TATTOOS ARE TOO "PERMANENT" FOR ME. I SUFFER FROM CLAUSTROPHOBIA!
It was simply a part of my daddy…like his delicate long fingers, or his perfectly-polished shoes, or his very-correct posture. The three, dark-blue block letters were approximately one inch high by three inches across----and were “branded” across the top of my father’s left arm. The initials---RBM--- stood for ROY BEHYMER MILLER---my father’s name.
I didn’t see those initials often because, whenever possible, they were hidden from public view. My father made sure that his short sleeve shirts were able to hide his tattoo. He was an impeccable dresser and the tattoo didn’t fit the classic image he projected of himself.
As a child, I remember being curious about his tattoo. A gentleman with few words, my father said it was something he did as a teenager…a spur of the moment decision...he’d lived to regret.
A few years after my father’s death in 1988, I read a book about American Prisons in the twenties and thirties and--I learned the truth. A few Southern Prisons tattooed prisoners with their initials for identification purposes and Missouri State Prison was one of those who used that method of identification. I only learned about my father’s year in prison through an anonymous letter sent to my campaign headquarters. I can attest to the fact that Politics brings out the very-worst in people.
In my early thirties, when I developed Vitiligo, the Dermatologist suggested he could send me to a tattoo artist who would “tattoo” my skin’s white spots (areas where I’d lost all pigmentation) to match my natural skin color. I thought about it but something didn’t seem quite-right so I declined. Luckily, I made the right decision. Over time, my natural skin color has faded to such a light color that…now…I’d be “spotted” with very-noticeable dark spots! Remember, tattoos are forever!
In the early nineties, I had a radio show in St. Louis and…while talking about tattoos one day, I received a call from a former Navy Commander who wanted to share his story. Seems that-- in the early forties-- he was stationed in the Philippines. He mentioned that most everyone on his ship got at least one tattoo while they were on the islands. Most were messages about “loving their Mothers” and some even had their girlfriends names tattooed on their arms but…he chose to have his favorite battleship tattooed across his chest. He talked about how--through all the years--he often unbuttoned his shirt or went bare-chested to proudly display his battleship but then…the day came when he had no choice but keep his shirt buttoned; to stop bragging about his battleship. Why? As he described it : “My Battleship has sunk to the depths of Hell”!!! My listeners laughed. Yes, we all had a great time talking with the Navy Man about his sinking ship but…I knew that down-deep-inside…the Navy man felt a genuine loss.
The older we get…the more we experience drastic changes to our over-all look. We have no choice but accept age and its determination to loosen our skin, destroy our muscle tone, rob us of our color while—at the same time-- gravity dragging "who we once-were"--- to the very bottom.
Many, many years ago I visited the carnival with my parents. We didn’t stay long because it was a very hot night and the Arkansas mosquitoes were extremely hungry. On our way out, we passed the Main Attraction…The Freak Show…and I remember we paused, briefly, to glance at those on “display”. I couldn’t stop starring at the young girl nearest me who was completely naked and covered….all over…with tattoos of reptiles--of every size, shape, and color. When she saw me looking at her, she leaned down in my direction-- smiled-- then opened her mouth-- and stuck-out-her long-split-wiggly tongue! I screamed and ran away. I was more scared of her… than what might be waiting for me in the darkness .
By now you know….I’m really not a fan of tattoos.