It was simply a part of my daddy…like his delicate long fingers, or his perfectly-polished shoes, or his very-correct posture. The three, dark-blue block letters were
approximately one inch high by three inches across----and were “branded” across the top of my father’s right arm. The initials---RBM--- stood for ROY BEHYMER MILLER---my father’s name.
I didn’t see those initials often because, whenever possible, they were hidden from public view. My father made sure his short sleeve-work shirts were long-enough to hide his
tattoo. He was an impeccable dresser and the tattoo didn’t fit his classic image.
As a child, I remember being curious about his tattoo. A gentleman
with few words, my father said it was something he did as a teenager---a spur of the moment decision---he’d lived to regret.
A few years after my
father’s death in 1988, I read a book about American Prisons in the twenties and thirties and--learned the truth. A few Southern Prisons tattooed prisoners with their initials for identification purposes. Missouri State Prison in Jefferson City,
Missouri, where my father served a one-year sentence, used that method of identification. I discovered the news of my father’s year in prison through an anonymous letter sent to my 1983 Mayorial Campaign Headquarters. I can personally-attest to
one fact: Politics brings out the true nastiness of many people.
In my early thirties, when I developed Vitiligo, the Dermatologist suggested I find a tattoo artist
to “tattoo” my skin’s white spots to match my natural skin color. I thought about it but something didn’t seem-quite-right so I declined. Years later, my skin showed I'd clearly made the right decision.
Over time, my natural skin color faded to such a light color and now--- my vitiligo is hardly-noticeable--unlike tattoed skin. Tattoos never lighten, fade, or darken...they stay
the same. Tattoos are forever.
In the early nineties, I hosted a radio show in St. Louis and…while talking about tattoos one day, I received
a call from a former Navy Commander who wanted to share his story. Seems -- in the early forties-- he was stationed in the Philippines. He mentioned that most everyone on his ship got at least one tattoo while they were on the islands. Most
were messages about “loving their Mother” and some displayed their girlfriend's name on their arm or leg but…the Navy Commander chose to have his favorite battleship tattooed across his chest. He talked about how--through all the years--he
often unbuttoned his shirt to proudly display his battleship but then…the day came when he no-longer bared his chest or bragged about his battleship.
he described it : “My Battleship finally sank to the depths of Hell." My listeners laughed. Yes, we all had a great time talking with the Navy Man about his "sinking ship" but…I sensed ...deep-inside…the older
Navy man felt a real loss.
The older we get…the more we experience drastic changes to our bodies---and our over-all look. We have no choice
but accept age and its determination to loosen our skin, destroy our muscle tone, rob us of our color while—at the same time-- gravity is determined to drag everything down. Even females' proud perky, and sexy "assets" --- become victims of gravity.
Over time, they have no choice but travel downward---where the unhappy-twosome are forced to hide among multiple-layers of "left-over" baby fat and other loose baggage.
As a young child, I remember visiting the carnival with my parents. We didn’t stay long because it was a very hot night and the Arkansas mosquitoes were big and hungry. On our way out, we passed the Main Attraction…The Freak
Show. We paused, briefly, to glance at all the "freaks" on display. I couldn’t stop starring at the young girl--probably my age---who was completely naked and covered from head to toe with tattoos of reptiles of all sizes, shapes, and
colors. When she saw me looking at her, she leaned in my direction-- smiled-- then opened her mouth and stuck-out-her long, two piece, wiggly-serpent- tongue!
I screamed and ran away. I was more scared of her… than any Boogie-Man who might be waiting for me--outside!