Posted in Family, Recovery, Today's File

Shifting Paradigms & Half a Pair’o’Dimes

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.

"Out of the Ashes of Addiction: Renewal & Growth"

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!”

The Double-Nickel Upgrade! Dec 1, 2011

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.”)


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

33 thoughts on “Shifting Paradigms & Half a Pair’o’Dimes

  1. There is nothing like touching ground at the bottom of the well realizing you’ve hit rock bottom and no water or life saver to be found. It brings us to an awareness about ourselves and life in such a way that only those who have been there can relate to. I applaud you and your husband’s courage and now your obvious enjoyment of life. Here’s a high five to you and yours for finding love in the midst of torn souls. Keep on Kana and Keoni. Your smiles say it all and I love your artwork!


  2. A lovely post. It’s incredible how much of our identify is tied to our names isn’t it? I know many people who have gone by a different version of their names after a pivotal moment in life.


  3. Aloha Kako’u, Last week we were fortunate enough to celebrate Thanksgiving with four of our seven Keiki. As a blended family we all continue to learn more and share our feelings about the term “step” and its usage protocol. It seems that any opportunity to remind me of my age is quickly pounced upon by all of them. Especially now that instead of referring to me as their stepdad, they (lovingly I’m sure) call me their “stumble-dad”. Malama Keiki, Keoni da Lolo Ho’omo’a


  4. I love reading your posts; always so heartfelt and beautiful to read.
    And this one speaks to me particularly closely when I think about my partner. He’s 51, I’m 27 and some of the looks we get while we’re out aren’t even related to that! Sometimes, even now in 2011, its because he’s white and I’m black.
    But reading a tale like yours reminds me that its not looks or age or anything else that makes a happy couple but what’s going on in our heads and hearts. A fact that makes me even more thrilled to be carrying his children.

    Take care!


  5. What a cool story! And I’m diggin’ the beard, too. I’ll probably steal the mid-life crisis paradigm, anything that gets me to the century mark! Congrats to Keoni and family!


  6. I completely agree with the total change you experience in recovery – but I think you become the person you were meant to be all along. Somehow the drugs and alcohol stripped away the best parts of you and if you work hard enough, with some luck involved, you get them back.


  7. Keoni sounds witty as well – pair of nickels – pair of dimes! And since none of us knows how much time we are granted, it seems more fitting to match personalities than to match physical age. Besides, we’ve all met immature people who are much ‘older’ than us, and vice versa. You seem very happy together. That’s all that’s required!


  8. Happy (belated) Belly-button Birthday to Keoni! You know, whenever I see photos of the two of you, I never see an age difference – I only see two beautiful kindred spirits who were destined to find one another. Cheers to the both of you and to many more years of bad puns and trading-up!


  9. Love it. Happy birthday to Keoni!

    Incidentally, The Boyfriend and I share…not quite SUCH an age gap, but still–I’m 39 and he’s 50. I’m also 6′ and he’s 5’6″, so we get our fair share of stares and good-natured ribbing.


  10. This is so beautiful, I’m speechless. Beautifully written and beautiful survived and lived. You two are perfect together and certainly meant for each other. I’m sure you never doubt the truth of that, and you sholdn’t! Happy birthday to Keoni, and congratulations to both of you!


  11. K & K, (my nickname for you and Keoni!) this is such a romantic story…very touching and technically they say time doesn’t exist in the eternity so that must mean age can only exist in our own imagination. :)


  12. Lovely! And pshaw to the naysayers. Bear is only 6 years younger than my parents, and I would not trade him for the world.

    Keoni’s tattoo is amazing! What a wonderful testament to his commitment. Happy holidays!


  13. Beautiful! Wonderful! Congratulations to the both of you, you are a beautiful couple.

    My boyfriend is 15 years older than me (I am 23, he’s 38) but what’s it matter, when there’s love?

    From my gangster side: let the haters hate. :)


  14. Kana, NOBODY can write such breezily MOVING prose about their family life any better than you do! Enjoyed this report about Keoni and his double-nickel birthday and how you guys got together, etc. Thank you for your non-boring honesty and openness. (You could never be boring anywhere, anytime, I suspect!) I myself am 16.5 years older than my husband. I am the lifter, the tote-er, the runner, the digger, the goofball in our union, so it makes a good match! We met doing voluteer work with street people at one of the country’s largest and most successful inner-city, interfaith ministries in the U.S. We instantly synced when he asked me “How well do you know the Book of Revelations?” I think this is very similar in a spiritual way to how you synced up with Keoni!


  15. Super HAPPY anniversary. I just have to say how refreshing it is to hear about REAL people making it. Life is hard but if you work at it, look how lucky you can get!

    Awesome post. Thanks.


  16. What a great story! I love how you adore your Keoni, those ageists out there can take a hike! I truly believe that when souls connect, the numbers are immune! Here’s to many more years of “people watching people” for you two!


  17. Hi Kana! I hit my double nickel on the 30th of November, a mere day before Keoni. My hubby is 63. I’m going to use your line next time he asks me if I want to trade him in on a younger model. When he says he wishes we’d met years earlier, I tell him I probably wasn’t ready for him. Now, in this life, he is perfect for me!


    1. That’s EXACTLY what we say. Even knowing that we lived in the same little town in Hawai’i at the same time all those years ago–the timing just wouldn’t have been right yet. It took both of us landing in rehab in Idaho, as the selves we’d become by THEN… ;)


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