It is a truth universally acknowledged that normal people are afraid of needles. It is also true that this fear is probably rooted in childhood trauma—I still shudder when I think of my early trips to the doctor’s office for annual shots: the quiet anxiety of the car ride turning slowly to agony in the waiting room, building quickly towards panic upon entering the patient room, yielding to horror as the doctor unsheathed his weapon, and culminating finally with uncontrollable sobs as the needle plunged. If preventative health required sharp pokes to the arm, I preferred the flu.
Perhaps Virginia Speese never got her shots. Or maybe she’s just not a wimp. Either way, the 84-year-old resident of the Lodge at MapleCreek went willingly, even happily, to an establishment called “Screaming Needles,” a moniker evoking all the warmth and charm of a haunted house. Insanity, you say, but with her birthday month just around the corner, Virginia could think of no better way to celebrate than by fulfilling a life-long dream—getting a tattoo!
“I’ve always wanted to get one,” says Virginia with a tinge of rebelliousness in her voice, “but I never dreamed it was possible, especially at my age!” Inconceivable though it may seem, her wish, dismissed for so long as an opportunity missed, was reborn during a conversation with her great granddaughter, Brittany Wellman. Realizing this was something more than mere mid-life crisis mischief, Brittany sprang into action with all the fire of a new generation. Buses were called, appointments were made, and on April 7, 2012, laughter could be heard coming from the operating room of Screaming Needles.
Before you ask, “it did NOT hurt. Why does everyone always ask that first?” More interesting for Virginia is the meaning behind the tattoo itself: a small, curled-up kitten perched at the top of her shoulder, representing her own cat “Sandra,” which currently lives in another building on campus. Its real meaning, however, is best summed up by Virginia herself: “I’ve learned this—you are never too old to do the things you want to do.”