Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Little Later Than I Really Intended, Part II...

Tattoo number two.


I just got this one done in June of this year. As you should know from this.

Not too long after I got the elephant I realized I wanted another tattoo. I decided I wanted the words "never forget" on the right side of my ribcage, since the elephant is on the left. Originally I toyed with the idea of getting the text done in Italian or Latin, since I regularly sing in both those languages. But I didn't feel much of a connection with either language and was less and less satisfied with the idea every time I thought about it.

Last summer my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. Each time was a different kind of cancer, starting with prostate nearly 20 years ago. It was by some feat of grace or magic that he lived as long as he did.

A few days after his ninetieth birthday I was in Santa Cruz for Oose's birthday. I had an eye infection issue and had to wear an eyepatch under my glasses all day. We also had to take a windy road up to a lake in the mountains and I get carsick. So I almost yacked in the car. Which pretty much would have completed my day. Luckily for everyone, that didn't happen. Barely.

I woke up early on Saturday because my eye was swollen and hurt from driving most of the day before. I slept on the couch with an ice pack for a while, but not very soundly. I couldn't get comfortable. I was in pain and I had had a funny feeling all morning.

My brother started texting me to see if I was up. Then he called without warning. As soon as his name popped up on my phone screen I knew what he was going to tell me. My grandfather had passed away sometime around four that morning. After being bed-ridden and drugged up on morphine for a couple weeks. He held on until he knew they were going to take him to the hospital, then he just left in his sleep.

My dad's side of my family is Cherokee. Very Cherokee and very proud of it. As we should be. Some of my friends helped me form a quartet (group of four singers) to sing a couple things at my grandfathers funeral and one of the pieces my dad requested we do was Amazing Grace. For some reason my old Methodist hymnal includes a verse of Amazing Grace in Cherokee, so I decided we had to sing it, which was really pretty much perfect.

After that I started looking at actual Cherokee words and the language just looks beautiful on paper. So I decided to go with my heritage. That's what the lettering is. Cherokee. To remind me that I am a strong, capable woman and that I should never forget everything I went through to get to the place I'm in today. I should never (despite how much I desperately want to) forget Bambi. Never forget everything we went through with and for each other. All the things we did to each other. Never forget what it means to love someone and be completely loved, but still not be able to functionably be together.

My dad had an especially hard time with the death of his father. And I thought more and more about how hard it would be on me if I lost him. Since my other tattoo came from my relationship with my mom, I wanted something representative of the relationship I have with my father.

My neighbors when I was a kid always called my him Chief Two-Feathers. They even made a sign to hang in our driveway that said "Two-Feathers Reservation". Obviously I wanted to incorporated the Two-Feathers idea. Initially I wanted a dream catcher in the middle of my back, but the closer it got to my appointment date the less connected I felt with that idea.

About four days before I went in to have the work done I decided I wanted just the feathers tied with a leather strap and some beads. I looked up some color symbolism in Cherokee culture, chose the colors I wanted represented in the tattoo, then added turquoise because I love the color and it just seemed to fit with the design. My artist created a perfect conglomeration of my two tattoo ideas that sort of wraps around my right side.

I don't think of it only as a representation of my relationship with Bambi and my relationship with dad, though that is the general idea with the individual pieces-- except that the Cherokee tattoo is really about much more than just that.  Overall, I consider the whole piece to be a representation of my strength. It reminds me that I can overcome anything. It reminds me when I am weak-minded that I am a strong and adaptable creature.

My mother is on my left and my father is on my right. No matter what happens they will always be there for me and I will have constant mementos of them when I feel weak. The red flag of my past life is a palm across my ribcage that I touch now on days when I still feel as if my heart is breaking. 

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