Starting today, I'm ditching my daily doses of Vitamin E, and Fish Oil, as well as any aspirin, Advil, or Aleve. This scheme will give me a full week to forestall any possible bleeding that might be encouraged by my upcoming procedure.

Gratefully, I'm not scheduled for surgery. Instead, I'm going in for a tattoo touch-up, and hopefully a brand new one.

It wasn't my tattoo artist, Joe, who ordered the precautions I've outlined above; it's all on me. Because in past procedures where there was cutting, slicing, or injecting into my body -- hip replacement, and epidurals for back pain -- I recall those prescribed safeguards; so I figure, best to be prudent.

But Joe, likely concerned about this elderly woman soon to be prone on his table, welcomed the news of my pre-event regimen. In fact, he's the one who advised caution before going full speed ahead on tattoo two.

"Let's see how quickly you recover from the touch-up," he said, his voice wavering as if he was soon to drill into my brain. "If you have no problems, we'll schedule the next visit."

I was relieved to learn he would not be pushing ahead until we could assess my post-puncture skin recovery. For although I appear to be tough -- witness how often I bare my bicep to show off my first -- I have moments of what the hell am I doing?

It's then when I replay the reason for tattoo one (a design of a heart, musical notes, a rainbow, and the names of my two daughters), which I got worry-free and audacious 20 years ago. In an essay I wrote at the time, I claimed, Achieving age 60 is a chance to thumb my nose at society, a don’t-give-a-damn-what-anyone-thinks-time to stray from conformity. So there’ll be critics, who cares? After many in my age group have endured the collapse of a long marriage, kids who grow up and leave, and loved ones who die too soon, we get our priorities straight, and a barb tossed our way is harmless.

The image for this year's tattoo, on the cusp of my 80th birthday, landed on a seahorse. Here's why: I have been attempting to learn how to swim my entire adult life. I can count on fingers and toes the number of coaches who have tried to teach me how to breathe with my head above water. Finally, in 2016, when I was 78, and living at a building with an indoor pool, I found Kathy Kelly. I vowed that if she succeeded, I'd get a tattoo of a fancy fish for this milestone birthday.

After taking her weekly lessons, which consisted of drills that separated the process bit-by-bit, I did it! Now, I swim most mornings-- albeit with fins or floaters on my feet -- at the East Bank Club, which is across the street of my latest apartment. This residence was deliberately chosen because of its four pools, two outdoors and two indoors.

From the balcony ofmy 1 apartmentthat faces west, I can see the competitive swimmers in the fourth floor outdoor Olympic-sized pool. These intrepid athletes smash through the waters from opening day till the maintenance crew drains it empty, which is usually long past warm temps. 

While I am in awe of their prowess, I have no desire to emulate their faultless strokes, flip turns, or speed. My goal has always been to swim for exercise, to raise the lazy beats of my heart while reducing any aches from age-related arthritis. So sometime between 6:30 and 7 a.m., you'll find me happily swimming a brief number of lengths in a smaller, family pool, indoors or out, depending on weather and accessibility.

Filtering through the fish possibilities, I decided that a seahorse is an ideal image; they are truly unique because of their unusual equine shape and arebad swimmers, propelling themselves through the water by using a dorsal fin. 

As a totem animal, seahorses are known to be calm creatures who are content being who they are. This is perhaps the greatest seahorse symbolism, and they urge others to be equally as comfortable with themselves.

There's one more reason for the added artwork: I am now the age and stature (4'9") when folks often describe me as "cute" or "adorable." While I know my admirers are trying to be kind and complimentary, those words make me feel like a puppy or newborn. Perhaps my refreshed and fresh tattoos will help blot out those tags and possibly re-enforce "tough" and "formidable." Or; maybe not.