When my husband Keoni and I met (in Rehab, of all places!) he was 52 and I was 34. We tend to get reactions from people when we’re out arm-in-arm; it’s an inverse bell-curve, where reactions are heavily loaded at the ends of the spectrum rather than the middle. He either gets fist-bumps, or snide comments about cradle-robbing. We don’t much care either way (except for the amusement of people-watching the people who watch us), and we joked a few times about getting a paired set of tattoos: cradle-robber for him and grave-robber for me.
“Grave-robber” is more than a jest, in truth. His arrival to that rehab was via ambulance in handcuffs, after hanging himself. John hanged himself—but someone new was born from the ashes, and that someone is my Keoni. I’d better back up and explain that.
Keoni is the Hawai’ian name for John, which is my hubby’s given name, and the name which he’d used in his “previous life.” When we struck up a friendship in rehab, and swapped iPods and discovered each other’s matching selections of Hawai’ian music, and realized we’d lived in the same town in Hawai’i sixteen years earlier (and in reference to his Native Hawai’ian heritage), I playfully started using the Hawai’ian version of his name.
As our lives (and our selves) underwent the rapid evolution of early Sobriety in the ensuing months, the new moniker came to symbolize more than just our Hawai’i-connection; it became a symbol of a new life, in which we were trading the demons of our addictions for the joys of one another’s company. Call it a paradigm shift. Fittingly, the Sobriety coin our counselor had given him when he left rehab was a phoenix rising from the ashes—a coin he still carries in his pocket, and which he also wears as a tattoo.
That’s why you won’t hear me call him John–his Sober self is not ever “John” to me. We talk about John as a third party—and even our teenage boys occasionally allude to his changed behaviors and personality by commenting that “JOHN would have…” …generally followed by something less pleasant than what Keoni does in the same situation. We’re neither of us the same people as our godawful drinking-selves. Thank God.
This coming week is an anniversary of Keoni’s new start as Keoni, but TODAY is what we alcoholics (who celebrate Sobriety Birthdays with the reverence they deserve) refer to as his “belly-button birthday.” It’s his double-nickel birthday, in fact, so our 19-year-old son solemnly bestowed a pair of nickels on him this morning, along with a birthday kiss. “Look, Babe,” Keoni grinned; “Kawika just gave me half a paradigm!”
When he teased me early on that I’d be wanting to trade him in for a younger model, I responded seriously that I DID intend to trade up.
Every December 1.
For an older model.
So today I happily celebrated the newly-minted double-nickel with my upgraded, older model of husband. Whom I fully intend to trade in again next December 1. His early response to the nay-sayers who referred to me as “merely a mid-life crisis” was to tell them that yes, I WAS a mid-life crisis—which, if you do the math, means he’ll be sticking around with me till he’s at least 104. I’m going to hold him to that, so maybe we’ll even see that pair’o’dime birthday together.
Hau’oli la hanau, ku’u ele makule! (And Suzy-cat says, “Hau’oli la meow.”)