Tattoos

“What do you do for work?”

“I’m a pastor”

Awkward silence. Covert glances at my tattooed arms. Sometimes judgy eyes. Sometimes surprised. Sometimes nicely surprised.

My own late grandmother wouldn’t approve of my tattoos, but then again she didn’t approve of things like playing cards. “Do you know who the Joker represents Corey?”

“The devil?”

“The devil!!!”

Nailed it.

I told my dad what she’d said about playing cards and he chuckled “We played with cards all the time at home when I was a kid”. Goes to show it’s easier to have silly ideas when you’re by yourself.

Careful though, just don’t look at the Joker card for too long. After forty seconds or so the devil might start lookin back.

I’m in Starbucks and couldn’t help admiring a man’s ink and how painful it must have been. Solid colours on both arms and both legs are not fun, but strangely addicting he said. It was only eighteen months ago that he got his first tattoo.

I know the feeling, like a searing hot needle being dragged across your skin. I hate needles so when I get more work done I tell myself “It’s a tattoo gun, not a needle”, this helps me psychologically.

I need a lot of help psychologically.

This is why I have tattoos. Every now and again when asked what I do for work by someone I think might be a little stuck in old mindsets I’ll say “I’m a pastor now, but got these tattoos in prison because that’s where people get tattoos.”

Then I watch their face tell me what they’re thinking before they come up with a supportive, non judgemental answer along the lines of “At least your life is turning around. Too bad the tattoos are permanent…”

No one has actually said that if they were thinking it because we’re Canadians and it’s a cardinal sin here to speak your mind unless it’s anonymous, then we’re surprisingly forthright because it releases the Jr High in all of us, when our brains weren’t quite formed enough to warrant a public airing of our thoughts, some of which were extremely alarming. Ie Facebook groups whose main objective it is to find fault in everybody BUT themselves. Because that’s a productive use of one’s time.

Anything I can’t explain to my dad is likely something I should refrain from. I can imagine it would go something like this:

Dad “What’s Facebook”

Me “It’s people writing things online”

Dad “About what?”

Me “Anything”

Dad “Why?”

Me “I don’t know really, but there are groups that are just where people go to complain about things”

Dad “You mean gossip”

Me “I guess. They call it complaining”

Dad “What do they complain about?”

Me “Everything. Mostly things they’re not paying for themselves”

Dad “Why would they complain about things they don’t want to pay for?”

Me “?”

Dad “Why don’t they stop complaining and do something productive?”

Me “?”

Dad “Maybe they’re trying to get someone else to make them happy?”

Me “?!!”

Dad “But that won’t work”

Me “!”

Dad was never into releasing the Jr High Kraken. Probably a good thing to grow up with.

It’s about the same thing trying to explain why I paid someone actual money to drag a hot needle across my skin in hopes it would look cool to him. I don’t think his brain has a category for that either.

I tried explaining Star Wars to him once and started with “It’s in outer space dad. There are laser guns and light sabers and spaceships and wookies.”

Dad’s eyes glazed over “What are wookies?”

“They’re like space animals with a lot of hair.”

Dad “What do they do”

Me “Shoot spaceships with laser guns.”

Me “Never mind.. It’s just a thing everybody is into right now”

My dad is amazing and one of the greatest stabilizing things in my life. He is nearly unmovable by public opinion or the latest fad. He operates out of a core of calm confidence. He found something in his faith in God I’ve never seen anyone able to shake loose in him, and my goodness some have tried.

He has weathered every storm and passed nearly every test the rest of us live in fear of. He is truly unworried about the future because he never wasted his time trying to find the magic answers that make everything ok. What most of us mean is what makes us feel like everything is ok. He was never too worried about that either.

So my mission is to talk him into getting a tattoo. ANY tattoo. I’ve never been able to talk him into doing anything he didn’t want to, so I have to convince him that he WANTS to, which is impossible of course but I love impossible things.

Maybe I’ll try the “Put a bible verse on your arm” or “Get your grandkids names tattooed on you!”

I know what he’ll say though:

“Why? I already know their names.”

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