December 29, 2009

USA: Oregon woman proves it's never too late to get a taste of ink

. BEND, Oregon / The Bend Bulletin / Community / December 29, 2009 Making her mark By Alandra Johnson / The Bulletin Jean Russell doesn't really see herself as a rebel. The 78-year-old lives in High Desert Assisted Living Community in Bend and enjoys visiting with her children and grandchildren and making baby blankets to donate to charity. But earlier this month, Russell decided to do something that was seen as the mark of a rebel for her generation. Russell got a tattoo. She remembers entering Oxygen Studios in downtown Bend. “Everybody else was in their 20s and here I come with my walker.” Russell laughs about her decision, saying, “I'm enjoying my second childhood.” Bend resident Jean Russell, 78, got a tattoo earlier this month on her right upper arm. The initials DLD stand for her three children, Donna, Lynn and David. The number seven signifies her number of grandchildren. Rob Kerr The Bulletin When she walked in, she knew exactly what permanent mark she wanted to make. The idea just came to her. She wanted very simple, block lettering and decided to get it on her right upper arm. Russell wanted the letters DLD and below that, the number seven. DLD stands for Donna, Lynn and David — her three children. And seven stands for the number of her grandkids. “I don't want to get it just to get it. I want it to mean something.” Lynn Russell, 52, lives in Bend and loves that her mom got a tattoo. “I'm something of a rebel myself. I'm really proud to be a chip off that ol' block,” she said. Lynn says her mom has always written letters to the government and has been politically active on social issues. Lynne has her own tattoo on her arm, of a Scottish fold cat. “I never expected her to get one on her own.” But Lynn wasn't at all surprised about the specific tattoo her mom chose. “It's so much like her. Her kids and grandkids are everything to her.” Why? Jean says she wanted to get the tattoo in part because she noticed that some of the staff members where she lives had to start covering up their tattoos. It made her think, “Maybe I'd like to get one.” “Maybe unconsciously that's what started the whole deal,” said Jean. She talked to her three kids about it. Lynn said, “Go for it.” Donna said, “You go girl,” while David said, “Oh?” The reaction from her friends has been great. “Everybody says, ‘I don't believe it,'” Jean says. So far, Jean says none of the other residents have been inspired by her inking to get their own tattoos. She's having better luck inspiring people to help her make baby blankets to give to the hospital. Jean plans to stop at just the one tattoo. “I wouldn't do another one.” The experience Lynn helped her mom through the process. She called ahead and talked to the tattoo artists about the safety of getting inked, especially because her mom had diabetes. They were very reassuring. Tattoo artist Amanda Cancilla, 31, was excited about getting to work with Jean. She says it is not common for older women to come in and get a tattoo, but it does happen on occasion. She is more likely to see older men, typically in their 70s, who want to get something commemorating their time as a firefighter or in the military. Jean is the second-oldest woman she has ever tattooed. The oldest was an 83-year-old in Indianapolis. The story is a special memory to Cancilla. The woman came in with her daughter and got an angel tattooed on her shoulder. Two years later, the older woman called her up to tell her that her daughter had died. She told Cancilla she and her daughter had such a good time on the day of the tattoo that she was going to use Cancilla's angel drawing — which became the woman's tattoo — on her daughter's gravestone. “It was one of the biggest compliments I could have received.” Cancilla says most of the older women who come in want to get something religious and typically go for the shoulder. Getting it on an arm, as Russell did, “is pretty ballsy.” She also liked that Jean's reasons for getting the tattoo seemed a bit rebellious. Cancilla loves working with older individuals. “It's neat, I really enjoy it.” She suspects most of them do it as “a bucket list type of thing.” The tattoo process is a bit different with older clients because the skin is very thin. Cancilla has to be careful and use the needle and ink lightly. She says most of her older clients are able to take the pain really well. That was certainly true for Jean. “I think they did a great job. It really didn't hurt.” Because of her diabetes, she has to prick her finger several times a day. Jean says those pricks hurt more than the tattoo did. Lynn says her mom spent the whole time joking and talking. The process took about 25 minutes. Jean was definitely the star during her experience. Everyone in the studio wanted to come over and take a look. “Everybody just thought it was the coolest thing,” said Lynn. [rc] Alandra Johnson E-Mail: © 2008 Western Communications, Inc.