This is my beautiful Grandma and today, she turned 90 years old.
When I was in high school, I had to write a paper in my American History class about who I considered to be my biggest hero. Without hesitation I chose my sweet Grandma and to this day, I am so grateful I did. I was able to spend hours and hours sitting with her, asking her questions, listening to her stories and insights, pouring over journals, pictures, and letters just trying to grasp enough of her extraordinary spirit and put it into a homework assignment. Without this experience, I don't think I would be able to respect, appreciate, love, and learn from her as much as I was and am able to.
Her name is Golda Lucille Burnham but she told me she chose to go by Lucille at a young age because she hates the name Golda. She said it wasn't very pretty and was only used when she knew she was in trouble. She fell in love with my Grandpa as a young girl and recounted to me the time she first saw him. She was a freshman and he was a senior. She got on the bus after school one day and saw this boy at the very back with his friends acting like "rambunctious boys". Her friend asked her if she thought he was handsome about the same time that his friend asked him if he had seen her. My Grandma blushed while my Grandpa tried to get his friends to stop teasing him by throwing some paper at my Grandma and calling her "a freckled-face strawberry." She said that he teased her relentlessly, constantly pulling her hair and poking fun at her freckles. She ended up marrying that teasing, rambunctious boy, my Grandpa, Stanford Alma Burnham right after graduating high school and after they had been separated for over a year with no contact but a handful of love letters.
They immediately moved into a tiny one room shack that my 6'1" Grandpa could barely stand all the way up in. Very soon after marrying, my Grandpa decided to join the Navy. He said, "They're going to come knocking for me to leave anyway so I may as well get out there on my own and start helping." They were separated for long periods of time with letters as their lifeline and as my Grandma so eloquently told me when I was 15 years old, "He would come home just long enough to get me pregnant and then he was off again." I asked how she felt about his service during war times and the long separations of distance and her answer kind of left my 15 year-old self a little dumbfounded. "It didn't matter much." It didn't matter much!? How on Earth could it not be this huge big deal that mattered a lot? "It didn't matter much because regardless of the distance and the hard times I faced at home, he was still my husband, I was still his wife, and our love was always there. I was proud to have a husband who willingly joined the Navy and even when I let myself get worked up enough to actually complain to him in letters, that pride in him never lessened." To all you military Lovelies, doesn't that sound familiar? If only I knew that just years down the road, I would have that same love and pride for my own husband who willingly joined the military during a time of war. Its a bit of relief to know that my strong and amazing Grandma got worked up and complained to her husband in letters too. I know THAT rings a bell for us military spouses.
My Grandma is one of the strongest women I know. When my Aunt Kay was born it was soon discovered that something was different about her. She was diagnosed with Down syndrome and when the doctor said, "Your daughter is mongoloid retarded. These types of people never live to see double digits. The only advice I can give is to put her in an institution and forget you ever had her.", she told him he should be ashamed of himself and what would his mother think. She told me, "My point of view was that the only thing different about Kay is that she was special. She was given to us by the Lord and if He was willing to put His trust in us as Earthly parents, I would put my trust in Him. She wasn't raised any different than her 9 brothers and sisters. She had chores, she went to school, she got in trouble when she didn't obey, and she was loved without limits." My Grandma had a profound love for special children and in 1957 established (with 8 other families) The Marc Center in Mesa, Arizona. Marc Center is a private nonprofit corporation providing educational, therapeutic, rehabilitation and social services to children and adults with developmental and, physical disabilities and behavioral health challenges. It was the first education and social services foundation of its kind. It is still growing today and currently serves in excess of 8,000 people a year and has over 50 locations.
This amazing woman is an incredible example of strength, love, and motherhood. She served her family tirelessly and even after 9 children were married with children of their own, she cared for Kay, her own mother, my Grandpa who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in his 60's, and still found love enough for everyone around her. Her mother moved in with them and after ten years, passed away about a month before her 101st birthday. When my Aunt Kay began to have seizures and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she never faltered. My Aunt passed away in 2000 after some sweet, tender moments surrounded with family. My Grandma's love for her child, despite what doctors said, was one of the many reasons my Aunt Kay made it to 48 years of age. My Grandpa had some severe complications with his health and after serious bouts with pneumonia, hospital stints, and a lot of scary close calls, he was able to be moved home. My Grandpa passed away five days before his 82nd birthday in 2002.
After so long of caring for everyone around her and taking care of people who were no longer on Earth, my Grandma slowly began to decline. Health-wise she is basically okay but its gotten to the point (and its been this way for several years) where she can't keep memories and facts organized. Conversation recycles about every 3 minutes but the one thing that hasn't changed one bit is her love. She ALWAYS asks how we're doing, She ALWAYS expresses sadness at her family being SO spread out and she ALWAYS reminisces about how wonderful it was when we all were a close part of each others lives. Despite her mind being a bit fuzzy, her love and caring come through no matter.
She has 10 CHILDREN, 61 GRANDCHILDREN, 106 GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN with a couple more on the way, and 1 GREAT-GREAT GRANDCHILD with a couple more on the way. These numbers will continue to grow as the younger half of the grandchildren begin to get married and have kids of their own. She has such a wonderful legacy and posterity and I sincerely hope that I can ever be half the woman and God and miracle willing, half the mother that she was, is, and will always be.
|My Grandma and I at my HS graduation May 2006|
|My Grandma and I at my baby brother's Eagle Scout Court of Honor November 2008|
|Mr. Superman, my Grandma, and I December 2008 at the Mesa, AZ Temple Lights|
|My Grandma and I December 2008|
|My Grandma and I in January 2009, the day before I moved to Utah|
|My Grandma and I at my parents house in November 2010|
|My sister, Mom, Grandma, and I Christmas 2010|
|My sister, her two daughters, Mom, Grandma, and I Christmas 2010|
|My Grandma and I at my baby brother's basketball game January 2011|
|My Grandma and I on Valentine's Day 2011 right before I moved back to GA.|
|My Grandma, baby brother, and me|