Hon, I think my grandma wants me to go back to church..."

She,  barely awake and disturbed from sleep, politely replied,

"You can go by yourself on Sunday..... ZZZZZZZZZZZ."