A Rose and its Climbing Vines

Avena Pertab’s rose tattoo located on the scar on her left arm. (Kasy Pertab//Marked Magazine)

By KASY PERTAB

My mother has always been someone who picks herself up right after she falls. She’s the strongest person I know, and also the bravest. This was proven to me in July 2007.

As a child, I was aware of how concerning my mother’s heart condition was. But I wasn’t aware of the extent. She was diagnosed in May after having an angina attack. Doctors then prescribed medication to her, but after weeks of it not helping, they stressed the need for a surgery. She was given the information that three of the arteries connecting to her heart were clogged.

In order to fix this, they would need to perform open-heart surgery in July where doctors would take another large vein from her body and connect it to the heart for continued oxygen flow. Instead of using a vein from her leg as they normally would, the surgeons chose one from her left arm – leaving her with two large scars. One scar spanned from the center of her chest, and the other across her inner arm. After being bed-ridden for over three months, the biggest worry my mother had was the new marks on her body.

My mother is someone who wanted to look pretty at all times, so she cared a lot about small imperfections. But this was different. Months went by, and I watched as my mother bought more and more clothes to cover up the scars. I watched as she cried while trying on high-neck shirts in the summer, and covering her arms with bracelets in the fall. She was frustrated, angry, embarrassed, and upset. But as years went on, she got better. She stopped caring, and she accepted her skin.

In September 2017, my mother finally made the brave decision of covering the scar on her arm with a tattoo. She was afraid that the ink might affect the scar, but after discovering it wouldn’t, she went ahead with it. I sat next to her through the entire process as she told the artist about her journey, and how much better she will feel after the tattoo was done. Even though she didn’t want to admit it, I could tell she was crying. I just couldn’t tell whether it was from the pain of the tattoo gun, or from the relief she had been waiting for.

Now, engraved onto my mother’s arm is a vibrant blue rose with a vine climbing down her scar. It’s a design she had always wanted, and now she’s not afraid to show it off to the world. My mother now wears her head up, her sleeves high, and a smile of relief on her face.

Thank you, Avena Pertab, for showing me that even pain can be beautiful.

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