Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Last week, I wrote a song for my Aunt Dottie who passed from cancer on March 28th. In the song I talk about her looking back on the imprint she had left on the lives of the people who meant the most to her. A few days later, I was at my favorite watering hole, Blackstones, when someone asked about the tattoos on my right arm. I explained that the three tattoos are tributes to three individuals in my life who battled cancer. Each tattoo has the person's name in it. While looking at the one for my childhood friend Sandy, he asked when I saw her last. I told him that we were best friends for about 7 years as kids and the last time I saw her was just after I came home from Desert Storm in 1991. With a puzzled look on his face he said, "Wow, it just seems kind of extreme to get a tattoo for someone you haven't seen in 17 years." I can see why he would think that, but then I explained to him that I got the tattoo to honor a person whose presence left an indelible imprint on my life. After a nice conversation about Sandy and her passion for rock 'n' roll, he smiled and said, "Wow, you're right. Your friendship with her way back then really did help make you the man your are today."
Shortly after this conversation, I finished my Jim Beam on the rocks and stepped outside. It was one of our first warm days of the season. I lit a cigarette and started to ponder what it meant to leave an indelible imprint on someones life. We all do it. Every single day of our lives we leave our imprints on others both good and bad. Someone may always remember the day you stopped what you were doing to assist them in some way or another. Someone may always remember the day you were insensitive to them. As for our friends and families, the indelible imprints are ongoing as our relationships grow and change throughout our lives.
This gave me pause to think about the imprint I'm leaving on people in my life. I'd like to think it's a positive one, but I know for a fact there are people out there who will tell you differently. I always say that those who knew me in my 20's and still call me "friend" could give lessons in perseverance. I wasn't a horrible person back then, but I certainly had my moments. I was horrendously careless with other people's feelings. At times there was no filter between my brain and my mouth. I would say I spent most of my 20's "reacting" to people's reactions of me. Does that make sense? For example, when I came out of the closet, I came out like a Sherman Tank. I was big, loud and I did a lot of damage and never really cared about who I hurt in the process. My motto was, "Love me as I am or get the fuck out of my life." So I put that out there and waited for people's reactions and when they were less than stellar I flew off the handle. I was constantly criticizing people for being closed-minded and homophobic. Instead of engaging these people in conversations, I would react to them out of anger and insecurity and then cut them out of my life. I was very judgmental and condescending in my reactions. I made an art form out of burning bridges. It's a good thing I learned the art of letting go in my 30's. Now I know that I don't have to have a fight with every person who sees the world differently. I don't have to tell off every single person who doesn't like me because I'm gay. I don't have to consistently try to change the fact that in most of my family's eyes, I'm still that dorky, self-centered teenager. All I have to do is try my best to be a good person and treat others with respect and try to make a positive difference in my community. I want to be able to fly up to the moon some day (reference to the song about my Aunt) and look back at my life and feel good about the imprint I left on the ones who mean the most to me.
Maybe if we (me included) were all a little more concerned with the imprint we will leave behind, our legacy if you will, then maybe we'd all be a little nicer to each other along the way. Maybe we'd realize that it's more important to accept someone for who they are rather than what they are. Unfortunately, we usually only think about these imprints when a friend or loved one moves away or when someone passes away. Hopefully, after you finish reading this you will stop to think about the people who's indelible imprints have enriched your life. Don't wait for them to move or pass away, it's too easy these days to send good thoughts to those people. Send them a card in the mail, comment their MySpace page, give a quick call or drop them a quick email just to say, "Hey thanks for all you do. You have made my life richer." My favorite thing to tell people whose imprints made the most lasting impressions is, "I am a better man for knowing you."
As always, thank you for reading. Thank you.
Here are the three tattoos on my arm. Gloria is my mother. She battled cancer last summer and is currently cancer free. That tattoo is on the top of my right forearm about 4 inches above my hand. Sandy, is my childhood friend who passed in February at the age of 39. Dorothy Juanita is my Aunt Dottie. Sandy's tattoo isn't finished. When done, it will have roses, clovers, stars and music notes all around the horseshoe going up to her name and the angel will be touched up. I will get it finished in June. Notice above my hand in the picture of my Aunt Dottie's tattoo. There appear to be a pair of wings almost like a small white dove where sitting on my hand. This picture is NOT photoshopped. Unfortunately, I still have a few more names to add to my arm. My grandmother Alice Marie and my good friend Drew's dad who passed recently, Billy Jack. Also one for my friend Jayme who beat cancer years ago. Go Jayme! Here's hoping they're the last.