My dad turned 59 last Saturday. I invited he and my step-mom for a visit that weekend because I was itching to have family over at our house and to show them The Getty museum in Los Angeles. It's hard for my dad to travel - he feels a lot of pain during the long drive (6 hours or so from Monterey, where they live) and he can no longer rock the air mattress that he usually sleeps on when they come to visit us in our lovely, SMALL, 2 bedroom. However, if you know my dad, nothing stops him from doing something that he wants, and he wanted to visit :) THANK YOU to my step-mom Rene for driving both ways. I know how tiring that is. Trust me! My dad has lung cancer and they say it's terminal. He was diagnosed this spring after having his lungs drained twice of huge amounts of fluid. They only found the cancer after they went in and actually saw the two dozen small tumors on the outside of his left lung. He has been undergoing chemo like a champ. It kills me to know how sick he gets and how awful he feels, but I am so, so proud of him. We will know soon if the chemo is doing anything and then he will decide what course to take at that point. At his latest oncologist appointment, his doctor gave him 1 year. Yes, it's too soon, but it's a lot longer than we were first told, so we are going to seize every moment that we have.
As you can see in the photos, my dad has a lot of tattoos. He got his first one back in the 70's when he was in the army, and the rest have been fairly recent. In 2005, my dad took me on a 4 day motorcycle trip to Reno for Street Vibrations, an anual biker rally. We had an amazing time and it's something I'll never forget. Much to my husband's displeasure, I came home with a tattoo on that trip too. While my dad and I didn't get matching ones that time, we got them together, and it's a memory that makes us both smile.
What do you get someone with lung cancer? Men are hard to buy for to begin with, so I was extra challenged this year. My dad is like me - he's a big softie and I knew that whatever I got him, I wanted it to be meaningful. I had been brain storming a tattoo for many months now and I knew that I somehow wanted it to remind me of my dad. However, I wanted it to be a bit vague, not "I Love Dad", you know? :) Well, I was thinking...what makes me think of my dad more than anything else? One day I was driving down the highway when the song Plush by The Stone Temple Pilots came on my iPod. I cried. Why? The nostalgia flooded me. I remember it clearly: The breezy, sunny days in Antioch, in my dad's 1 bedroom apartment before he met my step-mom. It was just my dad and I. I was 8 or 9 years old. My dad would blast his music while he cleaned and I played, and then we would both end up singing along or dancing around his living room like the goofballs that we are. Yes, THOSE are the moments that I will remember most.
Have you ever read the lyrics of Stone Temple Pilots songs? Well, they don't lend themselves well to a nice, sweet, feminine tattoo. I didn't care. I was going to make it work. I finally found the perfect lyric.
Where are you going for tomorrow?
I was excited. I looked at reviews online and booked an appointment at a tattoo shop. I even kept it a secret from my step-mom because I wanted to surprise her too. I did however get clearance from my husband and mom. I mean, honestly, I would have done it even without their thumbs up (sorry guys) but it made the decision that much more clear.
We had a beautiful day at The Getty that afternoon and I came home and got some ribs ready to throw on the grill to eat when we got home from the tattoo shop. I decided to tell my dad while we were in the car. I'm fairly bad at keeping a surprise ;) As I was driving, I handed him the piece of paper with the lyric and font that I had decided on. I wanted to see if he knew what it was from. Since I was driving, I couldn't watch his face (he was in the backseat of their van that I was driving because it is more comfortable back there, and I secretly think he's terrified of my driving, haha). He knew right away, "It's a song lyric"....silence....."Stone Temple Pilots".....silence. More silence. I glanced back at him in the rear view mirror to see my big, tough, biker daddy....crying. I knew that I had found the perfect gift. So, the rest is history. Permanent history on our bodies, if we live another 80 years or just another single year. It doesn't matter, because we did it together.
As you can see, we have some great photos. Melissa had called me when she found out that my dad was coming to visit and asked if we would like to do a session, just he and I, since I have mentioned that I don't have that many photos with my dad, just the two of us together. I excitedly said yes. However, once I figured out our plans for the tattoos, I asked Melissa if she would mind coming with us and photographing that instead. I knew that it was something that I'd never want to forget. Melissa was up for it, 100%. She too has a great relationship with her dad and I was with her when she got a sizable tattoo in Vegas, so it was perfect. THANK YOU, my awesome, talented friend for these amazing photos. Make sure to check out her site. MelissaPalomo.com
Oh, and if you're curious, here is the song that started it all :)
My dad and I joked that we should add too the tattoos for every additional birthday that he celebrates. Of course, I want him around long enough to complete the entire song, but we might have to leave out the "When the dogs beging to smell her" part, eh? haha ;)