Posted in Recovery, Today's File

It’s a Turtle Life

12-23-08... and "A New Life"

My husband Keoni has some Dates of Importance among his tattoos.  There’s the date John hanged himself and Keoni rose from the ashes (“Shifting Paradigms and Half a Pair’o’Dimes”)…  There’s a Lucky Thirteen for our wedding anniversary…  And there’s December 23, 2008, right below the kanji meaning “A New Life.”  Today is the anniversary of the day he met The Maxi-Pad Lady.

Or, to back up a little, this is the anniversary of the day I checked myself into Rehab.  Here’s my journal entry from December 23 that year.

  Well, let’s see, we start with lots of paperwork, a strip-search, confiscation of everything from my shoelaces to my necklace, unpacking and inventory of everything in my bag in the middle of the nurse’s station. This is way out of my comfort zone.

The items I’m allowed to keep in my room (minus toiletries–meaning I’ll have to “check out” my deodorant or maxi pads from a nurse) went into a bin I carried down the hall.

The rooms look like Motel 8, with worse bathrooms and worse beds.  But Toots [my very ragged teddy bear] is mine, and a stack of books on my desk, and a picture of the kids by my bed.  Oh, did I mention the bathroom doors don’t lock, and everything else IS locked? We’re surrounded by locked doors and fences.  Seems strange to come to a place voluntarily and experience this…

The nurse who escorted me down the hallway with my plastic bin of drawstring-denuded sweatsuits introduced me to “the guy who takes care of everyone.”  An apt description–Keoni was the grandfatherly guy who made everyone comfortable, who diffused tensions and mediated disputes, who rounded everyone up for meals and our mandatory badminton games, whose sense of humor was so whack it took people a couple beats to catch up to his wordplay-jokes…  And who happened to be the person passing by when I wanted to vent my irritation about having to ask a male nurse whenever I needed a fresh maxi pad.  That was pretty much our first-ever conversation, and the reason he knew me as The Maxi-Pad Lady.

Keoni... and "A New Life"

Neither of us had arrived looking for a “rehab romance”–I had a boyfriend, and he had a wife. He and his counseling team had already concluded, before my arrival, that he wouldn’t stay sober if he returned to the abusive home environment which he had tried to escape by hanging himself two weeks earlier, but still, a romantic relationship was not the type of “rescue” which either of us had in mind.  But God has a sense of humor–and just four days later I was writing in my journal about our iPod-swap (overlapping playlists of Hawai’ian music on both), and our badminton rivalry, and the note: “I do love the smile in his eyes.”

I have the same kanji–meaning “A New Life”–on my own arm, right next to his name (he has proven to be my Anchor).  As we said our morning prayer together and reflected on the three years since The Maxi-Pad Lady met the Unit’s Grandpa, I could only conclude that it is, indeed, a Whole New Life.

Or, as he spun it in response, “A Turtle Life.”  I’m sorry–what?   Honu, Babe,” he explained, reverting to the Hawai’ian language.  “It’s a Honu Life.”


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! :)

18 thoughts on “It’s a Turtle Life

  1. I like to hear about people having tattoos with meanings…
    Like other types of art I think it should have a certain meaning. Today people get tattoos just because.


  2. Fits with my view that you never know when the right person is going to come along. And it’s usually when you’re not looking.

    Wonderful story. Have a lovely Christmas and fantastic 2012



  3. Having been told by Native American friends that my symbol is the turtle, the Earth Mother-like creature, and knowing how much I have always loved turtles from earliest childhood memories, I applaud Keoni’s summation here. I continue to pray for you, Kana. I sense Christmas can be a specially shadowed walk along certain cliffs for you and Keoni. You have my ongoing prayers.


    1. My very first tattoo (shortly after getting out of rehab) was a turtle, with the words “Huakai’i Kapono,” which means “Spiritual Journey”… So yes, turtles hold that meaning for us as well. ;)


  4. Your story brought back such memories…checking into Rehab is such a disorienting combination of a dream-like state and oh so harsh stark reality! Turned out to be one of the worst, and ultimately best, days of my life.
    Mele Kalikimaka!


    1. Well put! That day–strip-search and all–felt at the time like the most horrifying experience I’d ever faced… But in retrospect, what a small price to pay for A New Life!
      Hau’oli Makahiki Ho’u!


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