Posted in Family, Recovery

His Worst Week, His Best Week. Same Week.

Sawtooth mountains
Sawtooth Mountains (and Keoni fishing)

Life has its ups and downs—true for all of us. But magnify those altitude-adjustments by whatever mysterious hormonal algorithm determines teenage moods, and we’re talking about emotional topography to rival Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains.

Having said that, though, teenagers’ experience of life isn’t any less real for the fact that they’re hormonal or young. And sometimes life is all TOO real and a mom wishes she could run interference.

Our son Kapena is sixteen, heading into his Junior year of high school. He’s super-sharp (if somewhat lazy academically), he’s easy on the eyes, he’s good-mannered and sweet-hearted, he’s mischievous, he’s funny, and he’s passionately in love… with the game of football.

football hug
celebrating a win

He earned his nickname—“The Flyin’ Hawai’ian“—on the field his Freshman year, and by the end of this summer’s football camp he’d earned the respect of coaches from several dozen teams, who collectively judged him “the best defensive lineman in the Valley.” (Just as a reference point, “the Valley” in question is home to more than one-third of Idaho’s population.) His starting position on this year’s varsity D-Line is already secure, and his coach has been hatching plans to send highlight reels to universities…  He loves this game—and it’s also his Getting-to-College Plan.

football carry
Kapena on the right… with the ball

Last winter he also wrestled for part of the season, mostly for the purpose of staying fit for football, although he bowed out before the season ended because of the sport’s obsessive emphasis on losing weight, when he’s trying to add muscle-mass. Unfortunately, he didn’t make his choice to bow out until after a knee injury that left him limping for more than a week. He got right back into the weight room, and went out for Spring Football (an off-season league for the serious players), but that painful knee kept dogging him. Back in February I took him to our family doctor to get a referral to a Sports Medicine specialist—who told him to ice it, take ibuprofen, and suck it up.

Fast forward four months to summer football camp, where the knee (having progressed in the intervening months from merely awful to excruciating) left him agonized and aggravated. We went back to our doctor to request a referral for a second opinion, and we saw the new specialist early this week. He ordered an MRI and an X-Ray and actually looked at the knee.

hospital hat
“hospital couture”

Yesterday morning Kapena went into surgery to remove a fist-sized cyst from behind his kneecap, a spur of bone, and calcium deposits that had formed over his growth plates.

Moms know—it’s one of the toughest things in the world to watch your kid in pain, and not be able to do a thing. Well, there are a few things I can do—I’m getting him his pain meds, and cleaning up after they make him puke, and checking it to see if they dissolved before he puked, and getting him food that won’t cause too much discomfort on its return journey, and offering a shoulder for balance when he hops to the bathroom, and trying to say things that are soothing instead of annoying when he’s biting his knuckles against the pain…

It’s one of the toughest things in the world to watch your kid in pain—and I have never seen this kid cry… Until this week when he faced the fact that the recovery-period from this surgery means he won’t be playing his Junior year of football.

We’re trying not to think about how this would have played out differently if the first specialist had taken a serious look four months earlier—he could have been recovered from surgery already…

“The worst week I’ve ever had.”

“The worst week I’ve ever had,” Kapena told us quietly. That’s not self-pity; that’s a comparative statement from a kid who has already had to deal with more shit than any kid (any person) should have to. This is a kid who has dealt with emotional  and verbal abuse from his (other) mother for sixteen years, whose six-foot-five brother held him down while his (other!) mother beat him bloody, whose (other) mother kidnapped him out of state and dragged him through five schools in three states in the space of a single school-year, whose dad and (sadly, this) mother’s relapse of alcoholism sent him right back to his other mother’s control when he’d thought he was safe from it, who (at fourteen) was working full time to pay all of his (other) mother’s rent and bills while keeping a 4.0 at school and playing football… It was at that point that she beat him bloody for “mouthing off” to her, so we’ve had full custody of him for the last year. My point is that he’s not given to hyperbole—even with all that in his history, this is how strongly he feels about his football.

our three youngest setting off fireworks together on the 4th

I didn’t used to think I could love any human being more than the two kids I grew, but I’ll tell you now, I love this one as if I did grow him. I’ve never asked him to call me “Mom”—mostly he calls me “K.G.” from the “Kana Girl” label his dad uses—but I’m touched on the occasions when he does address me with “Mom,” and honored that he introduces me to other people as his mom.

So this mom is happy to report that in addition to being his Worst Week, this also became his Best Week. Funny how complicated life is.

He’s been dating a girl for a year and a half. I’ll just say that we’ve welcomed her out of respect for him, but in all that time we didn’t find anything to like in her. And that was based almost entirely on how she treated him. I won’t harp on details, but when he reached the point we’d been holding our breaths waiting for, of thinking this might not be the relationship he needed, he and I had an interesting conversation. Sitting on our front porch until four in the morning with quilts wrapped around us…

Valentine dance
with the long-time girlfriend… the Valentine Dance (his birthday) from which he came home Unhappy. Again.

As he started to reflect on the things that didn’t work well between them, I started to share some of the things we would wish for him in a partner. A person who respects him. A person who shares his interests. A person who enjoys his sense of humor. (He looked dumbstruck by that idea.) And he took the plunge the next day—he broke up with her.

A little over a week ago, he ran into a girl he knew in sixth grade, spent some time with her, and came home with his head spinning. She’s funny. She’s easy-going and outgoing. She’s half-Hawai’ian (like him) and loves Spam. (Wait till she sees Keoni’s Spam tattoo.) She seems to be just what we would have conjured up if we’d been asked to invent a partner for him.

They’ve gone on some dates, they’ve spent hours on the phone (and hours more texting), and she’s now officially his girlfriend. He came home at midnight from one of their dates, hugged us goodnight, and took himself off to bed… And then reappeared like a jack-in-the-box a few minutes later, perched himself on our bedpost, and blurted out: “I just have to tell you guys how happy I am.” Which he did–for about an hour! After a year and a half of relationship-misery, he’s feeling in his own life a little of what Keoni and I get to enjoy in each other every day. So this has also, he says, been his life’s Best Week.

Isn’t it something, how God does that?

He’ll be back.

Still…  When we brought him home from the hospital and settled him onto his bed, I brought in an armful of his favorite movies. The Longest Yard. Gridiron Gang. Friday Night Lights. He glanced up, grimaced, and shook his head.

“Nah, K.G.  No football.”

That just about broke my heart.

But… The new girlfriend is here to cheer him up, and she just popped into our room to borrow The Longest Yard. That’s a good sign.


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! :)

51 thoughts on “His Worst Week, His Best Week. Same Week.

  1. I was on a solid path to sports ‘fame ‘n’ fortune’, when a tractor-trailer decided it didn’t like the look of my little 250cc motorbike, and put me in hospital for five weeks … where most of the time I didn’t know if they would be able to save my right leg at all, let alone make it work again. I had the tenth operation on my knee about 4 years ago. I can walk now, and run if I have to, and ride my modified bicycle most days … but that’s not why I’m telling this story …

    This is why … the first time I walked onto a squash court I knew I was HOME, knew without a doubt that the Herself meant me to be there and to make a career out of playing this game.

    Fast forward a couple of years and, splat! There I am in hospital wondering what the fuck I’m supposed to do with my life now.

    Maybe it was the morphine, maybe it was because coming so close to Death, I was able, for a short while, to see things so clearly … but sometime during that five weeks in hospital I figured out why.

    Why me? Why break my body at the moment in my life when things were starting to finally turn around?

    I’d been given the gift of Knowing. I understood what it felt like to know what it was that I was supposed to do with my life …turns out that playing squash was the means to give me that knowledge.
    Hitting me with a truck, was just Herself’s way of getting my attention.

    There’ve been a few things since then that have resonated with that ‘knowingness’. And every time, because of that bloody truck, I’ve followed the Path.

    P.S. I’m sure I would’ve found out about that ‘Knowing’ thing without being hit by a truck, but sometimes you gotta go with the hand you’ve been dealt!


    1. Herself has some sense of humor, yeah? The path you describe, the arrival at Knowledge, sounds very much like our own journey. Herself hit US with alcoholism rather than a truck, but same ultimate result. A lot of people wouldn’t understand what we mean when we say we’re GRATEFUL to be alcoholics… But we truly are, for just the reasons you describe. :)


  2. A really moving post! Just woken up and read that on my phone Has set me up for the day. Every cloud has a silver lining.good luck with everything Keoni!


  3. Beautiful, touching post. I’m glad Kapena has a new relationship that provides him happiness, especially as he goes through recovery from surgery. I hope he does play football again since he loves it that much.


    1. He SHOULD be able to come back for his Senior year… And with the knee fixed up, he should be able to play at his best. Hopefully the Getting-to-College Plan is still intact. :)


    1. That loss is worse than the physical injury, isn’t it? I have to note that it was the football-loss that made him cry, not the pain…


  4. It’s obvious this post is written with genuine affection. Kapena is lucky to have your support and I thought it was really nice how he could talk to you about his happiness. Usually there’s a redeeming feature within a bad situation.


    1. I’ll just say I don’t mind being replaced as “preferred nurse” when he’s got such a blissful smile on his face… ;)


  5. When my first child was about three, a friend gave me a piece of advice that has made more sense to me over time: Make sure that your kids have two things that they love to do – and that only one is physical. It isn’t easy to find a second – but if they are a computer geek, make them play tennis. If they play hockey, get the a guitar and lessons. So many young people are devastated by an injury – it is easier when there is at least one other established thing that is part of their identity.


    1. There’s SO much wisdom in that small piece of advice! We’re seeing first-hand how fragile the physical can be…


    1. I should have been more clear. :) The Junior season is out due to the lengthy recovery-period from this surgery, but the Plan is for him to be all fixed up and ready to kick butt his Senior year! So (God willing) he’s losing a season, but not the sport…


  6. I know what it’s like to watch your child in pain. When my son was younger he ended up with HSP (henoch-schonlein purpura) from getting strep throat. His immune system started attacking his body. He was in a lot of pain, lost a lot of weight, had lots of visits to the hospital and was poked with needles more times than I can count, and spent the next 2 years recovering. I’m glad to say he’s fully recovered and on his way of fulfilling his dream of becoming a pilot, but there is always that worry in the back of the mind that his kidneys could fail again later in life.


    1. I’ve actually been thinking this week of MY mom, who was my guardian angel during my early years struggling with Crohn’s Disease (another autoimmune disorder, with pretty much the scary symptoms you describe in your son)… Moms are tough cookies!


  7. This post brought tears to my eyes! Your love for Kapena is evident in every word. How blessed you both are to have one another! Here’s to a swift and complete recovery!


  8. That child is gorgeous! And excuse me, there are some things deserving of awards….like a mom looking through vomit to make sure her child’s pain pill dissolved so he wouldn’t be suffering. You are definitely that child’s mother. I have a feeling his worst week won’t last too long in his memory. Here’s to hoping his best week pushes the worst week to the recesses of his thoughts. Happy healing!!! And thank you for always writing such wonderful stories about life.


  9. Kana,
    it seems you raised a fine young man, wishing Kapena a speedy recovery.
    Please remind him to get back on the horse.


  10. Kana, that was a tearjerker. As you said, it just kills a parent when a child is in pain and there’s nothing they can do. What a good kid Kapena must be: tough, experienced, wise, and loved! I hope and pray the best for him, you, and the rest of the family as you deal with this setback . . . and eventually grow because of it.


  11. Kana — I’ve got goose bumps! Kapena, for his courage – in pain and in looking at his own life for himself. And for you. For dosing him with all the love you had. You done good. The world’s going to need young men like Kapena. You did that. How affirming. Thanks for letting us in to see it through your eyeballs. Hug him for all of us. Dan


    1. He’s a little bemused by all the passed-along hugs coming from around the world… He’s the one kid in the house who’s not a reader, so the… well, for lack of a better word, the reach of the blog hadn’t really struck him until now. ;)


  12. Hi, Kana. Bless your hearts, you’ve help your son overcome years of abuse at the hands of people who were supposed to love him. I hope he is well soon. Love and healing…


  13. I so understand the regrets of “What if they’d figured this out earlier, I’d be done by now!” But it’s all in God’s timing even if we don’t know why. At least they figured it out and he’s no on the mend now instead of staying in pain. Oh and I suggest some peppermint or ginger to soothe the stomach and maybe some Gasx, the pain meds upset my stomach too, though usually it’s from the air bubbles they create. I’m also thrilled to see he’s done some soul searching because of the down time and I’m so thrilled that he’s found a better relationship. I hope he keeps on listening to the lessons you guys have learned and continues to take them to heart. Kids learn by example more often than not.


  14. Praying for rapid and complete healing of Kapeni’s knee! So pleased about the new girlfriend and how much joy she is already bringing into your home! Kapeni is indeed “easy on the eyes.” All the best always for you and Keoni and all your children!


  15. Not to dwell on bad stuff, but doctors really can be awful sometimes. I’m glad he looked at the knee and finally found what he should have found right at the start.
    On a lighter note its wonderful to hear that Kapena has found someone more worthy of his time and affection. And that he’s so happy about it.
    Really is funny how the universe can pick you back up again after hurling you down so roughly. :-)


Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s