My sisters and I learnt Latin in high school, mainly because we thought it’d be cool to know an ancient language. It’s not really something you can brag about, or talk to some one in. It’s a good basis to understand other languages, but as a form of social interaction it’s as lively as they people that spoke it as their primary language.
My other sisters learnt German which happened to be my mums first language, so when it came to homework they were sorted. When it came to Latin, as our dad went to law school we assumed he could give us at least a little help to get us in the right direction. We were wrong. But he would never admit his lack of help stemmed from his lack of knowledge, he kept his vulnerabilities hidden (sound familiar at all?). I remember he told me once he had a job interview where they asked him what his weaknesses were, his response was short, casually delivered and impressed everyone sitting at the table.
He got the job.
So when we would question his Latin abilities, he would ramble off a couple of lines and asked us for the translations. Our inability to do so apparently automatically proved him to be a wealth of hidden knowledge. This worked a few times, but he could only rattle on the same lines so many times until we knew them off by heart. There was one in particular which was his obvious favourite –
“Illegitimi non carborundum.”
Don’t let the bastards get you down.
So I went through a bit of a phase about 8 months ago. I don’t regret it and now more than ever I’m more than happy with my small rebellion. I got a tattoo. It was slightly spontaneous and I probably only put just under a fortnight of thought into it, but I still put a lot of meaning into it. I used my dads phrase, even though he would’ve killed me if he had ever found out. I thought the fact that it was somewhat an ode to him he would hand me a lighter sentence. It had a peace sign to represent my twin sister (its kinda our thing), branches of a tree that I inverted to be roots (symbolizing growth and staying grounded and true), a brain (to be mindful), and a quarter of a clock to represent ’15 minutes at a time’, living in the moment.
I loved it, still love it, and now because of the circumstances I love it even more. My dad never got to see it, which is probably a good thing, but it still is a tribute to him. Before everything happened I had to hide it around all the family members just in case. Now I don’t have to worry about it, I have a get out of jail free card and can flaunt it as casually as I want. Of course the source of the freedom is morbid and unwanted, I still appreciate any good I can somewhat salvage from this mess.
It was 2 and a half hours of the most unbearable pain. I thought my pain tolerance was amazing, but ribs happen to be quite boney, which has a direct correlation to hurting like hell. I didn’t want a break because I knew if I stopped I’d be too scared to continue. I bit through my singlet that I had been wearing to clench through the pain. I ended up tearing holes into it by the end. I even worked that night – 3 hours after I got it done. I never let pain get to me, especially when self inflicted.
The last time my dad visited was 3 weeks before he passed away. I was so tempted to tell him, I wanted to know his reaction even though it could of been a disaster because even if he was angry I wanted him to know that it was his words I wanted to carry for ever. The ultimate disrespect of respect. Thinking about it now, probably quite the oxymoron. Like a scathing compliment, or a comforting slap in the face. The good intentions were there though, the delivery obviously not ideal but in the end didn’t matter.
I’ll never know his reaction but I’ve seen the accepting silences of my other older relatives, the reluctant acceptance. Inability to be angry at something so sentimental and inappropriately appropriate. I wonder what his reaction would’ve been. I wonder if he would tell people about it when he was travelling. Start off darkly and disapprovingly, seem obviously disappointed but by the end of the tale have a slight smirk behind his mask. A mild sense of flattery. A moment of pride. A second of appreciation. Only, there are no more seconds left on the clock. Not for the healing of a curiosity, for one last comforting hug, for one brief conversation, or for a moment to utter the words ‘Good bye dad, I love you.’
Til next time… x