Todd’s 46th Birthday

Carolyn’s Online Magazine



My nephew Todd, born September 11, 1969. was a special person. He was adopted by my older sister, joining her family in November that year.

His life wasn’t easy. And, as the following three stories occurred while Monte, Sandy, Nolan, and I lived in New Castle, Pennsylvania. They indicate, our family may not have made it any easier on him—but let the stories speak for themselves. You be the judge.


Todd didn’t like carrots. The first time he came to visit us while we lived in the United Methodist Church parsonage in New Castle, Pennsylvania, he traveled by Greyhound bus from Buffalo to Mercer, Pennsylvania. Monte drove our children, Sandy and Nolan, and myself, to Mercer to pick him up.

As he exited the bus I told him we’d brought him a gift. Then we handed him one or two bags of carrots—something he hated.

“They’ll grow hair on your chest,” I told him as he grimaced.

En route to the parsonage I gave Todd a warning.

“You’ll have to be really good this visit. And quiet. Because we have a house guest—Grannie Gertie. She’s quite elderly and cannot stand commotion.”

I kept pressing the fact on him as we drove the 15 miles to 126 Mitchell Road. It was dusk as we pulled into the driveway. Todd got out of the car and, because the living room light was on he could see Grannie Gertie, whose gray hair and old fashioned glasses confirmed she was an old woman. She was sitting on our couch, blanket over her lap, reading a book.

Grannie Gertie as a Red Hat lady.

Grannie Gertie as a Red Hat lady.

“Now remember, Todd. You cannot surprise her or startle her.”

Todd entered the room and gingerly approached Grannie Gertie.

Suddenly reality hit. He turned and looked accusingly at us.

“Gotcha,” I said.

After all, Grannie was a life-sized doll sporting a real wig and real glasses. For all intents and purposes, she looked alive. Perhaps a very ugly alive, but still, alive.

When Todd got his senses back he laughed.


Todd also showed up at our place at the end of April 1988. He and my daughter Sandy hd a special bond.


Sandy’s 18th birthday was May 17th. She’d had the nerve to comment to me that she’d never had a birthday party at McDonald’s. I set to work, contacting McDonald’s to set it up. Guests were told NOT to say a word to her about the party.

On May 17th I told Sandy we would have to wait to celebrate her birthday (I don’t recall the reason I gave her). However, her best friend Michele could come over for dinner.

While Sandy sat on the couch doing paperwork for her coming graduation I put a large kettle of water on the stove.

Meanwhile, Todd and I went into the kitchen and faked a big fight over something miniscule. It was great, yelling at each other for no reason except to impress on Sandy that Todd was VERY angry. We were both struggling not to laugh during this confrontation. The fight stopped when he exited the kitchen door with a loud slam and an even louder vocal comment. He met Nolan outside, and they made it to their ride to McDonald’s.

About 15 minutes later the phone rang. It was Todd. I talked for about two minutes, then went into the living room where Monte, Sandy, and Michele were.

“We have to go,” I told Monte. “Todd is at McDonald’s. That was the manager calling, saying Todd was causing such a commotion at McDonald’s that the police were called.”

Monte got up to get his keys. As I predicted, Sandy insisted on going despite my protestations, and Michele wouldn’t let herself be left behind. We all headed to McDonald’s.

As we arrived Sandy entered to a chorus of “Surprise!” “Happy Birthday.” And the loudest greeting was from Todd, who played his role in the surprise party very well.


Not long after Todd accompanied Sandy to a graduation party. He never returned. Somehow he became involved with a 35-year-old woman whom he wed sometime later. Her 14-year-old daughter had just given birth to a daughter, Nevaeh.

His last experience in New Castle came in 1989, when he decided to leave this woman.

We received a call late one night that he was at a drugstore and wanted to come back to our house. We’d told him previously that if he ever wanted to return he had to go through the Salvation Army first. I repeated this fact to him when he called.

Never certain whether he was on drugs, I felt Monte needed special protection when picking Todd up to take him to the Salvation Army, which agreed he could stay there for several days.

I contacted the police and explained the situation.

“I want to know you could have a police car follow my husband from the drugstore to the Salvation Army.”

To my amazement Monte told me the police not only fulfilled my request, they had an officer in the drugstore when he arrived, and another sitting at the Salvation Army.

Todd proved clean and returned to our home, where he stayed only a short time.

Todd, Nolan, Sandy, 'Santa Clause' (a.k.a Monte)

Todd, Nolan, Sandy, ‘Santa Clause’ (a.k.a Monte)

Happy 46th Birthday, Todd



About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at My novel site is
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One Response to Todd’s 46th Birthday

  1. Grace ( & Fred) Wells says:

    This story could also be called – Creative Carolyn with your carrots, Granny and the McDonalds Bday party !!!


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