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.
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.”