I was 10 when we arrived in Ventura. California has been my home ever since. My father’s great passion in life was sailing and the next few years involved plenty of it. We continued to live on the Agio for the better part of the next six years. While we each had our own stateroom, it was still tight quarters and I looked for every opportunity to escape. A few times I tried to run away from home.

Life in California revolved around the water. All my new friends surfed and I soon joined them. I also started getting into trouble again. My mom, who went to work for a few years on California’s offshore oil platforms, never knew what to expect when she would come home. Once she found me and a few friends hunting down squirrels with homemade blowguns. Another time she saw the boat’s mast swaying as she approached. She broke into a run, and when she reached the boat she saw that my friends and I were taking turns pushing off and swinging around the mast high above the deck on a harness I’d rigged.

During most of this time, my father and I might as well have been living on separate planets. He was working his tail off. He would leave early in the morning and come back at five o’clock — briefly — for dinner. My mom was pretty good about corralling us inside for family dinner, but as soon as we pushed back our plates we would all head off to do our own thing.

There was a period there, in eighth grade, when my dad made an extra effort to get me into ice hockey. The closest rink was in Thousand Oaks, nearly an hour’s drive away. During hockey season he would get up every Saturday at 5:30 a.m. to drive me out to Thousand Oaks for practice. He even helped coach our team. Throughout that hockey season, the two of us had an opportunity to bond again, just as we had when we were back in Kimberley. But soon that, along with my sports career, came abruptly to an end.

I’d noticed that my knees were starting to ache, and toward the end of the season, it got pretty severe. I could play through it, but after practice, I would have two swollen bumps on my knees. And if you tapped them in just the right spot, it felt like someone was jamming an ice pick into my knee.

My folks took me to the doctor who diagnosed it right away.

“Your boy has Osgood-Schlatter syndrome. He’s been so involved in sports, so constantly and for so long, his knees haven’t had the chance to develop properly.”

In rare cases, he told us, surgery was needed. He didn’t think that would be necessary for me, but I would have to wear a brace for a while.