COLUMN: Inking the deal made decades ago

Abbotsford News reporter Kevin Mills details a promise he made years ago if his beloved hockey team won the Stanley Cup.

I don’t ride a motorcycle.

I’m not a member of a gang, nor have I been arrested or spent any time in jail – at least not in my adult life. I’ve never been in the military or played sports.

I don’t even classify myself as tough.

However, last week, I kept a promise. No, more like a vow or possibly a deal with Satan where I offered my skin rather than my soul –  I went out and got a tattoo.

I knew my parents would cringe, I’m the last of their four children to get one. The only “clean child” they had left is now tainted.

My wife, however, was thrilled. After all, she has six of her own.

That’s the reality of the tattoo world; it’s no longer a symbol of rebellion or club membership. They don’t just belong on convicts and Harley riders.

Nurses and doctors, business people and homemakers, young moms and grandpas – they’ve all joined the tattoo club.

For many, they are pieces of art – colourful, artistic expressions – and your body is the canvas.

Some just like an image, or identify with a phrase. For my wife, they all symbolize something important in her life – a child, a job, or even our marriage day.

Her latest is of a cartoon smiling monkey. It represents our grandson, Gavin, who we have nicknamed, surprisingly enough, “Monkey.”

That’s the point of a tattoo. It’s not to be taken lightly. If you plan to permanently mark your body you had better be darn sure the image you choose will remain important until the end of your days.

Whether it’s a tribal band, a “tramp stamp” on a woman’s back, or a flesh-eating zombie lurching its way across your chest, it has to be significant to you.

That’s probably why so many people have hearts that say “Mom!” and why so many men regret getting their girlfriend’s or ex-wive’s named carved into their skin.

Carved is the wrong word. Poked is better.

Poked into your skin, thousands upon thousands of times with little electric needles.

That was always my excuse not to get a tattoo. “I’m a diabetic,” I’d tell my wife. “I take enough needles.” But the truth is I was just waiting for the right moment.

I wasn’t worried about the pain. Try as my wife would to goad me into doing it with playful taunts of “You couldn’t handle it,” I knew the truth.

Now, I know she’s gone through childbirth, but other than that, she’s a wimp when it comes to minor aches and pains. Surely, if my wife could handle it, so  could I. Just  look at my colourful medical history – six needles and four blood tests a day for the past 40 years, nine hand operations, two eye surgeries, one nerve relocation operation and that little brain aneurism incident of six years ago.

It wasn’t the pain, it was the timing. A year and a half ago, the timing became right.

In the end, I just sat there in the tattooist’s chair and let him work his magic. Art has always been magic to me because I can’t draw a straight stick man, let alone create a recognizable image.

There was virtually no pain, at least none to make you wince, and the process was over in under two hours. It was a long time coming.

I was 20 when I made my tattoo vow.

I declared to the powers that be – good or evil – that if the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team ever won a Stanley Cup in my lifetime, I would tattoo their emblem on my skin.

For awhile it looked as though my parents would get their wish and I’d die clean. But, 26 years after making the deal, it happened.

In 2010, the Blackhawks finally kept up their end of the bargain.

Last week, I finally kept up mine.

Kevin Mills is a reporter with the Abbotsford News.

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