We don't have cable so when we watch Mad Men it is on disc--immersed in a whole season at once. We just finished Season 4, so I'm still in the 1960s: the avocado-green wall phone and the plaid jumper Sally wore.
As I was cleaning out my parent's house last month I made all kinds of discoveries. Like most kids (I'm referring to myself here) I never once thought of my parents as people. They were Mom and Dad. What they did before me really never entered my mind. Their life consisted of station wagons, split two-level houses in subdivisions named Spanish Trace, North Village, or Highmill Estates. They were first of all parents, then perhaps golfers or members of the country club, or the ad men on Madison Ave.
The notion that they had sex, addictions, or a secret past was the stuff of TV dramas and not particularly anything to do with our family.
Yet in packing and unpacking the house after Dad died we discovered Mom had changed her name. I came across her birth certificate. What's this? I asked. Was your real name Lorraine? Mom told us that in her early 20s she decided to change her name to Rita. Even later after that she preferred to go by her middle name Ann.
I imagined Bobby and Sally middle aged and post-menopausal packing up their dad's belongings and coming across his box of secrets, finally realizing their dad was Dick Whitman and not Don Draper.
Also in Mom's stuff, in a photo album, were some pics of Mom with another man, a man who shared her last name. I turned the photo over and on the back was written: Joe, my half brother.
By now Mom had downward spiraled into dementia. It didn't take long after Dad died. It was just like she. Let. Go. But before she completely went away I was able to ask her about Joe and she confirmed that, yes, her father had been previously married and had one son from that relationship. Of course as I held that photo of Mom and Joe I realized none of it mattered. Most likely Joe was dead. My grandfather and grandmother are long gone. And, now, my mother was disappearing.
Lorraine. Rita. Ann. Has traveled to another place and taken all her secrets with her. I'll never know the full extent of who she was.
All I can do is imagine. Watch shows like Mad Men where the characters are alive, undead, dancing, and drinking, and lying, unable to face themselves, hoping to some day forget who they are.
Mom is already there.