Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Strength Comes in Shamrock Form

I came home the other day and my son had drawn all over himself with a pen. My husband greeted me at the door and I said something to the effect of, "Oh wow, buddy, you drew ALL over yourself!?! GREAT!"

My husband looked at me and sheepishly said, "Ask him why he drew on himself?"

I did.

The answer, "Mommy, I'm strong. Strong boys have tattoos. I have a tattoo. I'm strong!"

Apparently, one of the gentlemen at my husband's softball game the night before had a conversation with my three year old about tattoos. This man had tattoos up and down his arms and my son said something to him about them. It appears that the man told him that tattoos = strong.

My first reaction to this was to be upset. I'm not sure why. I have a tattoo. It's not visible but I have one. When my son sees it I very quickly cover it up. When he asks what it is I tell him nothing. Something struck me as I was getting dressed this evening. I'm not ashamed of my tattoo. I'm not ashamed of the fact that I have one. It doesn't bother me. It wasn't some impulse move on prom weekend- as it had originally been planned years ago. I chose it. Why do I hide it from my child?

On July 24th I will be celebrating my first anniversary of my last radiation treatment. Last July 24th I had a dose of radiation that killed my thyroid, the tumors that were growing on it, and any possibility of disease. The experience was not a fun one.

A few weeks before that last treatment one of my oldest friends took me to the tattoo parlor where she had all of her tattoos, except one, done. I walked into my appointment with the full knowledge that this was going to hurt but it was what I wanted. I had been sitting on the idea of getting a tattoo for years. Since I was about 14. Prom weekend down the shore was the closest I ever came- I was short $30. Now, I was 27 years old, I had just gone through a horrible pregnancy, terrible health problems, a premature birth, job drama, and a bunch of other little things that put me out on the other side stronger but more than a few times made me question if the other side was ever going to come. I was getting a tattoo.

My friend had made the appointment. She told the artist that I wanted two shamrocks and the ICHTHUS fish in between them. The fish was to be hot pink, the shamrocks green. There was meaning behind it. Everyone I told about the tattoo I also told about the meaning. The shamrocks symbolized my two kids. The fish was my faith. Short of tattooing my friends and family all over my back, this was the best way I could think of to represent what had helped me make it through the past year. My support. My strength.

I made it through one shamrock. I couldn't take the pain. Part of me felt like a total and complete wimp not being able to make it through the rest of the design. The other part of me was proud of myself for making it that far. My friend couldn't believe that I didn't finish the design. All she kept saying was, "You've been through childbirth- TWICE!" I didn't care. It hurt and at that point it just wasn't worth it for me. I had my shamrock. I was happy.

I love my shamrock. I love my tattoo. I am proud of it. Yeah, I wimped out, I didn't finish the whole design. But I sat there and I had the shamrock I wanted put on my back and every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror it brings a smile to my face. Every time someone happens to catch a glimpse of it and asks me about it, I enjoy telling the story. That tattoo, as trashy as some people may think it is or as silly as they may think it is, is symbol of my strength. I didn't really realize that until my son met me at the front door and relayed his softball game conversation to me.

I am strong. I have been through the ringer. I had been at the end of last Summer and I guess it just wasn't done. I don't know why I was in a car accident or why I had to have shoulder surgery. I don't know why my son had to have the surgery he did and the life threatening complications. I don't know why we had to live on that children's ward- I mean I do but it's futile to ask why my son had to be part of the 1% who experience that horrible reaction to surgery. I've spent a lot of time asking why. I still do. I know there are no answers, there may never ever be. I'm not always ok with that. But I am strong. I know that and I am ok with that.

I have this tattoo that I got as a reward for myself. I got it as a way to symbolize my support from those around me. I got it as a way to remember what I had gone through and who was there with me. I got it so that I never forget where I've been and what I'm capable of. I thought it would be the closure to the bad pieces and the opening for the good. In a lot of ways, it was closure but I guess I had some more learning to do and more things to experience. The good is coming, I feel it. Or I hope that's what I feel. Those same people have been with me this past year. My faith has helped me immensely. I have drawn strength from everywhere I could and most days it was more than enough.

I am strong and I have a tattoo to prove it. I may have to finish the design and if I do, I cannot wait to show my son.


Momo Fali said...

You are amazingly strong! I am drawn to stories like this...symbols of strength, faith, hope, love. I have a friend whose daughter was killed in a car accident. She was an incredible artist and often painted butterflies. Now, every time I see a butterfly I think of her. When I see a pink sky, I think of my niece who passed away on a cold, winter evening when the sky was pink. A cross, a feather, a heart, darts, blue gems, and ginger flowers...they all mean something to me.

Now, guess who I'll think of when I see a shamrock?

LunaNik said...

I really like this post. And...you, strong? I never had any doubt. Your strength shows in your words. As for your tattoo loving boy...he's a little guy after my own heart...I love tattoos!

Oh, and I have to ask...

How does the fish symbolize your faith? I've seen the Jesus fish on cars and stuff. Is that the same thing? What does it mean? I've always been curious, but felt stupid asking.

Immoral Matriarch said...

You're definitely strong, even if you're a tattoo wimp. It's ok. :P

Helen E.M. Wright said...

Lovin' you more with each post!!!

Great story!! One shamrock is enough for a life time!

lattemommy said...

I love a tattoo with meaning. I think if you're going to make a permanent mark on your body, it should say something particular about you. Otherwise, it's just a mark.

You are strong, finished tattoo or not.

Crazy Working Mom said...

What a beautifully written post.
Your strength amazes me.

My son drew on his fact tonight with one of those markers from the Doodle Bears. *LOL* His nose was green.

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