WARNING: This blog entry may make tears flow from your eyes, clog your nose with mucus, and leave you honking and weeping like a blubbering idiot. At least, it did for me. You may be different. Just in case, you may wish to read this in a dark room by yourself.
You would really like my wife, Karen. Practically everyone who knows her does. She is genuinely one of the sweetest people I have ever met, not to mention kind, funny, smart, spiritual and practical. Real pretty, too. It's as if God grabbed a golden ray of sunshine and placed it in her soul.
This is Karen.
She is a mature, responsible woman who is just slightly older than 21, a longtime executive at the University of Illinois. Which is why her recent declaration shocked the pu-pu platter out of me.
"I want to get a tattoo," she announced.
"I beg your pardon," I replied, certain she must have said something about Hervé Villechaize on Fantasy Island.
"I'm going to get a tattoo." She went on to explain that she'd secretly always wanted one and decided the time had come today.
"But what kind of design do you have in mind?" asked I.
You may remember back in June when I was in Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and minutes away from receiving a kidney transplant but got false-alarmed instead? (If you don't, and want to experience that heartwarming feeling for yourself, you can read the blog entry here.) At that time, our 11-year-old, Madison (who now, thanks to adoption, is also my sister-in-law), took it upon herself to create a work of art to brighten my hospital room, complete with an appropriate Bible verse:
The verse is Psalm 73:26. It reads, "My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart. He is mine forever."
We all were moved by Maddie's gesture, but apparently no one was more affected than Karen.
"I want that Bible verse on my wrist," Karen said, "with a drawing of a small kidney above it."
"The whole verse?" I asked, incredulous.
"No, silly. Just the book and the chapter."
"Wow," I replied. "Maddie's drawing meant that much to you?"
Karen's eyes glistened, with that look that says, "You don't get it, do you?"
"I've always wanted a tattoo," she said softly. "There's just never been anything in my life so important to me that I wanted it on my body permanently."
After a bit of research, Karen decided to have the deed performed at the 217 Tattoo Co. next to the U of I campus. (After all, what better place to get your first tattoo these days than near a university?) I didn't get the sense that her tattoo artist was a Biblical scholar, but he was very kind and understanding.
I had planned to take photos of the inking as it was unfolding, but I found myself just holding her other hand during the process, expressing concern and offering support. "Does it hurt? Does it hurt?" I kept asking. She kept assuring me that she was doing fine, Karen came through the affair like a tattoo veteran – better than I did, in fact.
And here is the result:
Karen and the artist debated tiny details, like whether it should be "Psalm" or Ps." (more work, less confusion), or if there should be a line through the "7". But the finished product seemed to delight everyone involved, no one more than Karen.
Now that it's had some time to settle in, some people have guessed the drawing is a little bean, even a small brown penis. But Karen and I know better. And long after I finally receive my kidney transplant, we will have a special bond to share for all time.
Oh, what a lucky man I am.