The Story Behind The Rooster On My Back

People often point out my tattoo and ask why I got it. Typically, I respond with a mechanic, “It’s for my dad.” It’s definitely not the descriptive answer they were hoping for, but in reality, I’m sparing them the lengthy and emotional response, which often leads to discomfort. The discomfort isn’t on my part, because I have no problem sharing my story, but to some, it can be a little too much to handle, especially in a casual conversation.

So in short:

“Hey, cool tattoo! What’s it for?”
“It’s for my dad.”

But since today is Father’s Day, I figured now might be the best time to revisit the origins of my tattoo. I really do have a strong connection to it and maybe some of you might like to know why.

My tattoo is of a black and white rooster. He’s gearing up to fight, positioned in a strong stance. My dad was a fighter. He was tough and strong, the strongest person I had ever known – and will ever know. His Chinese zodiac sign is also the rooster. He would have been 48 this year. Most importantly though, one of my dad’s favorite songs was Rooster, by Alice In Chains. I still listen to it often and somehow find peace and comfort within its dismal lyrics. Simple enough, right? The song is called Rooster and I got a rooster on my back. The story doesn’t stop there though.

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My dad owned a Ford F550 dump truck. (I named it Sheila, and he named it Brutus.) That truck was his baby, the son he never had. It was the first vehicle I ever learned to drive, which meant I could pretty much drive anything after that. When my dad passed away, Sheila/Brutus remained a vital piece of my dad’s presence and served as a reminder of him constantly. The first time I drove the truck after his passing, I was a mess. Sobbing uncontrollably, I was wiping pools of tears from my eyes just so I could see the road ahead of me. I parked the truck and sat there, talking to myself, my dad, the universe, really. I just needed someone to be there. Soon after, I pulled myself together, put my big girl pants back on, and turned on the radio. The song that was playing? Rooster.

We eventually sold the truck, but just before that, I took it out one last time. When the truck came to its final stop in my driveway, I remembered that song. Again, I turned on the radio and heard Layne Staley belting midway through the chorus. Maybe it was a coincidence, but maybe it was something more. I chose to see those unique moments as signs. Similar to what the song says, “No, he ain’t gonna die.” My dad may not be with us anymore, but he’s still very much alive – just not in the physical sense.

People see my tattoo and sometimes think it’s a bit too big or a bit too masculine. They say it isn’t really “me.” Truthfully though, that tattoo isn’t for me. It’s a representation of my dad and how I want to remember him – as the tough, but loving guy who’s always watching my back.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love and miss you dearly.

 

 

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To my dad, the other dads who were taken too soon, and the men and women who stepped up to the plate when they were needed – thank you so very much. You are to be celebrated today and always.

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