My dad loved all things nautical, but he wouldn’t like my new compass tattoo. He isn’t here to judge me, though. I wish he was. “Why don’t you just get a tattoo on your forehead?” he would ask.
In the months following Dad’s death, I felt lost and undefined. After I made plans to travel to Notre Dame to inter his ashes, a sense of dread settled in my bones. I worried about having to mourn him again, forgetting that the mourning never stops. I worried about the gathering of family and close friends, and the inevitable drama which I feared would ensue.
One night as we were going to bed, I leaned my head on Hot Firefighter Husband’s shoulder and said, “I think the only way I’ll have enough courage for this is if I get another tattoo.”
He opened his mouth to speak, and I quickly cut him off. “No, no. All you need to say here is, ‘Great. Whatever you need to do.'”
“Great,” he said. “Whatever you need to do.” Because he’s awesome like that.
On the Tuesday before my trip, I stopped into the tattoo parlor of a woman named Sailor Cher, a Navy veteran who runs the shop with her daughters. I met her a year earlier when we both spoke at the St. Augustine Pecha Kucha, a community arts event. “I can take you next Monday,” she said.
“I need it today,” I told her. She moved some things around, and I emerged with a North Star compass on my left inner arm. I love it. Dad would love it, too, if only it was a picture hanging on a wall and not a design etched into my flesh.
I’m not sure why it gives me courage, but it does. Maybe the North Star provides me with an ever-present light, and maybe the compass urges me to move forward, move forward, you’re not lost at all. You’re exactly where you need to be.