21 Nov 2014
I have two tattoos. Both were gifts from my dad. Both are a reminder of how my Crohn’s Disease has made me the person I am today.
When I say my dad took me to get my tattoos, most people look at me funny. They don’t imagine their dad taking them to the tattoo parlor and sitting them down and making sure they don’t chicken out on getting the tattoo they’ve always wanted. But that’s my dad.
You see, when I was in junior high my dad got his own tattoo. A mermaid with breasts that would put Dolly Parton to shame, large and prominent on his upper arm. I remember standing in line with him at the grocery store once when an old lady told him, “Sir, your mermaid needs seashells.” I was mortified, and yet proud at the same time. My dad was so cool he made old ladies uncomfortable and I wanted to have a tattoo also.
I thought about my first tattoo for a long time. I wanted a sunflower to represent the camp I had gone to growing up. The camp where I met so many other children that had Crohn’s like I did. That camp was the first place I felt like I truly belonged. It was the first place I felt confident in who I was. It was the place where I finally knew I wasn’t alone and the grounds were lined with sunflowers. Sunflowers quickly became the flower that I loved most because they reminded me of that place where my Crohn’s Disease didn’t make me broken, but made me a stronger, better person.
I was 18 and it was the day after Christmas. I was spending the day with my dad and when I asked him what he wanted to do for the day, he told me he wanted me to get my tattoo. I’d been talking about the sunflower for years and now was the time. I told him we could go another day and he insisted, driving me to the tattoo parlor and paying before I could say no. He drew the tattoo artist a sunflower that was the perfect size for my ankle, and before I knew it, I was about to get a tattoo. In true divorced father fashion, he asked the artist how long it would take because he wanted it done in time to freak out my mother.
Three years later, I was 21 and had just spent 9 months off from college because of a severe Crohn’s flair. I was finally well enough to go back to school that fall semester, and my dad went to Nashville with me to help me move back. It was his birthday and when I ask him what he wanted to do he said, “Get you another tattoo.”
I’d had an idea in mind for several months. When I was in the midst of my worst pain at school before I had to go back home, I would sing the song Let It Be to myself until the pain subsided. It was a reminder to me that no matter how horrible the moment seemed, that God was in control and I just needed to “Let It Be,” and he would take care of me. The pain was not permanent. My struggle was not permanent. There was nothing I could do to change it other than to go through it and come out on the other side.
My dad helped me design the perfect font for the words, “Let It Be,” on my wrist. When I am struggling with not feeling well or feeling down it’s there as a reminder that I can survive what I am going through. I had the “t” in the word “it” made a little bit different than the other letters so that it looks like a cross. It helps me to remember who is in charge when everything feels like it’s falling apart.
I’m proud of my ink and the story that it tells. I’m thankful for the experience I had with my dad going to to get my tattoos. And I’m glad that they remind me of how strong I am.