Who SaysThere’s No Play Book to Parenting? It’s In Ink.

image credit: Amy Ferguson

I’m in a band consisting of members of middle-aged varieties. One night, I had a T-shirt on which revealed a tattoo I have on my upper left arm. It’s of John Lennon from a self-portrait lithograph he did.

On break, someone came up to me and said, “I noticed you are a big John Lennon fan.”  I was a bit taken back, particularly as we hadn’t done any Beatle songs yet. I looked where the person’s eyes were — on my bicep.  At that moment, I was taken back to December 8, 1980. Most of you remember that as the day John Lennon was murdered.  For me, it was the day I “got” what being a parent was all about. Ironically, I was about 13 years away from having my first kid.

My dad hated anything related to rock music. Unfortunately, I loved everything about it. He had no problem over the years telling me about how rock musicians were dirty, drug addled, loud and never knew what it was like to work a day in their life. Bruce Springsteen encapsulated my teen years when he once said, “There were two things unpopular in my house – one of them was me; and the other was my guitar.”

That year I was a sophomore in high school. That fateful night — just like most nights — my dad was camped in his green Lazy-Boy watching Monday Night Football after a long 14-hour day.

Approximately 11:20 p.m., I was in bed. The door cracked open enough to split the room with light from the hallway.  A shadow in the doorway said in an “outside” voice, “I can’t believe it!  They interrupted the game for this!” Blurry eyed, my matted hair surfaced from the pillow.

The short-yet-inverted-pyramid figure continued, “They SHOT one of those guys and the game got stopped.”  As my eyes adjusted, and the appropriate whats and whos were bellowed, my dad, exasperated to explain just pointed to a poster on my wall.  “One of THEM.”  WHAT?  “Yeah…that guy right there. Someone shot him and….”

I bolted to the family room to find out what this was all about. There Howard Cosell delivered the news: Lennon had been shot dead; My dad was right. Shocked and dismayed, I slinked off to my room, past my dad in the hallway, and closed the door behind me to sit in bed – stunned.

My door soon opened again.  I waited for either more complaining about the game not being on, or worse, a “serves him right y’know based on the life he led”.  But, something magical happened. The shadowy figure proceeded into the room as I lay with my face in the pillow. He sat at the edge of the bed. He looked at the posters on the wall. He then looked back at his son under the covers.

“So…uh…y’know…they say he has a little boy. Y’know..-ahem- that’s too bad. You, uh…probably feel kinda bad too huh? Hmmm well…that’s a bad thing to happen.”

He sat there for what seemed like an hour or at least until I fell asleep. What I learned years later was, as a parent, it doesn’t matter what you like., what interrupts your solitude.  It’s about making your kid feel better at all costs. You know your kid hurts and you know that watching the end of that football game will never be as important as the comfort only you can provide. Could be a major worldwide event, coming in second at a science fair, not getting a date to prom or flunking a test you thought you nailed.

Years later when I was about to have a son of my own, I decided to get that John Lennon tattoo. I wanted it where I would see it every morning when I woke up to remind me that being a parent is about being self-less, and a healer even when you don’t know exactly what to do.

My dad died in 1989 and never got to see any of his three grandkids. Three kids have provided many occasions to remember the “Lennon Lesson”.

“Huh?”
“I said ‘So…I noticed you are big John Lennon fan; that’s (pointing to my arm) pretty cool.

I can still say, “Yeah, thanks, man….It IS pretty cool.”

—Sam Locricchio, Parenting Program Volunteer

4 Responses to “Who SaysThere’s No Play Book to Parenting? It’s In Ink.”


  1. 1 Dr. Lori Warner January 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Great post Sam! A bit of a tearjerker, but that’s also part of being a parent. 🙂

  2. 2 Anonymous January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Wow! Thanks for the great blog, Sam. It sure did bring on a few tears. I agree Dr. Warner…it is a part of parenting. I did have to laugh when I thought back to my own father. When a Beatles song came on the radio, my dad used to say, “turn off that yeah, yeah, yeah stuff.” 🙂 Deanna

  3. 3 Nancy Johnson (Dr. Warner's mom) January 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    It’s hard to read through the tears but a terrific post! No matter how old you are, you never stop being a parent and the physical and emotional welfare of your child/children remains paramount. When they hurt, you hurt, and you always try to “make it all better” even when you haven’t a clue how to do it.

  4. 4 Sam Locricchio January 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks very much for the positive comments! I remember telling the story to my older kids when they were a bit younger/early teens. Lots of “Wow” and “Really?”My son tried to break the tension by half-joking, “So…is it ok if I get a tattoo?” I immediately freaked and tried to think what my dad would have said. I blurted: “When you have a story as good as mine? We’ll talk about it ;)” (He turns 20 next month; no ink…but he IS a big Beatles fan) Thx again! Sam


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