This morning I was looking through Reddit and someone posted a question – in relation to recent current events – wondering if people were forced to get a tattoo of a political figure who would they get.

I have many tattoos, most of which are in memory of some person or another in my life. The only face I have tattooed on my body belongs to my dear Henry. A supremely adorable face, one belonging to my best buddy.

I don’t think I would get another face on me anywhere, but it did get me thinking a bit about meaningful tattoos, the ones I have and the ones I could have. For a political figure that would mean something to me, addressing the original question, I think a moustache would make the most sense.

A small but meaningful reminder of something great that I got to be a part of and the man who lead us.

But it occurred to me as well, that the words that trail up my right forearm are a bit of a tribute to that same man and the women surrounding him. Jack always told us “on continue” – we carry on. And so, I persist.

From there I continued thinking of the tattoos I have and what else they could be.

When my grandfather died last year I immediately and desperately wanted some of his calligraphy on me, where I could see it. As I looked through his things and found a letter he had written home during the war the thing became obvious. To his mother and father, who had three sons off fighting, he said simply ‘keep smiling.’

If I were to choose something else to remember him always, the answer would invariably be his pipe. As long as I live the smell of pipe smoke will tell me that my grandfather is near, that I should remember him.

When my father died I got a raven. Everything came together and that’s what fit. It flies across my right shoulder, a symbol of intelligence and curiosity, intuition and information, as well as the university where I spent the most time with my father throughout my life.

But thinking of other objects that would clearly represent him one image came to mind. A plain blue Bic stick pen.

I have always known that I got my love of pens (and all other office supplies) from my mother’s side, but it never before occurred to me that my father used such basic tools. A Bic pen and a policeman’s notebook. We found dozens of police notebooks after he died – some full of the illegible scrawl that I knew so well and some empty. I have one of the empty ones, in my office. I have one of my Gramps’ pipes and some of his tobacco that I just take out sometimes to smell.

And yet.

When I try to think about my grandmother I draw a blank. She is represented, along with my father’s mother in some ways, with a trail of forget-me-nots up my spine, a yellow butterfly flying away from them. My memory of my Tutu is stained by her Alzheimer’s. When I think of her now I remember the obvious love she had for us, but I can’t remember loving her as deeply in return. I know for sure there was a time when I did, before we both became a bit broken.

It’s one of the many reasons I believe Alzheimer’s is the cruelest disease, and perhaps a reason that I cling to memories of others I’ve lost, thinking of ways to cast them onto my body.

When I try to remember her, things that represent her, there is this woman, always well put together. A woman who had been a model and maybe had been meant for greater things. A woman who surprised us by loving hockey as much as we did. Who made piles and piles of pancakes when we visited, and produced the best egg salad and apple pies.

I have no doubts that she would swoon over my daughter, who is like her in many ways, but I have no idea what she would think of me now. Some of me might impress her but other bits might be quite disappointing.

I cannot for the life of me think of one thing that is undeniably her.


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