On September 29th, 1995 my son, Angelo, passed away. He was 16, only ten days from turning 17. Two weeks later I got my first tattoo in his memory and to help start the healing process. He and I had planned on getting tattooed together the year he turned 18 and I turned 40. That was not meant to be. But I felt it a fitting way to honor his short life and keep his spirit alive with me always.
It's of Angelo's electric guitar lying flat with a raven on top plucking the strings with his claw. The guitar strap has my son's initials on it AB IV (Angelo Benegas IV). The symbolism is my son was learning to play the electric guitar and loved it. The crow/raven is a spirit guide of mine and Angelo and I loved the movie The Crow which came out shortly before he died. Although the tattoo means so much to me sometime in the future I may have it redone in more detail. It's about 5 inches across and on my back, left shoulder.
This past Tuesday, September 20, 2005, nearly ten years later, I got my second tattoo. I had been planning this one a long time and I love it, I think it turned out very nicely. It's on my left upper arm and is pretty huge at about 5 1/4" across. This time I wanted one where I could see it. I missed that about the first one and spent a lot of time looking in the mirror at it ;-)
Here is a picture of my new one, without a flash.
Here is one with a flash.
Of course we have a pretty crappy digital camera, but you get the idea. I had it done in Newport, Rhode Island at Captain Bret's Tribal and Celtic Tattoo's. It was a 3-hr drive, but Rafe and I enjoyed the trip. It was a beautiful day! One thing I didn't know about Rhode Island's health laws was that the person being tattooed and the tattoo artist are the only ones allowed in the back room during the tattooing process. When I had my first one done, in Iowa, my best friend Rich was able to be there and offer some much needed support. Rafe had wanted to watch because he is thinking of getting a tattoo in the future, and of course to offer his support. Instead he had to wait out in the waiting room, listen to the tattoo needle buzzing and wonder if I would ever emerge. It was a pretty boring reward for him after a six-hour round-trip. I was able to entertain myself while getting the tattooed by watching Rafe on the closed circuit TV ;-)
So I don't think I would get tattooed in RI anymore for that reason alone. I want to share my pain ;-) To his credit, Captain Bret was FAST, he completed the tat in 1-1/4 hours, so not too long a wait for Rafe. After 10 years I had forgotten the pain. I remembered as soon as the needle touched my skin. I'd like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but the outlining felt like a fishhook being dragged through my skin. He wasn't very gentle. Filling in was better as the endorphins had kicked in. All in all a very survivable pain, for a lifetime of art. Captain Bret is a pro and everything was sterile, new and autoclaved. All in all a good experience, save for the whole "not having Rafe come back to watch" thing.
So what's my response when people say, "Why get tattooed?"
If the body is a temple, wouldn't you want your temple to have beautiful pictures and tapestries displayed there? It works for me.