Friday, November 20, 2015

The stories of my tattoos

It started with wanting to mark and rejoice in the passage of time.

When I turned 40, I wanted to do something for myself to mark the passage of time and the transition to what I considered to be the true beginning of 'old.' I was in San Antonio with friends and saw a tattoo shop, asked them to stop, and decided right then and there to get a small blue bird tattoo on the inside of my right ankle. Deed done!

About a year later, Richard and I split up and eventually divorced, but several years after that, we reconciled and remarried.

When I was 50, I was in Phoenix and found a shop, and an apprentice and I drew out an ivy design to go around the bird. The ivy tattoo is not connected at the top or the bottom so the bird is still free to move around without being caged in, but it has a home now. The ivy was in celebration of my birthday and remarriage.

I started planning my tattoo for my 60th birthday and got Meredith and Mike involved in the drawing. I wanted a small body of water with a drop of water causing a rippling outward, like a drop of knowledge or experience sent out to all in its wake, and a sunrise behind it. Once again in Phoenix, 5 years early at age 55, I looked for an artist and took my drawing, and now the image is on the inside of my left ankle. When it healed, it looked a little like a blue swirl birthday cake, so I found a shop in Virginia Beach and had the water worked on. It looks much better and I am happy to have it permanently on my skin.

The summer I turned 60, I was fairly ill and unable to travel and didn't have the energy to get another tattoo, but I did start thinking about it. I wanted something really special this time. I decided to take a breath and honor my mother. I never gave her the respect she deserved. Her life story is very complicated and we had a few runins that just were too much for mother/daughter. In the last three years of her life, she was slowly sinking into dementia and I learned a lot about her life, things I didn't know about. She straight up told me she didn't want to get married and have "all these children," and it was obvious she had been homesick for Austria for god knows how long. She as in a country she wanted to leave, married to a man she didn't really want to be with, worked full time, and there was so much she had to tell. There are more reasons than I can count for honoring her with my new tattoo. And so, I asked my brother to draw a simple edelweiss picture for me. I settled on a double flower image he drew. Edelweiss is synonymous with Austria and I now have my most beautiful tattoo on the inside of my right arm to always remember and smile. No one knew the dementia mom like I did as I spent untold hours with her moving, needing medical care and transportation, and just visiting or going for a ride. I really knew her the last three years, but those were broken years. I now wear hers and my heritage proudly.

I don't know if I'll get any more tattoos. Will I be around at 70 to do it again? Who knows. Winnie watched the edelweiss tattoo being done and helped by providing a color reference on her phone for the artist to refer to. I hope we're both around to do it as a team again.

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