Carol Ann Mirll was my mother. Her name was Carol Ann--two words. Not Carol, a half name floating in solitude; not two words bundled together as Carolyn; not even a hyphen, just: Carol. Ann.Carol Ann died April 18, 2020. It is possible that the coronavirus was the final straw, but it hardly deserves any credit. The real cause of death – was life; eighty-two years of family, 82 years of the same ups-and-downs which we all know, although complicated in Carol Ann’s last few decades by Parkinson’s. She lived the last year of her life in a nursing home. Mom was always thrilled to see me whenever I visited, but I was never certain whether she recognized me right away, or whether she was faking it. In the last few months she wouldn’t rise from bed; she would lie on her side facing the wall and sleepily ask me the same questions about family: Was I married? Did I have children?Family was always Carol Ann’s focus, as a child, as a young mother, as a fading octogenarian grandmother. Her father was Lon Howard, a Terry County cotton farmer, and my namesake; her mother was Oma Lee Brown. Carol Ann was born January 31, 1938 in Haskell, Texas. There were five Howard kids: My Uncle Glen, Carol Ann, Aunt Sherry, Aunt Janice and my Uncle Randy, who is hardly older than me. Only Sherry and Randy are still with us.Carol Ann married my father, Alvin Mirll in May, 1956. She gave birth to me (Lon), then my brother Terry who died too early two years ago. There are six Mirll granddaughters: Jennifer, Bryony and Cadence; they are mine; Jeanette, Teresa and Daphne; they are Terry’s. Carol Ann now has four great-grandsons: the twins Lennon and Harper, Gene, and recently, Peter Joseph. I recited these family facts to her many times. I would show her the pictures. I often brought the twins with me when I visited. Carol Ann was always amazed at her own life.There is a portrait of her, taken a month before her 18th birthday. It was a Christmas present she gave to Alvin just a few months before she married him. She was beautiful. You can’t see it hidden behind her smile, but she had a fetching gap in her teeth like Lauren Hutton – or Madonna.I think of that picture often. I marvel that my elderly mother had ever been a mere 17. She was never sophisticated like Lauren Hutton. She was never worldly like Madonna. That 17 year old country girl had no idea how her life was going to turn out. And at 82, her memory was no clearer than her foresight had been at 17.But in the years between, she loved – unfailingly, even imperfectly, but without reservation. She loved my father and my brother and me; she loved her grandchildren; she loved my aunts, uncles and cousins; and she also enveloped the love of our family around other children, now as old as I, who also deserve remembrance, but whose names would pose a prohibitively long list. When she remembered nothing else, Carol Ann remembered she had loved those children.I suppose I shall have to remember her life for her. But gratefully, those children may remember with me.
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