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Because "I Still Love You"

My tattoos are souvenirs, some from places I've been and some from times in my life. Every single one has a meaning, some of which are easy to explain and understand, and others which are deeper, and only truly understandable by me. So when I found out I was going to be traveling to San Francisco to visit my older sister in March, I knew it was time to get tattooed.

I chose an artist, Clifton Carter, who works out of Ed Hardy's Tattoo City in the North Beach area of San Francisco. I had browsed probably 20 different portfolios before I found his, and when I saw his work, I instantly knew he would be tattooing me. He used amazing colors, clean lines, and minimal shading, which was exactly what I was looking for. It was time to finally fill the center of my throat, and since the sides are American Traditional swallows with flowers (see the experience "Swallowing The Pain") I knew I needed something that would tie them together and create a focal point. So I decided a red rose with yellow edges would be perfect- the two colors together symbolize happiness, and I was at the happiest point in my life. I set the appointment two months in advance, because his next available appointment was the day before I would be flying home. So with the date set, I began to wait.

When I got to San Francisco, I immediately spent way too much money on a bunch of horn and bloodwood spirals for my ½ inch lobes. After that, with the money for my tattoo safely tucked away, I slowed down and enjoyed the sights, beaches, forests, and the natural draw I felt towards the ocean. I had an amazing time, and realized I could easily live in the city, or preferably somewhere across the Golden Gate Bridge. I felt serene and at home, even though I was thousands of miles away from Detroit.

The day of the appointment, I ate a big breakfast and took BART over to the city. Clifton was at lunch, so I waited for a little while, and when he got there, he took me to his area to show me some roses he had drawn recently. They were exactly what I had in mind, except I wanted mine a little more ragged looking, so he decided to freehand it onto my throat. He drew for about 20 minutes, and when I looked in the mirror, what I saw was perfection. So he set up his machines and pigments, and we were ready to begin.

The tattoo took just over two hours, and wasn't half as painful as I was prepared for it to be. When we were done, I instantly fell in love with my rose. It was vibrant red with a deep yellow on the edges of the petals, deep and bright green leaves, and a simple aqua spear coming diagonally off the top lefthand side. We went over aftercare, and I told him my regimen was Vaseline for three days, and then Aveeno Daily Moisturizing lotion until it was fully healed. He said that was fine, and to let him know how it healed. He only charged me for an hour's worth of work, $180, and I tipped him generously, because he deserved more than I could ever pay. He wrapped me up, and I spent the walk back to the BART station looking like my throat had been slashed.

I flew home the next day, and my mom picked me up at the airport. She loved my rose, and it is one of only three of my tattoos she will admit she likes. I went out to dinner that night with my mom and dad, and had a great meal, and there was no indication of the horror to come.

The next morning, my dad got up before dawn and went hunting with our dog. I woke up around 10:30, because the phone was ringing. My mom answered the phone, and told me my dad was in trouble, he had collapsed.

My dad died less than an hour later, in the field, with our dog by his side. We rushed to be with him, but he was hunting three hours from our home, and there was no way to reach him in time. The ambulance took half an hour to get there, and my dad died five minutes after the ambulance got to him. He died of a massive heart attack- he had no history of heart trouble, nothing that could have told us this was coming.

For the next few days, I forgot about my tattoo. When I would remember, I would throw some Vaseline on it and forget about it again. It didn't matter to me anymore. I had this beautiful neckpiece, but who cares? My dad was dead, tattoos weren't even on my radar.

At the funeral, I wore a V-neck shirt and red boots, and the pants I had only worn for special occasions. I never went to funerals, so I just wore what I was told to wear. And in that time of deep sadness, everyone was drawn to my neck. My mom said it was beautiful, friends and relatives were in awe, and my dad's boss complemented it. I never thought I would receive complements from anyone but IAMers, but I hardly enjoyed the attention.

My tattoo, however, decided to revel in the glory, and was completely healed in four days. It was amazing. I woke up on the fourth day and went to put Aveeno on it, and felt that it was completely smooth. I looked in the mirror and pinched the center of the rose, and realized it was healed. I hadn't been wearing my necklace with a likeness of my Higher Power on it, because it would interfere with healing, and I needed that necklace to help me through. I never take it off, and somehow, somebody upstairs knew that, and I was able to wear my necklace the day after the funeral. I haven't taken it off since.

So my rose, which started with a simple meaning, happiness, came to mean much more to me. It came to mean hope, and strength, and sadness. It came to symbolize struggle, and beauty, and pain. It came to be a reminder of where I was just before my father died, and how long the road to serenity is. It is a symbol of my grief, and it is a symbol of my love. A single rose means "I still love you," and to me it means I can still love myself, and I will always love my dad. It's hard to look at it in the mirror, because it brings up so many mixed feelings, but it shows me life goes on.

And it reminds me that at a time when my entire life was shattered, a piece of me was healing.


submitted by: Rancidity
on: 13 Aug. 2008
in Tattoos

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Artist: Clifton+Carter
Studio: Ed+Hardy%27s+Tattoo+City
Location: San+Francisco

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