“I’ve never seen how much I love him”, were the words that seeped through my emotion filled voice. As I watched with tears streaming down my face, part of the video made of my nephew receiving his first-ever tattoo, I see myself hovered over him making sure he is safe.
Before leaving the Vancouver International Airport on a flight to Honolulu, my nephew shared that he thought his Mom’s would let him get a tattoo while in Hawaii. With excitement I quickly responded, “That’s funny I brought artwork for a tattoo I want to have done too.”
The words had just passed my lips and suddenly my sister said, “Thomas!” It was clear a decision had yet to be made. A smile crept across my face and I winked at my nephew.
The connection I have with my two nephews is profound, heart-warming and filled with such love inspired adventure. Both of them are my hearts greatest treasures and they keep gifting me with powerful life lessons.
In 1998, in Sydney, Australia, I was moved to have a small heart tattoo placed on my right hip. It is today a gentle reminder to follow my heart.
Since then I committed to creating a sacred mandala on four points of my body, which has been a work in progress for the last decade of my life. I have one more tattoo to complete the symbol of the four directions and four archangels; my mandala.
I first had the symbol of a shaman, my higher self, tattooed on my upper back while in San Diego. Next I chose a hunter icon on my left shoulder, the hunt for my truth, while on the Island of St. Croix. While in Hawaii, a warrior icon symbolizing my commitment to being a heart warrior, on my right shoulder.
Between beach, birthday, movie, shopping and eating time, in Hawaii on this occasion, I noticed this father-like fantasy of taking my nephew for a tattoo. I chose not to share the fantasy with anyone and remembered a decision long ago not to have kids in this lifetime. So the ‘father’ thing, this notion of protector and provider, was just a fleeting thought.
While on one of my adventures with my nephews I noticed a local Hawaiian man with a lot of tattoos. So I thought, why not ask him for a recommendation for an artist and tattoo parlour.
As he shared his recommendation he also told the story of one of his tattoos that was a right of passage for boys to become men in his Kauai tribe. I was awed by his story and the fact that he included in the sharing that his Father was present while he had the tattoo.
With the thought that perhaps my sister had given permission to my nephew to get a tattoo, I shared the success of my research and much to my surprise the green light had been given.
It felt important that I be as graphic as possible with my nephew about the experience of being tattooed. I shared the intense pain, especially over the bone, and the fact that literally his skin would be bleeding from the needle. He seemed to take it all in stride and was ready and raring to go.
The owner of the tattoo parlour and Hawaiian state law required that my sister bring her son in and sign a waiver. With that complete, my nephew and a dear friend stood together anticipating this ‘first time’ life experience. I remember waving to my sister as she headed out the door with her other son, this sense of ‘father’ energy returned again.
The agreement was that my nephew would watch the whole procedure while I received my newest tattoo. He never batted an eyelid and asked some really great questions. I was so proud of him. Plus, I felt like a powerful moment had been shared between he and I.
When my tattoo was complete, Eugene (his Hawaiian name is Eukarezt) asked my nephew if he was ready to go. He motioned with two thumbs up and the adventure began.
Eugene shared that in ancient Polynesia, where tattooing has its origin, when a boy received his first tattoo it signified that he became a man. Eugene then asked my nephew, “Are you ready to become a man?” Without blinking, he said, “Yes!”
Eugene added this caveat; “He becomes a man with responsibility.” I looked down at my nephew, sprawled on that massage table and said, “Are you ready to become a man with responsibility?” He looked into my eyes and without saying a word, empathically nodded yes.
As the tail end of the video rolled past my teary eyes I became present to seeing the love I have for this young man. None of us can see ourselves, so I’ve never seen how I’ve loved my nephew. I’ve only felt it.
While I watched other clips of me ensuring he was safe, that he wouldn’t be hurt and that he was comfortable, I was suddenly present to what a Father must feel like with his son. The tears begin to flow again.
Just as Eugene completed my nephews’ ankle tattoo, signifying growth, my sister walked into the parlour. As she moved toward the table I stepped aside to create space for her and her son.
From my vantage point, I listened to Eugene tell my sister, “You brought me a boy and I return to you a man”. As I took my next breath I realized that whole story of not feeling like a father, in this lifetime, had just disappeared.