My Dad Died Several Years Before I Was Born…

Matt & Maude Falls('round about the first time he "died"...)
Matt & Maude Falls
(’round about the first time he “died”…)

My dad died in July of 2008. It’s still really weird to say that. I’ve been thinking about him a lot, lately, and I haven’t yet told the story about the first time he died, which was a few years before I was born.

Except he wasn’t really dead… just… the whole town thought he was. It’s like a sitcom episode.

I’m making a loose assumption that the photo above is probably how he and my mom would have looked around the time this story took place. If any of my siblings might know what year it was that Dad “died” the first time, could you maybe throw me a text or drop a line in the comments…? […crickets…]

Yeah, I don’t think they read my blog.


Yeah, yeah… my fault. I “kapoofed” there, for a long while. Again.

Anyway… on with the story:

Now, remember, please, that ALL OF THIS happened years before I was born, and although I’ve heard the story told several times, I was a kid when I heard it. And usually, if *I* try to tell an old family story (even if I was THERE when the story happened, and remember it vividly), I’m generally informed that, as usual, I’ve got my facts all bungled up. A lot of the time, I discover later on, with no shadow of doubt, that I do have my facts all bungled up, so I’m going to put the the caveat out there right now, that where this story is concerned, hey: I may have my facts all bungled up. I should also admit that I’m likely to embellish it a lot. You know, for the “funny”. Cuz that’s what I do.

Regardless, this is how I remember the story of The First Time My Dad Died being told to me.

My dad had a nephew named after him. Young Matt was only about 17, and he lived in the Sault, while my dad lived in Teeny-Tiny Town (Thessalon), about 50 miles East. Another nephew, Young Matt’s brother, Lorne, of THIS STORY, worked for my Dad at his car dealership and auto repair shop.

Lorne was quite a few years older than Young Matt, and a lot of people in Teeny-Tiny Town thought Lorne and my dad were brothers, whereas, most people in town didn’t realize that Young Matt existed at all. Young Matt was very ill, and had been in and out of the big hospital in the Sault with something-or-other that, in the end, killed him, and set this whole thing off… Had he died in the teeny-tiny Teeny-Tiny Town Hospital, the rest of this story never would have happened.

Lorne got the call while at work, and he in turn, called my dad, who was at home waiting for the new couch he’d bought to be delivered, and told him the news. He wanted my dad to come to the Garage so he, Lorne, could go to the Sault with the ambulance to pick up Young Matt’s body and bring it home.

My dad said, “No can do – I got this couch coming any minute… close up shop and put a note on the door. We can’t stay open at a time like this, anyway.”

So that’s what Lorne did, wording it, “Closed due to death in the family,” or some such. Then he called the ambulance driver, here in town, and told him the news. Said ambulance driver was stunned. Shocked. Gave his condolences, of course, and said he’d be right by to pick up Lorne.

Before he left, he called his wife and told her that Matt Falls had died; could she believe it?! On his way out to the ambulance, he let the rest of the staff at The Teeny-Tiny Town Hospital know the news. None of them could believe it: nearly all of them had bought a car, or their uncle had bought a tractor from my dad over the years. And they all called home with the news.

My dad, meanwhile, thought he ought call my mother and tell her to come home, realizing that there would be an influx of out-of-town relatives and they’d all need supper. Maude would want to be prepared. My mom was a teacher at the Teeny-Tiny Town Public School, and was better prepared for the news than the rest of the town – she was already aware of Young Matt’s existence, as well as his illness. His death had been expected, and she agreed with my dad that she should come home early and get ready for the rest of the family’s arrival. She asked the Principal if he’d teach her class for the remainder of the day, as Matt had died.

The Principal was stunned. Of course, Maude should go home, and not worry a bit about work right now. Was there anything else he could do? Did she need a ride home?

Certainly not, said my mother – her car was in the parking lot, thankfully, so she could get home in short order and get her grocery list made. There’d be a lot of tired, hungry people showing up before she knew it, and she’d best have supper lifted by the time they got there, hadn’t she?

She rushed out, leaving the Principal believing she was obviously in shock, and hoping she’d get home okay, before he went off to let the rest of the teaching staff in on the sad news. Unbelievable! Matt Falls… dead! And so sudden! Poor Maude.

Lorne was closing up the Garage, when he ran into a customer, and told him they were closing for the day, on account of his brother Matt had died… No telling how many people that customer ran into on Main Street that day.

On the way out of town with Lorne, the ambulance stopped at my parents’ next door neighbour’s house so the driver could pay his fuel bill (Nanny McDougall lived there – she was the fuel man’s mother – and she took payments in his stead, for customers’ convenience). The driver let Nanny in on the news. She was shocked, and could hardly believe it. Matt Falls! Dead!

News of my dad’s untimely (and untrue) death spread throughout Teeny-Tiny Town like wildfire. Faster than wildfire, even, as anybody that’s ever lived in a teeny-tiny town will most certainly corroborate.

Meanwhile, Nanny McDougall flew into making a casserole or some-such and took it next door with which to console my mom… My mom met her at the door, very excited.

“Come and see my new couch!”

Nanny was confused, but went in to see the couch. She thought my mother was dealing with my father’s death in a rather… odd… manner. She dutifully followed Mom through to the living room to admire the new couch. My mother was prattling on about where they bought the couch, how long it took to pick it out and how expensive delivery services for furniture from the Sault were, when my dad walked into the room and scared the daylights out of Nanny McDougall.

When Nanny finally managed to catch her breath and explain why she’d been so stunned to see my dad walk in, my parents thought it was hilarious. They all had a good laugh over it, and Nanny McDougall went back home quite relieved. I don’t think it occurred to her to get on the horn and let anybody else know about the misunderstanding, though. Either that, or rumour correction on The Teeny-Tiny Town Grapevine travels much more slowly than the original rumour. I’m betting on the latter.

My mom got her grocery list together and set off to load the larder at The Teeny-Tiny Town Grocery.

The Grocery was where most of the women in Teeny-Tiny Town caught up on all the news. If you needed to know when the drop-offs for the Church Rumble Sale could be made, or what the new password was in time for the next lodge meeting, The Grocery was the place you went.

My mother usually ran into most of her friends and all of her Lodge Sisters while shopping, and today was no different, except… except… when she drew her cart up to the first group of women she saw, a strange hush came over the conversation.

“How are you doing, Maude?” asked one lady, rather timidly, my mother thought.

“Good! I finally got my new couch today!” she replied. Rather gaily.

The ladies looked surprised. They falteringly excused themselves and went back to their shopping.

The next group…? Same kind of thing.

“I expect you’ll have a houseful for the next few days…?”

“Yes, everybody will be showing up starting tonight for the funeral – and I can’t wait to show off my new couch to my sister-in-law! She’s always had the nicest things, and I finally have something new to crow about!”

Again, the ladies looked rather startled – and then sputtered a bit about how much they had left to do. Then they hightailed it away from my mom like she might be contagious.

My mom started to wonder if she’d inadvertently offended one or more of them at Lodge last week… or maybe one of her students had come home complaining about the punishment for some minor offense; my mother was considered to be a little too strict in school, at least from the students’ points of view – but, ah, well – kids will be kids.

She had no idea that the whole of Teeny-Tiny Town thought my dad had died, and that those here in the store thought she’d gone off her rocker with grief, or, worse, that she was elated he’d kicked the bucket! It wasn’t until she ran into Nanny McDougall again, in the meat and cheese aisle that she found out that they were all shaking their heads and clucking their tongues.

Upon that realization, my mom was so mortified that she left her half-full cart in the middle of the aisle, walked out in shame and went home.

She looked at my dad and burst into tears. It was a long while before she could make any sense, but when she calmed down enough to speak, she told my dad that the entire town thought he was supposed to be dead. And he laughed really hard.

He was upset she hadn’t finished the shopping, though – how were they supposed to feed all these people that were even now beginning to arrive at the door?

I’m not sure how the rest of that day went for my mom, but I think she might have rung up Nanny McDougall and enlisted her help. That’s what I would have done anyway.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Dani California” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

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