January 2, 2012

Mud, Carrots, Drama: Remembering Todd James Jay




Todd James Jay 

September 11, 1969 to January 2, 2008

    Four years ago today my nephew, age thirty-eight, left us. Below are three of my favorite stories about him.

MUD PLAY: 1979

     Strip down! I firmly told the two boys in front of me.

     On a hot August afternoon my nine year old son, Nolan, and my eleven year old nephew, Todd, had spent the hot summer afternoon at the bottom of the hill where a pond was being dug. There, Nolan and Toddles (a nickname only I was allowed to call Todd), abandoned themselves so unmercifully to the mud that I barely recognized them. Toddles was the taller one…but where was his blonde hair?

     If we weren’t living so isolated in the country I might have mistaken the mud-covered boys, about nine and eleven years old, for neighborhood children and sent them home where their mothers could deal with the clay-mud clinging to every square inch of their clothing and bodies.

     But there was no mistake. These boys belonged here, at my house. And I had to deal with the situation.

     No way could I let them traipse into my castle, my domain, our newly built home, coated with that muck. There was only one option.

     Strip down! To your underwear!

     I walked around the house and turned the water on. I followed the snaky hose back to where the two stripped-down models of humanity saw me coming. Even though it was one of the reputed dog-days of August they knew the cold spring water exiting the hose would shock their biological systems. Their wide-open eyes sought an escape route.

     “Don’t you dare run off! You look like aliens from outer space. I yield my weapon.”

     I turned the hose nozzle towards them, submitting them to an outdoors cold-water shower lengthy enough that Children and Youth Services would have been justified in intervening with accusations of child abuse.

     However, even this much hosing down left them mud-covered. I sent them in to the showers and turned the hose on their clothes. The mud was one with the fabric. Hosing made little difference.

     Three machine washings later the clothes still were covered with remnants of mud.

     You would expect that the hosing would teach the boys a lesson, but the next afternoon they enthusiastically asked if they could return to the pond.

     “Only if you go in your underwear. I refuse to wash any more mud-covered clothes.”

     My words flew into the empty air as they willingly stripped down and flew down the hill to experience a second day of frolicking in the mud.


     As I passed by the living room I glanced in the window. Granny Gertie was peacefully sitting on the couch, blanket over her lap, book in her hand.

     Our family—my husband Monte, daughter Sandy, son Nolan, and myself—was off to meet my nephew Todd up at the Greyhound Bus station.

     I asked if anyone had the bag of carrots. Reassured that they were in our possession we climbed into the car and went to the bus stop, located in a neighboring town. In this rural community it wasn’t a bus station: it was a drop-off point.

     We arrived before the bus did. Several persons looked at me oddly as I held the carrots in my arms like a baby. I didn’t feel I had to explain.

     The bus finally arrived. Todd emerged to hugs and welcoming smiles.

     “We brought you something,” I told him.

     He smiled. A gift. Isn’t everyone happy to receive a gift?

     I held the bag of carrots out to him. His face fell.

     “I hate carrots!” he exclaimed so loudly that the other people present looked at us strangely.

     Monte, Sandy, Nolan, and I all snickered. We knew about Todd’s disdain for the orange root vegetable.

     “But they grow hair on your chest,” I intoned.

     Todd tossed the carrots to someone and indignantly walked with us to our car.

     On the fifteen minute drive to the house I began lecturing Todd.

     “We have someone staying with us,” I said. “I must warn you…you will have to be very quiet and subdued. Granny Gertie is old, and cannot tolerate any noise or disruption. I know it will be difficult, but…”

     It would be difficult for most boys, but Todd had an additional burden: ADD/HD. He was highly energetic. He would accomplish a great feat if he could be verbally and physically in control to the extent of accommodating Granny Gertie as much as I was emphasizing he should.

     Since Monte, Sandy, and Nolan were reluctant to challenge Todd I kept reinforcing the message about Grannie Gertie as we entered the driveway to our house. Monte parked the car, we all gathered Todd’s stuff, and we proceeded down the sidewalk to the front door.

     We came to the living room window, through which we saw Grannie Gertie sitting peacefully on the couch, just as she had been when we left her to go to the bus station.

     We entered the house and I began introducing Todd to Grannie Gertie.

     Suddenly Todd’s face cringed with exasperation. Everyone else started laughing.

     He finally realized the truth about Grannie Gertie, a life-size doll. From a close distance she is easily mistaken for a real, live, person. She sports a wrinkled face, a gray wig, glasses with strong glass lenses, a long dress, and old-lady shoes.

     Todd is just one person who is taken aback in Grannie Gertie’s presence. She often startles me when I am home alone, enter a room, and see someone sitting on the couch or chair.

     The next day, Todd, over being taken by our jokes, began creating ways to have fun with Grannie Gertie.


     Todd and his friend Dan arrived at our home in February 1988. They joined our other houseguests, Linda and her two children, Emily, five, and Jenny, eighteen months. They were staying with our family (my husband Monte, daughter Sandy, son Nolan and myself) for three month.

     As fate would have it, Linda sprained her ankle one Friday. She was struggling with crutches.

     Sunday arrived. Church day. We lived in the parsonage (yes, my husband was the pastor) across the parking lot from the church. On this Sunday the parking lot was covered with a layer of ice and snow. I wondered how Linda would make it safely across the dangerous terrain.

     “Todd, will you and Dan assist Linda?” I asked, thinking that having strong arms to lean on would help her make it safely.

     But Todd and Dan were creative. I watched in shock as Todd hefted Linda over his shoulders and Dan grabbed the crutches. They walked across the parking lot, Dan waving the crutches through the air like he was a batonist in a parade.

     I left the house giving thanks that they too left the house after most of the church members had settled into the pews. I was the only witness to their act of male chauvinism.



    Comment by Joan — January 7, 2012 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  2. Carolyn, if you FB, would you friend me, please? Due to time restrictions, I seldom read nor write blogs, nor FB, but I’m going to post some of my favorite novels in hopes I’ll get others favorite reads.
    Only recently have I established a FB account and
    website. Mine is:

    Comment by Nilah Turner — January 8, 2012 @ 6:00 pm | Reply

    • Nilah, I’m not with it yet. No Facebook account. Perhaps at a later date. Sorry.

      Comment by carolyncholland — January 8, 2012 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

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