Happy Birthday, Todd.

todd pic2 by verlander jpgToday would have been my brother’s 56th birthday. Two days ago was the 50th anniversary of my father’s death from cancer in 1963. The math is simple: Todd lost his father at the age of six, a more crucial bonding moment between a boy and his dad there is not. In many ways Todd’s entire life was a reaction to this trauma. Those of us who knew him know that he seriously rallied: he lived fully, worked and played very hard, and loved deeply. We also know that his life was scarred by this tragedy, that he was (in his own words) “waiting for the other shoe to fall” every day. But he didn’t give up. At least for those 54 years until he did. God knows he felt like it most of the time.

I’ve spent a lot of this blog recounting the ins and outs of his genius and his madness. I won’t spend today doing that. But I’d love to hear from the rest of you and invite you to use the comments section here or email me (paulrgodwin@me.com) anything you might like to share about your experience of the Toddwin and maybe what you miss from the world when he walked and talked. And let me know if it’s okay to post it too.

I read somewhere that we become those who were close to us who’ve died. I’ve spent the last two years with Todd very close to me, I became him in a way. The other day I realized just why that was: I missed him so badly that I wanted him to remain in my life. So I became the parts of him that I could and here he was, right next to me. Imagine how crowded the bed became at home and how uncomfortable it was to see double Godwin for those close to me. I’m done with all that.

Todd chose to leave here two years ago. Whether it was a rash decision that moment, that morning, that week, that month, that year, he had been contemplating it for a long time. I’ve realized that it’s okay. He wanted to leave, he was tired of fighting, he was exhausted from the pain, the medication, his sense of failure, what he perceived as an endless uphill battle that boys who hadn’t lost their dad did not have to fight. Of course there he was mistaken. We all have to fight to survive, to succeed, we all have setbacks and traumas and hurdles, in that he wasn’t so special. The main thing is that he did: he fought back and he survived and he succeeded and he made us laugh and he delighted us with his insanity and his gigantic heart. Happy Birthday my brother.


9 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Todd.

  1. Hi Paul, my name is Andrea Cook. I grew up on Oval Road and went to school throughout with Todd. Yeah, he was quirky and he was genius, perfect pairing, really. I wish as kids, we had the ability to see through to someone’s core. Perhaps we would have seen what he saw, or felt what he was going through with the too early loss of your father. Maybe Todd’s memory is our blessing. I wish I had been able to attend out high school reunion 2 years ago. I would have seen that cocky grin and the confident swaggering gait.

  2. Paul, I love your courage that comes across in your posts, and wonderful that you don’t need to be him to have him with you.

    Todd will always be in my life. Lady-be-sweet.

  3. My relationship with Todd, like my own relationship with chronic pain, continues to change shapes and colors as time goes on. Relationships are like that, I guess. You’d think that permanent things, like death or chronic illness, stay in one big heavy spot. Like a boulder. That you just make up your mind about them, work your way around them, and just stick to it. But they move around constantly, like everything else does.

  4. Hey Paul! That was a heartfelt post. Have you ever met my good friend Jeff Greenwald? Perhaps you know who he is. You have a lot in common with him. He is a performer and a wise-ass Jew. He lives in Oakland. Anyway, his father died of a heart attack when he was young, and his brilliant, eccentric brother much later committed suicide. Jeff writes about all this is his superb book “Snake Lake.” I urge you to check it out.

    See ya.

    • Hey Paul-

      Not a week goes by that I don’t share a story of Todd’s antics with someone. In my extended family, mostly in the hinter lands of Montana, ‘Joseph Cornelius’ and all the zany characters Todd created are lore. And, although my family never even met Todd, they adored him. ‘Revered’ might be more the word. They listened to the phone call mix tape that you put together for him- Phone Crazy (?)- until it was worn out.

      My nephews who were 10 and 12 then, and now grown adults, constantly quote excerpts of those recordings like ‘Oh, that’s wonderful! I was thinking of baking a meat loaf bust of Armand Assanti!’ Or, ‘This spring I’m going fly fishing crazy!’

      I was in the room when he made a lot of those calls. And sure, I was laughing, but also, nudging him to get back to work on some stupid ad we had a deadline for. Back then I was too self-involved to fully appreciate Todd’s gift.

      The point is, Todd had an impact, and continues to have an impact, so much bigger than he could have ever imagined. I always said that Todd was the funniest, smartest person in a hallway that you will ever meet. However, once in an office he was like a caged animal and his anxieties began to creep in. But free to walk and talk… there wasn’t a more fertile mind on the planet.

      So, Happy Birthday, Todd.

      You are obviously not here, but you are most certainly with us.

      Kevin Donovan

  5. Todd’s reputation preceded him by something like 30 years. I was hearing tales about him from Len Wolf before I even met *you*. There was a T. Godwin who co-wrote some of the tracks on the first Animalogic album that I just knew was Todd. (Turns out it wasn’t.) When I first met him, either in Berkeley or Montara (the images run together), I was struck by his resemblance to you, but a similarity riding on bigger, crazier energy. I knew he had his problems, and after he was gone I learned just how well he’d masked them. John Lennon said that genius is pain. I don’t think this has to be true, and for Todd, I wish it wasn’t. Rare, precious individuals like him don’t deserve that kind of suffering. I wish you healing.

  6. Dear Paul,

    This is such a poignant post. I’m so glad that you’re thinking this all through so thoughtfully. It sounds like you’re really on the right track. Keep going dear Paul, keep going.

    I send you and your family much Love!

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