Thirty Years of Papa

by Kapena Landgraf

She touched nothing. Papa had died thirty years earlier, but Tutu refused to disturb what he left behind. His shirts still hung in the open closet—button-downs of light blues and whites pressed at the center with sharply ironed cuffs. Brown trousers, thick cotton and wool. Black shoes with silver buckles. Checkered neckties. Handkerchiefs tucked into the front pockets of blazers.

Outside, the garage hid mowers and stacks of old tires, their white lettering fading in the cycles of the sun. A circular saw hung from a hook on the wall, its power-cord cracked and brittle. Deeper in the shadows, a bench vice clamped a copper pipe and garden sickles lay clumsily on the lower tier of a corroded shelf.

Tutu quietly gave Papa another thirty years of presence, of rain-soaked Hilo days, Christmases, and grandchildren. If you look past the patina clouding the shine of the metal tools he once sharpened and polished, cleaned and painted, you’d see how we’d be able to remember a man long past.


Kapena Landgraf earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where he also teaches English composition, literature, and creative writing courses. You’ll find him in Maunalua, missing the sounds of the Hilo rain.

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