A while ago I had this brief encounter with a young lady. She was fiercely beautiful & when she removed her sweater, I saw this most unique & gorgeous tattoo sleeve I had ever seen. It was the classic 1930’s version of the Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, the Mummy & the Wolf Man, all of which was wrapped around her upper arm. It was amazingly Beautiful.
It may not ever be anything I would personally do, but the artwork was magnificent.
I was in complete awe of the lines, the shading, & the art itself.
I asked her the meaning behind them, & she said that she loves the movies, the books & the history behind these characters. But she also added that back then life was simpler & that was the real answer to why she got them.
There was of course a tale behind her arm artwork; as there is for mine.
When you look back on your life as a child you can always pinpoint a defining moment.
One of the times in your life where you can say; 'That was life altering'.
Mine was when I was 12.
My parents had these good family friends that used to be where I went while they worked.
They were extremely close to us; we vacationed with them, they visited us often, & I even spent a week or more with them during the summer breaks.
I called the Aunt & Uncle!
They were not 'blood' relatives, but they certainly were just as much my family as any of the family members.
My Uncle & I were exceptionally close.
He was attentive, a wonderful listener & had the best hobby ever.
He caught & preserved Butterflies.
This man also took the time to teach me how to also create my own compilation of these wonderfully colored winged beauties. He even assisted me with having my own glass frame with & little labels that told me the names of each different type.
There was the one time when I was about 7 years old; we went to Yellowstone National Park with my Aunt & Uncle. On route to the park, my Uncle's car (who was in front) pulled over & out he jumped chasing a butterfly he saw on the side of the road. I remember it was a unique one, as he rarely stopped a moving vehicle to chase one down and because it was what he & I did together, my parents also hopped out to let me loose to follow him. I had with me, my own little butterfly net in hand & I remember running through those fields as fast as I could to catch up with him.
There are many of these memories with him.
Walking while looking for the Butterflies.
Explaining what family they are from.
If they are a migrating Butterfly.
Their names & where they come from.
He took the time to encourage my love of the beauty of each butterfly. He was patient when I was placing them in my glass case & he always made me feel loved & special.
12 is a hard age. You are lost in the world of child & adult changes to your body.
I have raised 3 children through that time.
There is so much confusion with hormones, school pressures & for me trying to find my sense of belonging in this family that was so very different from me.
Just after I turned 12, it was the first time I had heard the word Cancer.
My dear Uncle had been diagnosed with Leukemia; Cancer.
The disease that has touched all of us.
It is one that everyone knows someone who has had it or passed away from it.
Here is the thing though.
I was informed of my Uncle's Cancer almost like they were under duress; they did not want to give me the details or reality of this disease.
My Mother told me on the couch in the front room (the same room you knew you were getting into trouble in) that my Uncle was sick, it is called Cancer. ‘His blood in his body is making him sick’, she said. When she told me this, she made it almost sound nonchalant about it, like she was just informing me. I would say this was comparable to having them let me know I had to babysit that night.
My parents did not like sharing anything with us children & in fact this was the motto of my life with them for years & years to come.
But looking back now, I know that it must have been pretty serious as they actually told me. However, at that moment because of her tone, I figured if she isn't worried, then nor will I be.
I did at one point in the brief talk with her about my Uncle's cancer & if he will be okay. This apparently was not an anticipated question that she had not prepared for as her demur changed & she almost got 'mad' at me for asking. Her reply was, 'I am not going to answer that at this time', again another phrase I heard over the years.
Either way, I didn't feel too wound up about my Uncle.
Although I should have been.
I know that he had a bone marrow transplant & that initially they thought it went well.
I know he did treatments but as for what kind, I do not recall.
I know that he passed away before my 13th birthday, & I was devastated.
My parents had failed me in telling me that he was not doing well.
They failed me in not keeping me updated on his well being.
Again the whole children should be seen & not heard, therefore they are on a ‘need to know’ basis.
My mother, the last time we talked about this, said she did in fact tell me & prepped me the best she could. That is her truth.
But it is not mine.
Either way, I was not ready for it.
We drove up to the funeral 3 hours away & the whole time I just felt pain in my chest. It was like a barge sitting on me.
The sorrow for me was unbelievable.
I couldn't believe that one of the most important people in my life was gone.
Just like that!
What about me?
I craved & desired positive influences that I felt betrayed by his death.
He LOVED me.
He allowed me to be me.
He created a person that felt belonging.
And now he was gone.
At this point, I started to become self reclusive.
I did not want to spend time with friends.
I did not want anything to do with a smile or laugh.
It was almost like I knew that my life was never going to be the same.
It was like I had to accept that I was going to be alone with no adult holding my hand along the way.
As my world turned upside down, I also did the same.
I was no longer the obedient child that just wanted my parents' love.
I became the angered & rebellious youth that knew I was not going to earn their affection.
I totally remember feeling like a big EFF YOU world at this point in my life.
The rebellion came on fierce at that point, & there was no stopping me from becoming the person I wanted to be. I WAS going to be ME! My parents could try & stop me, but it was almost like the passing of my Uncle created a drive in me to not be controlled or manipulated by the world that surrounded me.
My Mother never really sat down & talked with me about what I was feeling or how I was coping. It was truly a relationship that she did not cultivate or nurture. She either swept it under the rug or she forced me to 'chat' with a professional. There was no healing with my Mother on this.
The years passed & I didn't often go back to those days as the pain was always there.
But then there was the day of the lady & her alluring tattoo sleeve.
I thought to myself, what would I get?
The answer came on strong & it was a very clear thought.
For my Uncle; the man who loved me as me.
For me; the endurance, change, hope & life.
It is odd to think about all of these events now.
The sorrow of that time is gone.
I found a way to heal those wounds.
I found a way to pay tribute to an amazing influence in my life.
These Butterflies are my tale of altering my outlook, beauty in the world & the challenges we can overcome.
Life can be a place where you may not find out the reason for the life lessons at that time. But friends & readers, you will eventually see why, where & what you have learned from those moments in your life.
Travel your path to heal.
I am & I am still trying.
Here is a glimpse of my Butterflies.