Ngaa Paapara raua ko Ngaa Tama
[Fathers & Sons]
By Vaughan Rapatahana
Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Aatiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Maaori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin.
It was 3 am. Karaiti could not sleep. Not surprising, after the events of the day before…
Karaiti yawned into his beer.
It was after work, late on a Monday afternoon. He was sitting at the dining room table,
relaxing in the lukewarm sun rays that deigned to linger just a little longer outside the wide
Mere was cooking the dinner. Karaiti had offered to help but had been waved away.
Hone, meanwhile, was in the kitchen, talking to Mere about God only knew what. At least
that is what Karaiti always felt when he was in that house.
So, he was left alone to read the local newspaper. The Eastland Times.
He drifted through the front page and turned it over to scan the other side. Nothing much
there that caught his tired attention. Usual advertisements, the weather forecasts, and a small
news item about a young man being found dead in scrubland in Wainuiomata. The police
were seeking information as to who he might be - Maaori, aged in his twenties. After three
days, they had not yet identified him.
Karaiti drank down a swig or two more from his beer and turned through the remaining
pages. He yawned once more.
He was often tired these days. There was too much driving involved in his job as an itinerant
special education advisor. That, plus the fact that he had to stay in Gisborne during the week
at his friends’ home, in return for pretty cheap board. Meant he was not back home up the
Coast enough, because it was such a long way to drive every day. He went back there on
Fridays and returned far too early on a Monday morning. If he was lucky, he might have a
client in his home village, but this was rare.
Everything caught up with him.
Missed his wife Te Matekairoa, and his dog, Toa. Come to think of it, that was not helping
his listlessness. A man wants to be with his loved ones, after all.
Hone disturbed Karaiti’s daydreaming about his whaanau.
‘Ready for a kai, man?’ he asked in his usual smiling fashion.
Karaiti retaliated with a bigger grin of his own, ‘Sure.’
Hone placed some plates on the table and strolled over to the fridge to free up a beer for
himself. While he was doing that, his wife brought in more food and sat down. She waited
until Hone was sitting, before she launched into their karakia.
On the wall, a small portrait of someone’s idea of Jesus smiled down.
‘Aamine,’ agreed Karaiti, before he started to dish up himself some of the meal. He found
himself stifling another yawn.
They chatted in between mouthfuls of the mainly vegetarian fare, and guzzles of the drink
they sparingly sunk; in Mere’s case red wine.
The three of them had known each other for decades and – along with Karaiti’s first wife –
had once shared many experiences, including having kids at pretty much the same time.
Karaiti did not see much of his now adult children these days. His daughter lived in Australia,
after all, while his son lived down in Wellington and had married a Korean lady. Paki and Ki-
suk, had however, come up to the Coast early last year for a holiday and a few months later
Karaiti and Te Matekairoa had been down to Cannons Creek to stay with his son.
Then, at the beginning of this year, Paki had come and resurrected the entire kitchen in
Karaiti’s house. He had done an excellent job. Karaiti had not realised how fine a carpenter
his son was, until then.
Mind you, Karaiti had not heard from Paki for several months now. Their relationship had
always been a bit strained, mainly because Paki’s mother and Karaiti had split so long ago.
Karaiti pressed on his belly and burped softly. ‘Good meal, thanks Mere,’ he offered; his eyes
struggling to remain open and his brain succumbing to slumber.
‘You are welcome,’ she replied, drinking up the remainder of her glass.
She looked directly at him then. ‘Have you heard from Emma recently?’ Emma was Karaiti’s
daughter and Mere was her godmother.
‘Not for a while. She only seems to contact me around her birthday, these days, eh. Knows
she will get some moni...’ He laughed, reflecting that his relationship with Emma could have
‘What about Paki?’ Mere sought; not for the first time.
‘They came up home last year and we went down to their place not long after. He did up our
kitchen, but you know that that. Haven’t heard too much since,’ Karaiti annoyed himself as
he replied, because he really should have contacted his son more determinedly. And paid him
more for the refurbishing job - which was another rodent thought scurrying around inside his
‘I have tried to ring him a couple of times…but never get a reply,’ was the best that he could
Hone was by now cleaning up the plates, mustering the stray bits of food into a bowl, and
getting ready to make a freight train trip into the kitchen. Karaiti looked at him dopily.
‘Want a hand with the dishes, mate?’ he said half-heartedly.
‘No,’ replied Hone, ‘you stay there and chat to Mere. Keep out of the kitchen,’ he joked. Last
week Karaiti had dropped a plate when drying the dishes.
Karaiti forced himself to sit up straighter. He looked up at the crucifix over on the other wall.
He made the effort to talk.
‘How about Angel and Makere?’ he asked about his host’s two adult daughters. ‘What are
they up to these days?’
‘Like we said last week,’ Mere caught his unfocused eyes, ‘they are both fine. Angel married
a policeman and lives in Tauranga. Makere is still in Whangarei with her partner. We travel
up to see them in our holidays, so in a couple of months, we will be going north again.’ Mere
smiled at this thought.
While Mere talked, Karaiti mused that there was something about remaining married to one
another for a long time, that ensured closer relationships with one’s tamariki. He knew this,
not only from his education studies, but from his own rather disjointed life. He sighed
inwardly. He would have to do a better job from now on. At work and at home.
Would have to be a better father, something his own alcoholic old man had never been to
Mind you, he knew that he had been promising this and making similar self-avowals for far
too long now.
The telephone was ringing over and above Hone’s off-key singing out in the kitchen.
Mere was saying something about, ‘Yes, he’s right here…’ She beckoned to Karaiti.
‘It’s for you.’ She handed him the landline.
‘Kia ora,’ said Karaiti, wondering who this would be on a Monday afternoon that was
steadily betrothing itself to evening.
‘Hello. It’s Donald,’ said Donald. ‘Anna and I are in Wellington,’ He paused, long enough
for Karaiti to wonder what his first wife and her partner were doing so far from their home up
‘It’s Paki,’ said Donald.
’Yes…’ said Karaiti, feeling the cold swills of sweat sweep through his body.
‘He’s dead.’ There was a sizeable pause, before Donald continued. ‘He hung himself a few
days ago out back of their home in Wainuiomata.’
Donald now went on unasked, ‘We’ll be bringing him back to our place soon.’
Karaiti did not really remember much of the next few hours. Something about Donald stating
that, ‘Ki-suk had thought Paki might be with you up the Coast.’
Something about Hone drying his hands on a tea towel and then Mere holding him tightly.
Something about himself ringing his workmate Kelly, getting her to drive him home back up
the Coast as soon as. Like, that night.
Something about sighting a copy of The Eastland Times laying listless on the table in the new
kitchen back home.
Something about that inside front page news item from only a few hours before.
And that night, as he bawled his eyes out in front of Te Matekairoa, something about all the
things that he should have done; should have said.
He could not rinse these from his mind, even as he later fell into an intermittent shallow
slumber. He gave up even trying after a few hours.
He turned to the small clock thundering beside him. It was now 3 am.
‘Aroha mai, taku tama,’ he whispered to himself.
Then, and forever and ever.
whaanau – family
kai - food
karakia - prayer
Aamine – Amen
moni – money
tamariki – children
Aroha mai, taku tama – Sorry, my son