Dealing with Grief Part 1 – The Tattoo

At the beginning of 2022, I decided that after my dad passed I wanted to get a tattoo that reminded me of him. I didn’t know what it would be but knew that I wanted to do it. I had time right?

Dealing with Grief Part 1 - The Tattoo

I got my first tattoo when I was 38, and each one I’ve gotten (I have 6 total now) holds a very special meaning. A quote that has gotten me through a lot, flowers that remind me of my grandmothers, and two fireflies for my nieces. They were all so easy to decide on, but figuring out what to get for my dad was so much harder. I mean, he’s my daddy. I shouldn’t even be having to figure this out yet. The months went by and I still couldn’t figure out what to get. And then he died. Now what?

My dad’s nickname for me my entire life was Bones. He called me that for as long as I can remember. And it was a nickname that just my dad called me. On the rare occasion, you’d hear my mom say it, but it was really just a dad thing. Even people who barely knew me knew that I was Bones. He called me that even when talking to other people.

The last voicemail my dad left, the day after his birthday and 10 days before he died, I never deleted. I’m really not sure why I didn’t, but there it was. It took me a few days to listen to it because I wasn’t sure if hearing his voice again would help or make things worse. When I finally decided to listen to it, I knew I’d made the right call. The first thing I heard on the recording was “Boney bones, this is Daddy.” Then and there was when I knew EXACTLY what tattoo I wanted. I immediately started digging through old greeting cards looking for what I needed. When I finally found it, I sat on the floor and cried.

Dealing with Grief Part 1 - The Tattoo

I decided that I wanted Bones, in his handwriting, on my left wrist. Most days it would be hidden by my watch, but I’d know it was there. A constant reminder of my dad and how much he loved me. I scanned a birthday card he’d written it in and sent it to the local tattoo artist that did my last addition. Less than 2 weeks after he passed I was back in the chair adding this to my “art collection.” It turned out EXACTLY how I wanted it. Loo at Built for Speed took his time and even matched the line thickness to the tattoos on my other arm. I am SO thankful that I had someone so talented and thoughtful to do this for me.

While I didn’t regret the decision, and still don’t, as it was healing I started to worry. Would having this permanent reminder of my dad in plain view every day be a good or a bad thing? I had two weeks when I couldn’t wear my watch as it healed and I saw it every single day. Most days I knew it was a good thing, but on the bad days, I worried. Until the day I showed it to my mom and my aunt (his sister). My mom said it was perfect and my aunt said “Oh, Johnny” and kissed my wrist. That was all I needed.

I put my watch on over it for the first time over the weekend and it was an odd feeling. At first, it felt wrong covering it up, like I was trying to hide it or something. But then, when I looked again and saw just the edges of it peaking out from under my watch I remembered that this was just for me. It didn’t matter if others couldn’t see it, I knew it was there. It was MY reminder of my dad and one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.

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