As soon as the needle pierced his forearm, he knew instantly he had made a dreadful mistake. During World War II, after a few beers with some army buddies, Dad, on a whim, decided having a tattoo would be neat. 

After years of reflection he said, “It hurt like hell, and I quickly realized I hadn’t had nearly enough to drink.” 

When we were kids, Dad was always embarrassed about the unrecognizable blob of blue ink on his left forearm. He explained that it had originally been a military insignia. Because Dad didn’t have a good reason for getting a tattoo, his was a lifelong regret. 

Tattoos weren’t in fashion when we were young. If they had been, my two older brothers would have gotten them while serving in the Army during the Vietnam Era, or while living as hippies afterward. During the 1960s and 1970s it seemed the only people who had tats were bikers and ex-cons.

In recent years tattoos have become popular once again. Whenever I saw someone who’s body was covered, I would think “How could you do that to yourself and what did it cost?” 

Recently I have learned that every tattoo comes with a personal story, and to many, tats are art and self-expression. Anyone who will spend $1,000 for a sleeve of tattoos has to be very passionate. Now I am working hard not to judge others, my children included. My next step is to start asking people to share their stories with me. What a novel idea finding out what we have in common, rather than dwelling on what pulls us apart.

Bill Mueller