Mrs. Brocklebank (Part One of Two)


Just about everybody says, “Don’t go visit Mrs. Brocklebank, or you’ll get chased out of her yard with a broom.” Well, that’s fine for everybody else to say, but not so fine for me, because Mrs. Brocklebank is my grandmother!

She lives down the street in a little house that’s surrounded by trees. My family visits her every Sunday afternoon, and I usually hide behind my dad and try not to say anything, except when she speaks to me, and even then I hardly dare raise my voice above a whisper. It’s not that I don’t like her. I don’t know her well enough to not like her. The real problem is that I’m too afraid of her to know her.

Mrs. Brocklebank came to Alberta, Canada, from Germany many years ago. She was already pretty old, Mom told me, when she met Mr. Brocklebank and got married and had my father. Grandfather Brocklebank died when Dad was still young, and my grandmother had to raise him all by herself. Maybe that’s why she’s so feisty.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I’m in a real fix. Last week in Primary Sister Little told us that by next Sunday we have to bring our completed four-generation program to class. My family have only been Latter-day Saints for three months, so I didn’t know what she meant by “four-generation program.” When she explained it to me, I was dumbfounded. After church I took the problem up with my parents.

“Oh yes,” said Dad. “They explained the program in priesthood meeting last week.”

“I’ve heard about it, too,” Mom said. “It’s something that I was planning for us to start on in a family home evening next month.”

“But I have to have it next week!”

“Well, that’s no problem,” Dad said. “Mother has all that stuff.”

“Mother?” I said, looking at Mom.

“No, no. Not your mother—my mother.”

“You mean Mrs. Brocklebank?”

Grandmother Brocklebank,” Mom said.

“That’s who I mean,” Dad said.

The situation was turning into an insurmountable problem. Mrs. Brocklebank had started to take the discussions with the rest of us, but she had quit before finishing them. She had argued with everything that the missionaries had said. I could tell that I was licked even before I started.

Later, when we went to visit Mrs. Brocklebank, I sat quietly in a corner and looked at the floor. Finally Dad pushed me forward and said, “Mother, Kenneth has something to ask you.”

“Oh?” Mrs. Brocklebank’s eyes fixed on me like two steel drills.

“Mrs. Brock—Grandmother,” I began, clearing my throat and staring at her long nose and thin lips, “I need some family history information.”

“Family history information? Whatever for?”

I told her about the four-generation program—how it included me, Mom and Dad, her and Mr. Brocklebank, and their parents, and how if we went to the temple and got the work done, we could be together forever.

“Together forever? What makes you think that I want to be together with anyone forever?”

“Come now, Mother,” said Dad. “You’re just being difficult.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Brocklebank, folding her arms and pinching her lips together, “that’s what I’m best at!”

I took the blank Family Group Record Sheets out of my pocket. They were kind of wadded up and wrinkled, but I straightened them out with my hand. When Mrs. Brocklebank wasn’t looking, I left them on the dining room table by a vase of red carnations.

The next Sunday came fast, and I wasn’t ready for it. I had said several prayers that week about the four-generation program, but I didn’t have much hope that Mrs. Brocklebank would help me. I figured that Heavenly Father must get pretty tired of people asking for things all the time, so mostly I just thanked Him for things. I thanked Him for Mom and Dad and my best friend, Peter, and for my Primary teacher, Sister Little. Sometimes I even thanked Him for Mrs. Brocklebank.

I got up Sunday morning and put on my suit. I always have trouble with my tie, so I went to see Dad. While he was tying it, he said, “Mother called and wants you to go over to her house on your way to church.”

I pleaded with him to go with me, but he said that he had to be at priesthood meeting early.

My knees were shaking and my heart was pounding as I knocked on Mrs. Brocklebank’s front door. She stood behind the screen, looking down at me. “Come in,” she said.

I went in. The house was quiet, and I could hear her electric clock making a little whirring sound. I stood still with my arms at my side.

“I have something for you,” Mrs. Brocklebank said. She went over to her dining room table and came back with the Family Group Record Sheets.

They were folded—not all crooked, like when I fold papers, but neat and straight. I opened them up. Every space was filled in with a name, even mine. Every name had places and dates written next to them. Mrs. Brocklebank had completed my four-generation program! I opened my mouth to thank her.

“Take it and go before you’re late for church,” she said gruffly. “And don’t say anything. I dislike people who snivel.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And come back later. I want to hear more about being together forever. But don’t get any ideas about me being interested in the Church. I’m just curious, that’s all.”

I looked back at Mrs. Brocklebank. She was frowning and trying to look annoyed, but I suddenly realized that she wasn’t, not really. I smiled right at her. “I understand, Grandma Brocklebank,” I said.

(To be concluded.)

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown