When she was just a junior in high school, the principal told her mother, “the good news is, Jeanette is a born leader. The bad news is, she’s leading everyone in the wrong direction.” She was subsequently expelled from school for setting the bathroom on fire with an errant cigarette butt.
When she was 17, she told her dad she was going to small concert in upstate New York. At a place named Woodstock. We all know how that weekend turned out.
When my dad broke off their first engagement, she told him to go eff himself, and they didn’t speak for two years. When he proposed again, she jammed the too-small ring on and wouldn’t take it off, even when her finger turned a bluish-purple.
When she found herself newly married, unemployed and living in a town where she knew no one, she took a 30-day temp job and ended up staying for 35 years.
When she resigned herself to the fact that kids weren’t in her future after two serious pregnancy struggles, I came along a few years later, purely by accident.
When she found me, 18 years later, crying in the library bathroom during my first weekend at college, she said, ever so lovingly, “you don’t have to stay here, but you can’t come home.”
And when she retired from the United States Military Academy just last year, her boss said, “if I had an office full of Jeanie Carrolls, it would have been terrible.” He then gave her an award for excellence.
My mom is living proof that life is what you make it. She’s honest about the fact that things didn’t always go her way. That things weren’t always easy. But if you ask anyone, they will tell you that Jeanie Carroll has lived all of her 60 years to the fullest. With her, there is never a dull moment. She sees nothing bad, only challenges to overcome. She makes everything fun and worthwhile. Her greatest lesson to me has always been to enjoy every day. And I know no better example.
My mother is the epitome of what it means to be yourself. I know no one like her, and I never will. She loves unconditionally, she fights for all things she believes are right, she’s loud, she’s obnoxious, she’s honest and she’s loyal. She is the best friend, mother, wife, sister, and daughter anyone could ever, ever ask for, and I wish her the happiest 60th birthday a person could possibly have.
Jeanie Carroll – the woman, the myth, the legend.