it’s friday, around ten in the morning. i’ve just gotten back from the gym. my dad is leaving in two hours to drive upstate and pick up his girlfriend, who will be spending the rest of my vacation here with us. i’ve been home for three days and still haven’t broken the news about my new tattoo.
(backstory: my father hates tattoos. especially on women. and even more especially on me. i have a tiny one behind my left ear, and when he saw it – a YEAR after i got it – he was definitely not pleased.)
normally i would just let it go, and let him find when he finds out – the next time i’m in a bikini, which would be next weekend. but since this particular tattoo is his recently deceased wife’s handwriting, i thought maybe it would be more appropriate if i told him about it earlier and in private. we’ve had enough surprises for one year.
“okay i need to tell you something, and i don’t want you to go bonkers…i got another tattoo.”
“why don’t you just go get another ten or twelve, go ahead and look like a trucker.”
“…can you see it?” (i was in a tank top and shorts.)
“then why bother getting it?”
“because it was important.”
i left and went to shower. as soon as i stepped in i started to cry.
for weeks after my mom died, i would burst into tears every time i showered. it was the one time during the day i was alone and felt safe to melt down. with mom on my mind and my heart stinging from my dad’s rebuff, it seemed natural to dissolve as soon as i stepped into the spray.
my dad and i very rarely fight, and when we do it lasts no more than fifteen minutes. we can’t bear the weight of staying angry with one another.
i get out of the shower and walk to my room. no sooner am i dressed than my dad is calling me from the next room.
he comes in and apologizes, tells me he knows it’s my body and that i’m an adult. then he asks what the tattoo is of.
“it’s mom’s handwriting from a card she gave me last year.”
he gets that look on his face – the one i saw so many times in the days following mom’s death – and we’re both immediately transported back to january. he turns and takes a few steps out of my room. “i’m so sorry,” he says, more to himself than to me.
he comes back, tears in his eyes. “you must be suffering so much. i know i have…but it must be so hard for you, especially without k.”
if there’s one way to get me to instantaneously cry, it’s to see my father cry. so now we’re both sobbing, and he asks to see my tattoo. i show him and new tears spring up. he apologizes again, and again. i tell him i’m not angry – which i’m not. just hurt, because i although i knew he would initially be angry, i thought i would at least be able to squeeze in the story of the tattoo before he threw a zinger my way.
but in the end, we are as we always have been – strongly connected, suffering in our own way, healing in our own way.