As it falters the elderly brain switches into a kind of dreamlife where scraps of memory are repurposed, elaborated and reinvented. Haunting, repressed events and experiences from the past resurface in a different guise, people are assigned new motives or confused with other people, and time springs its linear lock.
My stepfather, who turned 87 this month, increasingly engages in reminiscence, reconstructing the past and floating his versions of it. When I saw him in April he asked if I remembered the summer I temped as a receptionist at his office, and how on one day we put my desk out onto the front lawn so I could work in the sunshine. Try as I do I can't remember this, and it is unlikely it ever happened. A receptionist needs above all to answer the phone, and in those days, before the cordless and cell phone, it would have been impracticable. And yet the power of suggestion is strong and I strain to remember what he seems so sure of. Maybe we got the desk out the front door near the entrance and were happy with that? I am kidding myself.
Now five months later, he continues the story and takes it further. Now the desk is not on the lawn but we've dragged it up into the sparse, hilly woods across the road. With the building on Rt. 206 near Somerville, I'm basically ensconced in the peaceful green of the Duke Estate, which was private in those days. This is an impossible and lovely story I wish were true, only better, not the story of a summer temp but a permanent position, that I could go to such a job every day, typing and answering the phone, and didn't have to leave the woods for the world.