I am sure you have heard tattoos and scars are different things, but I see tattoos as scars on purpose. A long time ago, someone once told me to never get a tattoo that doesn’t mean something to you. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised the amount of regrettable tattoos people get. Either the result of an intense emotion or simply a poor momentary decision ignorant to the fact that it is forever, or ignorant to what forever actually means.
You may wonder where I’m going with this, well, often I am asked about my half sleeve. I may be bias, but it’s beautiful. And I am proud of it. I will never feel regret. When I’m asked about it, it’s as personal as someone asking why I don’t have children. While, less offensive, the answer isn’t easy. If you have time for a half hour discussion, I am happy to share, but be prepared for raw emotion. The most important people in my life are forever on my left arm. Why my left arm? Because its closest to my heart. Over 30 hours of needles is worth the pain because it holds purpose. The thought I put into every blot of ink is dear to my soul.
The first piece started on my shoulder blade, a poppy with my mom’s name in the stem. The poppy is the birth flower for August, which is the month of her birthday…the best day. Then the inside of my left wrist I have a Celtic love knot, which matches that of the inside of Rylan’s left wrist. Rylan is my husband of nearly eight years, my high school sweetheart. Then around the front of my shoulder it reads “I want you to know I believe in your song…love dad (which is written in his writing)”…this is my dad’s favorite line to his favorite song, Drift Away. From there I added a Dahlia for my grandma, a peony and the first Nikon SLR camera for me, all five my niece’s and nephew’s names: Jack, Ben, Joe, Anna, and Ashlynn. Next was a piece for my Brother, a skeleton key burned at the end, as he electrocuted himself when he was three by sticking a key in a socket…and lived to tell the tale. Shortly after that piece, my very dearest and best friend Brandi came to visit and we got tattoos together down our forearms. Mine reads “Tu sei la mia ancora” which means “you are my anchor”, and needs no explaination. Last, but not least, today I added my final piece for my grandfather. While some of these ideas were easy to come by and I knew right away how I would honor these people I love. This piece took the most thought but is the simplest to the naked eye. The characters 4S4. Simple as that. It is my grandpa’s badge number. The first 4 signifies our once little town of Tumwater, the town my grandfather was a Sargent in for many years. The S stands for Sargent, and the last 4 is the actual badge number. Over the radio they would call “four Sam four” to alert him. The years when grandpa was a police officer were some of my favorite. A sense of pride came with having a grandpa who protected our streets. Running into people who know him brings a smile to my face “ohhhh, Officer Miller…he followed me home a time or two…he was one of the best cops Tumwater ever had…I was trained by him…” And so on. He’s a living legend really. And I wear his badge number forever on my arm. I hope when he sees it he is proud. I hope he knows not only what it means to him, but what it means to me. See, in my mind, there’s no better way to honor the people I love.
For grandpa, reality is touch and go right now. I hold on to all of the moments I get him in his real and most coherent form, and every time he sees my face and knows who I am. Someday, he won’t…and I know that for sure. I want him to be proud of me and know who I am forever, but I don’t know if that’s possible. Alzheimer’s may get him in the end, but we get him in the now, and I have a million fond memories with him. No one can take that away, and no disease can steal that from us….nor can it remove the ink, or the scar on my arm that I have to forever be reminded of how proud I am to call Sargent Gib Miller MY grandpa.