Once, just for a few weeks, illness stole her reason. The professionally caring authorities took her away to a white-walled place with doors that locked.
One day he rang as usual, and she asked who he was. It's Don. Your son. At the end of the long cord, in the corridor with the cheery pictures, she picked her words with the care of someone who may be quoted. "I have a son named Don," she said, "but you are not him." And at once he was cut loose, adrift in a world without identity.
Later, when she had returned, she asked how it had been. He told her of this and she replied, "Oh I said that, did I?" as if denial of a child was a regrettable but not unusual hazard, like incontinence or a persistent cough.
"Yes. And one time you..."
"I don't want to talk about it," she interrupted, and he saw he had overstepped a boundary between her impuissance and his. He sealed up the memories that he had hoped to set free, and felt a prescient desolation.