I’m not a tattoo girl. I have a few fun small ones, but nothing anyone would notice. I waited until I was 50 to get them because hey…. if you wait until you are older you don’t have to live with them for very long, right? But as far as big tattoos, good Catholic girls raised in conservative Navy homes don’t get them. Especially on the arm.
On that note, let’s go back in time to when I sat next to my son’s hospital bed for a month. I had a lot of time to pray, think and daydream. During the endless hours I randomly began to design a tattoo in my head that would represent the both of us. I prayed to God that it would not be a memorial tattoo, but one to symbolize this life changing event forever. Then, once my miracle son was home recovering from open heart surgery I made the appointment for a year down the road.
For 12 months I designed and redesigned my tattoo. It had to have a heart. It had to have a mermaid tail to represent me and the saltwater that runs through my veins. It had to have VKM.
Just before my son’s cardiac arrest I got new license plates. During his recovery after surgery I was chatting with my mother about a possible phrase to help me remember my plates. Out of nowhere my son said, “Very Kickass Mom.” From there he spoke from his heart, literally, about how he couldn’t have made it through without me. He had me in tears by the end of his speech. So VKM it was.
Two weeks ago I realized in great panic that it was time for my tattoo. What?! I bought and paid for a tattoo a year ago? And now I actually have to get it?! Panic continued. Until I remembered what my son and I often talk about. Live NOW. You never know how long you have on this earth.
So I sent my handmade design to my tattoo artist who drew exactly what I wanted. Before I left to get it done my son said, “Where will you be putting my name?” NO LIE. My son wanted me to put his name on the tattoo.
I was scared to death to get my arm done. People will SEE it. People will JUDGE ME. (Repeat, Katherine… Live NOW. Live NOW.) The bigger size ensured gorgeous details that my artist couldn’t do on a small scale. (Repeat, Katherine… Live NOW. Live NOW.) This was going to be my badge. My badge of courage, strength, exhaustion, denial, faith, fear and endurance. It was my badge of motherhood during the darkest days of my life. It represented the bond my son and I made even stronger as we faced the unspeakable and unheard of.
The morning after my tattoo I woke up in a panic after very little sleep. What did I do? I can’t take it back! It is HUGE! WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK OF ME! I had buyer’s remorse to the extreme. I hid my tattoo at work. I kept it quiet that I had it. But then I went to the pharmacy and was asking my pharmacist about some topical treatments. I whispered, “I got a tattoo.”
My pharmacist wanted to see it. Before I showed it to him I reminded him of my son and explained what the tattoo meant. When I showed it to him his eyes got wide. “That is stunning! WOW! I have to show that to the others!” He then took me all the way back to the pharmacy to show two of the women working back there. After looking at it again he said, “I can honestly say that is the most beautiful tattoo I have ever seen.”
I was shocked.
From there I have had unexpected random conversations with many strangers. I have been stopped and asked about it. From there I have heard the life stories of others… the tattoo stories of others… I have even gotten in to conversations about the importance of learning CPR.
In today’s world, people stare at their phones and never talk to strangers. In my new world I meet and talk to random people in the most unexpected places. I am not judged. And if someone DOES judge me, too bad. They didn’t sit with my son while being told he was probably going to die, and if he didn’t, he would have brain damage. They didn’t say goodbye at the OR doors just before his open heart surgery. They didn’t talk him through breathing on his own through a respirator in order to prove it could be taken out.
I did. And I have the badge to prove it.