This is a Wild Writing piece inspired by the poem, Permission Granted, by David Allen Sullivan.
Yes, you have permission to refuse the rest of the red velvet cake your Mother wants you to pack up and take with you on your 300-mile drive back home. Yes, you can also refuse to take the brownies that she’s made, even though she tells you with some urgency that you’ll get Alzheimers if you don’t eat sugar. No, she’s not really worried that you’ll get Alzheimers, but yes, she’s super bummed that you’re sticking her with the cake.
It’s 6:30 in the morning and you’re standing in her kitchen in Los Angeles – the same kitchen you had your whole childhood – the one with the black and yellow tile that sits below a shady grove of eucalyptus trees. This morning she’s wearing the short, black and white polka dotted nightie that you bought her for Christmas. “Sexy,” she’d said, turning toward her 82-year-old boyfriend Ralph when she unwrapped it a few days ago.
When you drive away from her house 30 minutes later, your blond teenage daughters are like sleepy puppies on pillows in the back seat. Mom will be standing at the front door in her short, polka dotted nightie, Ralph towering over her wearing your Dad’s pajamas, both of them waving your car goodbye.
No, you did not take the cake. No, you did not take the brownies. Yes, you got over the fact that your Mother’s boyfriend wears your Father’s pajamas. Yes, they were practically new when your Father died. Yes, I loved feeding my Father in bed that last month, my spoon of oatmeal shakily edging toward his lips. Yes, I thought food would keep him alive. Yes, I thought I had magical powers and that if I stayed by his bed he wouldn’t die. Yes, I mean no, I mean yes, I knew he loved me and no, it didn’t feel like enough love at the end.
Yes, I went into my Mother’s garage on this last trip to see if there was anything I could steal. Yes, everything felt abandoned and coated in dirt. Spider webs everywhere, framed paintings stacked against the wall, the shelves full of architecture magazines nobody knows what to do with, boxes of books nobody wants to read, medical supplies that were supposed to keep somebody alive. Yes, I haunt these rooms full of our things – opening drawers, leafing through piles, looking for something and nothing in particular, junk that will soon be tossed, but which tethers me to the past, something I might bring home so I don’t forget, how soon we forget. Permission granted.