When I was 19, I got my first tattoo. It was a matching tattoo with my best friend, TJ. We got hockey sticks crossed with our number above. Mine read 24, and his read 26. It’s ironic that I write about this because today, March 1st, is his birthday. Since our first tattoo, I’ve gone on to get a total of 9 tattoos; TJ has significantly more. I can’t even keep track. Some folks prefer to have their tats out in the open. They see their body as a canvas, a way to express themselves. For others, including myself, it is a way to hold whatever is most important to us in the closest way possible.
On my wrists, I have two words: Truth and Loyalty. Never forget who’s been there for you, and always remember that the truth is the cornerstone for all things positive. I have my hockey sticks, a representation of one of the most important things in my life. I have area codes on my triceps, which will most likely be covered up at some point in time, a victim of circumstance. I have a memorial for my grandfather on my right shoulder blade; I have the text from Atmosphere’s “God Loves Ugly” album on my ribs, and I have my mother’s handwriting saying, “I Love You” with the text mirrored, so I see it in the mirror. And finally, I have a monkey for my son, which says “Daddy’s Little Monkey,” with his name and birthday.
As you can tell, these are all very personal. They are in concealed areas. If I want you to see this side of me, you will. If I don’t, you won’t. But as I so often do…. Tattoos are an analogy.
Tattoos are generally permanent. They never go away. As such, the real tattoos are the memories we make on a day-to-day basis. The most hurtful things people say to us stick with us, like that ugly poked tattoo you got at a college party. It’s filled with regret, some good memories, and a perhaps painful reminder of a certain time. However, these memories can be beautiful. It’s the time we spend with our children, the time we spend with our friends, the places we travel to, and the things we do. All of it sticks with us forever.
I’m a huge proponent of traveling. I always tell people to make the commitment. I actually have my eyes on purchasing a shirt from famous YouTube creator Drew Binsky that says, “JUST GO.” If you’ve read my previous works, you know how much I cherish the memories I make on the road, whether in the US or abroad. However, the memories I hold dearest are the ones I make with my son. See, today was a very difficult day. I’ve had my son for the past week, and we STUFFED that time with all of the fun stuff. We drove to El Paso to go to opening day of an amusement park. We went to Ruidoso, NM, for snow tubing. We got to go to the zoo, the aquarium, Urban Air – just so much stuff in a one-week period. Seeing my son’s face and smile through it all was absolutely priceless.
The smiles, all the times he hugs me and tells me he loves me. Even the painful moments, such as today when I dropped him and my mother off at the airport, hugging me and saying, “I’m gonna miss you, Daddy.” Those moments right there… Those are your ribcage tattoos—the biggest, most beautiful canvas, yet arguably the most painful location. Nothing can make a grown man cry like a little girl for hours on end the way that saying goodbye to your child does. For me, the worst part is that it’s not like I’ll see him again on the weekend. It’s not as if I’ll be able to take a short trip. There are several states and almost 2000 miles between us.
What makes it more painful is that I know I cannot make this situation any better. I simply do not have the means to provide for him the way I currently can if I were to move closer to him. I keep my nose buried, working hard, working diligently, praying that I’m making the right decisions and that he will see me in the light that I hope. I want him to be able to say that I worked hard and sacrificed so much to give him a better life than I had. Realizing that I made my dreams goals, I went out and worked for them. I want to lead by example, showing that no matter what, if you want something, you have to go get it. It won’t just come to you.
So while I lick my wounds and hurt from this immense pain of seeing my boy go into that security corral at the airport, I just let it take over me. The minute I walked through my door, I buried my face into a pillow the same way I buried my face into a sweatshirt ten years ago. I shed tears. I second-guessed everything I was doing. Ultimately, I held my position.
Much the same way my painful tattoo appointment came to an end, and I had a meaningful piece to show for it, so too will this painful experience of seeing my son leave. As he grows older, our bond will grow stronger as he will become able to communicate with me any time he wants. I will always make myself available to him, and I know that if I just continue to persevere, he will notice everything I’ve done is for him. For now, all I can do is keep my head down, realize the end goal, and continue to tattoo my memories deep into my brain every chance I get.
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