Amy Roberts: Obits
This week, my friend Carrie’s dad passed away suddenly. I grew up with Carrie and knew her dad quite well. Mr. Mattson was a fixture of my childhood. He took me to the hospital when I broke my arm catapulting off the trampoline and into a tree in his backyard. He was there when his wife had to cut my hair in their kitchen because I got four pieces of Hubba Bubba gum stuck in it trying to emulate a scene from the Willy Wonka movie. A cut so terrible, it resulted in me being in pigtails for three months. He took Carrie and me to Blockbuster, varsity football games and soccer practice throughout our junior high years. He showed no mercy when he quizzed our boyfriends, cracking his knuckles as they waited for us on prom night in his living room. He even grounded me once in high school when Carrie and I snuck out her bedroom window to T.P. the neighbors.
My parents had a mutual agreement with Mr. Mattson — if I misbehaved at his house, he and his wife had full disciplinary rights. There was no immunity if I broke rules away from home.
So when my childhood friend called me to tell me her dad had passed, I felt as though I too had lost a father in some regard. We cried, we reminisced and then we laughed. A lot. We laughed about the time we emptied a bottle of dishwashing soap into the Mattson’s hot tub and turned on the jets, simply out of curiosity. We laughed about the time we tried to hide a hairless baby raccoon in the basement, assuming we could raise it and he’d never notice. It turned out to be a full-grown possum. It was in that same basement where Mr. Mattson caught us drinking our first wine coolers and pretended to call the police, convincing us they were picking us up to spend the night in jail.
I have many, many fond memories of Mr. Mattson. So when Carrie asked me to write his obituary, I was touched. That man videotaped us belting out Madonna songs and helped us choreograph synchronized dance moves for the school talent show when we were in 7th grade. Writing his obit was the least I could do.
That said, his was the first death notice anyone has ever asked me to write. So I read a couple sample obits for inspiration. Which were highly uninspiring, it turned out. Apparently there’s a national obituary template or something. They were all so boringly formatted. Why don’t they ever state how the person died? They’d be so much more entertaining if they had more details. I’d much rather know if someone’s parachute didn’t deploy when skydiving instead of just reading, "he died unexpectedly."
Who cares about the names and ages of surviving loved ones and where the deceased once worked? I knew that type of 300-word structured biography was not a suitable sendoff for Mr. Mattson. So I asked the family for permission to freestyle his memorial a bit and was told, "That’s exactly why we asked you to write it."
So naturally, it became a rap song.
"Amy, you know that Jay Z isn’t going to be reading this to people, right?" Carrie asked me after I emailed it to her. I must say I was a bit disappointed with that reality. It would sound way better if it were read to a sick beat.
So I made a few adjustments (it ended up more country than rap) and highlighted the finer points. Like how Mr. Mattson had no shame about answering the door in his boxer shorts; how he was fascinated by midgets; and how he said, "Oh, that’s rich," in almost every conversation, even when it made no sense. He thought it made him sound more educated.
I also noted how he died. He went out in a gunfight with the mafia after some mobsters tried to shake him down for his membership in the Bacon of the Month Club. That part wasn’t true, but Mr. Mattson always did love a good story.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.