All About Grandma
All About Grandma

This is grandma at my birthday party on November 3rd, 2008. I was 73 years young that day. It was a wonderful day that I spent thanking God for being alive and enjoying such a celebration of life.

It all started on November 3rd, 1935 in a southern Illinois town of West Frankfort. Judith Ann Davis came into this world, the apple of her father's eye. After three sons, my parents were thrilled to finally have their girl. West Frankfort was a mining town then and the country was in a great depression. In fact, no one had any money, especially when there were four children in the family. Jobs were hard to come by and so people had to do the best they could just to put food on the table.

I was the only child in the family that was born in a hospital. All three of my brothers were born at home with a mid-wife in attendance. Because I was born in a hospital, there were charges for services at the hospital along with the doctor's fees. The story I have always been told is that I was bought and paid for with an old Model T Ford that caught the eye of the doctor. So a deal was struck between my father and the doctor, and my parents were then allowed to bring me home. My father worked in the coal mines in southern Illinois as an electrician, but when work became harder and harder to come by, the family moved to Peoria, Illinois when I was about a year old. I have made my home here in Peoria to this day and have no intention of moving anywhere else.

We moved quite a bit when I was growing up, from one rental home to another and so I went to several different schools. The most memorable for me was when I was in the 5th grade. I started playing the saxophone and it became very important to me. Both of my parents worked, so I had a lot of time alone. The saxophone was my obsession, so I didn't have time to be lonely. Over the years, I always played in the school band and actually won a music scholarship to college. I did not take advantage of the scholarship because my mother was ill and I didn't feel like I could give it my full attention knowing she needed me at home. Also about that time I was offered an opportunity to join an all-girl band that travelled the country. While it seemed very appealing to me, once again I turned down the offer because of my mother.

One of the reasons my mother was ill is because one of my brothers was killed in the Korean conflict. Also given the fact that she was also going through menopause, she literally had a nervous breakdown. It was a hard time for all of us. Another brother was also in the service and my father was having a slow time in his electrical business. The last couple of years of high school were pretty traumatic, but of course we got through it.

I married just a little over two years out of high school and on September 25th, 1955 I became Mrs. Wallace Penn. We started a family right away. On August 21st, 1956 our first son, Wallace (named after his father, of course) was born. My mother had been in and out of the hospital for several years with her mental problem, but finally she had made good progress and they felt she was recovered enough to permanently go home. That was good news after many years of struggle. However, the joy was short-lived when she was then diagnosed with lung cancer. I was devastated. Mother and I were very close and I could not imagine my life without her, especially now that I had started my family. The doctor's gave her six months to live, but within three months - in June of 1957 - she passed away. That was the first time in my life that I questioned God in what he had allowed to happen.

Then on June 12th, 1959 our second son Daniel was born. I enjoyed being a wife and a mother and looked forward to settling in as a homemaker. After renting various apartments over those years, my husband inherited a small house from his mother and so we moved into our first "real home". It needed a lot of work - there was no bathroom, just an outhouse - but we were up to the challenge of "fixing it up". My husband was in the building trades, so he had help with some of the larger projects. After a couple of years, we had it fixed just like we wanted it.

We lived just a block from a small church, so I started sending the boys to Sunday School. I had discussed with my husband that in order to make our family completely founded, we needed to have God in the house and in our lives. It was during this period in time that while watching Billy Graham on television that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and that was the beginning of a new life for me. We started attending church together with the children and for the first time in our marriage, I felt complete.

But as what happens to many people and families, circumstances change and so do our lives. My husband became ill and I had to go to work. He was eventually institutionalized and we separated for the sake of the children. After a while, we divorced. Being a new Christian, and totally against divorce, this was very hard for me. Now I needed to be the provider, the bread winner, the mother and father to two small boys. Things certainly were not easy, although I was very fortunate to have always had a job. But leaving the children with others to nurture them instead of me was very heart-breaking. I made a point, however, that when I was not working, they were my main focus. We had a very close and loving relationship, in spite of our circumstances. But we also had something more now. We had the Lord in our hearts and lives to guide us in the right direction.

The following years were sometimes very hard, sometimes working three jobs at a time just in order to pay the bills. And when the boys were old enough to work, even their paper route money went into the kitty to help with our expenses. But while we struggled sometimes financially, our lives were full of love and friends in our church family. We knew everything would turn out for the best if we just followed the Lord.

After Wally graduated from high school, he was encouraged by a couple of my co-workers who had attended a Bible College in South Carolina. Though we were lacking the money for this, he was able to apply for a work scholarship in order to attend. After working very hard, he ended up on the Dean's list as a top scholar. That was a very important year for him and helped to shape his life attitude, for which I am very grateful. Daniel was given the opportunity by the pastor and deacons of our church to attend Peoria Christian School. He loved it and excelled, graduating top in his class and also winning the coveted "Timothian" award, which was given to the student who most exemplified Christian behavior.

Fast forward now to 1992. Wally and Dan both are married and have children. Wally is a retired Air Force Officer and Dan is an Associate Pastor serving the Lord in Colorado. They are both doing well. I thought I was doing well also until one day while driving downtown, a car ran a stop light and broadsided my car. I thought to myself, "Oh why me, Lord?" but let me tell you that this was the beginning of several of God's miracles in my life.

After the car accident, I was contacted by the insurance company and advised to have a physical exam to make sure that I was not injured in any way. I felt fine but had the tests just to satisfy the insurance company. While being examined, the only thing the doctor found at that point was a little whiplash, which was to be expected. She asked about when I had last had a complete physical exam, you know, some of the things women are suppose to have on a yearly basis. I informed her that it had been twenty years, mainly because I could not afford medical insurance. While she was understanding about my situation, she suggested I contact someone regarding medical treatment that was "free of charge". Although I was reluctant to accept this help, I agreed to check into it. Miracle number one: to my surprise, I qualified for free medical treatment. So I set up appointments for some much needed physical examinations. During the course of the exams, I was advised that there may be a problem and they needed more tests. After a couple of more tests, it was determined that I had Colon Cancer. I was dumbfounded. I was never in any pain, never had any problems or signs, but there it was. I was told it needed to be dealt with immediately, so surgery was scheduled. In the meantime, I was advised by a barrage of doctors what I might expect: a permanent cholostomy bag, loss of hair, weakness, radiation treatment, chemotherapy and yes, even possible death. They wouldn't know for sure until they opened me up. Miracle number two: I was informed I did not have to worry about the costs involved.

My family and friends were beside themselves with worry, but I have to tell you, I was at peace with it. I knew that this was something that I could not control - that the only one that was in total control was my Lord and Savior, and I had all my confidence in Him. So when I was laughing and joking just before going into the operating room, my brother had a hard time understanding how I could be so relaxed. I told him that I knew that whatever the Lord had in store for me was what I wanted too, and I had placed it all at His feet. The surgery took a long time and some of my church friends and family members said that when I came out of surgery, I looked like death warmed over.

Miracle number three: post surgery check-ups showed no further sign of cancer, nothing in the lymph nodes, no cholostomy bag was needed, no chemotherapy was needed, no radiation was needed. The Lord had totally taken over the entire process and given me a wonderful gift of healing. To this day - 17 years later - I am still enjoying that miracle of life and I thank Him for it every morning when I wake up. Today I enjoy my retirement, my six grandchildren and last year, I was blessed with my first great grandchild, Connor Michael, who will be 1 year old February 13, 2009. Life is wonderful. Thank you Jesus!

UPDATE 1/06/2014: This is Connor Michael today. On February 13, he will 6 years old and what a blessing he has been to us. And on April 15th, 2013, Haley Christine Elizabeth Green was born. At 8 months old, she is the apple of my eye.

Connor is Wally's grandson and Haley is Dan's granddaughter. I am so blessed with such a wonderful family.

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