“Would you put a bumper sticker on a Bentley?”
This is one of the phrases my mom used when I was younger than I never understood. I’ve always been pretty conservative when it comes to tattoos. I’ve never been a huge fan and never had any desire to have one. So when I found out my dad had a HUGE tattoo on his forearm … Let’s just say I was shocked.
He was in Oklahoma City, where I went to school, for my 21st birthday. It’s a college tradition that you go to Edna’s at midnight on your birthday. PS – If you’re ever in Oklahoma City, you must go to Edna’s for a Lunch Box. It’s their signature shot made of an ICE COLD mug of Coors Light, a shot of amaretto and a splash of Sunny D. It ain’t fancy, but it’s freaking delicious.
My dad took me (and all my friends) to Edna’s at 11:55pm and I sat in “time-out” until it was midnight and I was officially 21. Everybody was in a great mood and I guess my dad thought the timing was right. He pulled me to the side because “he had something to tell me.” Before he could even get a sentence out, I blurted out “you’re gay, aren’t you?” He looked at me and said “GAY?” I had obviously partaken in too many lunch boxes. He said “No, baby, I’m not gay” and pulled up his sleeve to expose his ginormous tattoo of the music staff to his favorite Ben Fold’s song, “The Luckiest.” I cried like a little baby and yelled to all my friends that my dad had a tattoo. My friends weren’t very sympathetic. They already thought I had the coolest dad ever and this just boosted his cool factor.
Fast forward, two years to 2013. My dad gave me a beautiful journal for Christmas the year before he passed. I began to take it with me everywhere because he’d written the sweetest note in the front of it. It meant so much to me, I wanted to make a copy and frame it all over my house. Then one day I thought, “Maybe I should get a tattoo with Dad’s terrible messy handwriting instead?” I talked to my friends about it and they said I should wait a year and if I still wanted it, I should do it.
December of 2014, I was living in Nashville, aka the land of tattoos, and my FOMO (fear of missing out) was getting out of control. My dear friend from home, Logan, was in town visiting me. Logan is one of those cool girls. The kind that’s so cool, when you try to pull off the things she does, you look like a complete idiot. She is also one of those friends who you can go years without talking to and pick up right where you left off. Isn’t that the best?
The Perfect Storm
Logan and I had the best weekend in Nashville; girl talk over wine and seeing great live music. Logan has a few tattoos and she caught me staring at them. “Would you ever do one?” she asked. I told her about the one I wanted from my journal. Dad had written that I was going to have a “remarkable life”, so I wanted to put the word “remarkable” on my wrist to remind me of that. “We should go this weekend while I’m here,” Logan said. “Totally!” I replied. But knew I would probably chicken out like I had done before.
Sunday morning we went to brunch and Logan brought up the tattoo again. I don’t know if I was intoxicated by the “cool girl” vibe she’d been giving me all weekend or if I was just intoxicated from the mimosas, but I agreed. And I was serious this time.
It was a perfect storm. Naturally, our bartender was tatted up and we talked to him about it. It just happened that his friend owned a tattoo parlor and was open on Sundays. Logan and I headed to Kustom Thrill in East Nashville (again … coolness overload) and said they could get me in but it would have to be later. Logan and I did some shopping to kill time and I did some serious thinking and decided I was really ready to do this.
We went back to the tattoo parlor and when they asked what I wanted, I showed them the journal. I said I wanted the word “remarkable” in my dad’s handwriting. The artist read the note and said, “Can I suggest something else?” “Okay…?” I said, hesitantly. He said “Remarkable is great but I got chills when I saw the “I love you” part.”
Hmmm. I started thinking and realized how special that would be. My dad touched a lot of people and I have always felt that I kind of had to share him with everyone but we had a special relationship that was based on love. The artist put the sketch on my wrist and when he took it off, Logan and I immediately started crying. It was absolutely beautiful.
It’s on my left wrist so I can cover it with my watch if needed. And yes, it freaking hurt. The pain that I experienced brought me back to the pain that I experienced when he passed away. It reminded me of how far I had come. I was proud of myself and proud of the tattoo.
A lot of people don’t know I have it because my watch usually covers it, but I love knowing that it’s there. It’s like my dad and I have a sweet secret that no one knows about. I think about what his reaction would be if he knew, and imagine it would be a little like my reaction when he told me he had a tattoo.
I was so afraid to tell my mom because of that damn phrase. She was so serious, that whenever I came home on college break, she would repeat it as she examined my body for hidden tattoos! But when I texted her a picture of the tattoo, she cried because it was so beautiful. “What about the bumper sticker on a Bentley thing?” I asked. “You’re more of a Tesla anyway, darling.”