Jimmy Todd


Sometime, in the early seventies, my Dad got permission to ditch the ancient Addressograph for a Burroughs computer to prepare bills at Randolph Telephone. Mr. Fitzgerald agreed, but only to pay for hardware and not software.

My dad spent the next years learning Assembler, programming the massive computer and printing the bills on increasingly better equipment, right up until his death from a heart attack in ’87.

During those years, Pop also prepared taxes at night in Greensboro for H&R Block, and had come across Fred Trulove, who sold business forms. Fred was an alcoholic, but he and my Dad remained close over the years.

We stayed at the Yachtsman in Myrtle Beach for the telephone accountants’ convention, but the better Liberty families owned homes at the beach.

Fred’s family had a place off the waterway behind Holden Beach, and Pop did his taxes for a week there. Then, we started renting it, and went frequently from about 1975.

When you walked down to the intercoastal waterway for the parade of boats, you could see the cabins on the beach which had to be rented most of the summer, so the owners could afford them.

A creosote fishing shack across the deserted dirt road became available and mom and dad bought it. From that point, until his death, Pop moved heaven and earth, Monday through Thursday, at work, in order to get away early on Friday.

They spent every weekend for horrible years down there, improving it into the absurdity it is today.

A few years later, a local farmer and carpenter built a two story home one lot down. From that point on, Pop and Jimmy Todd, neither of whom drank, spent a lot of time talking about various projects.

I’d been coming by the phone company after school since I could remember, so it was natural I’d work there with Dad, as I got older, to the point that when I left in 1985 to program for a living, I’d been running billing and collections for five years, while going to school.

After Pop finally wore out and got time off for good behavior in 1987, Mom went back to work in Greensboro as a temp and met someone who introduced her to Don, a dentist from Dayton, in his late sixties.

Don lived in his family’s giant old farmhouse, where he had about 30 Arabians and 100 acres of alfalfa to feed them. Don worked and played hard around the farm.

“Good luck, you poor bastard,” I said to Don, as I shook his hand, after the wedding.

Mom had worked in dental offices for twenty years, but things did not go well when she put her nose in his business.

Mom, having grown up in the children’s home, never understand horses or horse people. Tod and I had a ball putting up hay, while it lasted.

Toward the end, disgusted at the mess, she bought a Bobcat and mucked out the stables.

Eventually, I got the call, flew up there, hired a moving company and brought her back to Liberty. A few years later, she sold the place where we grew up and decamped to the beach.

I spent those years looking after the place at the beach, especially cleaning up after storms. Jody and I met in ’94, but she found the travel and work ludicrous. I had to agree with her.

We got there one Friday night, late, after closing the store. Mom handed me a document.

“He’s been holding out on me. He’s gonna get another million.”

Exhausted, I looked at the document.

“I’d don’t think so, Mom. It’s just a copy of the original will.”

“Well, you’ve never supported me in this.”

“That’s right, Mom. I don’t think you have a right to Don’s inheritance.”

The Wife had immediately gone to bed, upon arrival. I rousted her, drove to Wilmington and got us a room for the night. We spent the rest of that summer exploring North Carolina’s other beaches.

Mom and Jimmy Todd became close after Mom sold the place in Liberty. They had lots of friends and he accomplished the innumerable renovations.

Jimmy had left his wife some years before and fallen into the habits of a batchelor. His place became so dirty that Mom wouldn’t enter it. She pretty much saved his life by having him over for meals and changing his diet.

Tod and I were really fond of Jimmy and grateful for his assistance.

A few years ago, they bought the lot between them and an RV. After a shakedown, they headed out West. Mom knew Jimmy, brilliant but dyslexic, had trouble reading and helped him with the road signs.

They were in Wyoming when he admitted having gone blind in one eye.

Somehow, they made it back, and she got him to a doctor.

The sinus cancer which took his life a year later may have come from black mold in his bathroom.

I tried going down to help out, but with a business to run, it just wasn’t working. Their friends have been a big help and Tod goes down when he can.

We really miss Jimmy Todd.

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