A Florida Grandpa


Thou sendest blessings from above/Thru words and deeds of those who love (Hymns, no. 293).

When Sister Little called to remind Sarah that the activity night honoring grandfathers was to be the following week, Sarah felt sad. She lived in Florida, and her grandpa was nearly three thousand miles away in California. She wished that he lived closer so that she could take him to the Tuesday night party.

“It isn’t fair,” she told her mom later. “I don’t have anyone to take to the party.”

Mom stopped stirring the spaghetti sauce and looked at her. “I’ll go with you,” she said.

“But the party is for grandpas,” Sarah said, her eyes filling with tears.

When Dad came home from work, Sarah sat on the arm of his chair and said, “I need to talk to you about something very important.”

Dad closed the newspaper, folded it, and took off his glasses.

“It’s about Grandpa Night,” Sarah said. “I don’t have anyone to go with me.”

“Well,” said Dad, “I’ll take you.”

“No thank you, Dad. I want to go with Grandpa.”

“I could put on a gray beard and talk in a shaky voice,” Dad said, making Sarah laugh.

During dinner, Mom asked, “What have you decided to do about Grandpa Night?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah answered.

“I’m sure there’s a grandfather in the ward who would be happy to take you,” Dad said.

Sarah liked her father’s idea, but she was worried about finding someone who wasn’t already invited. The following Sunday before sacrament meeting began, she looked all around the chapel. She saw Brother Brumley, but he and Sister Brumley were sitting with four of their grandchildren. She and Brother Blackwelder were great friends, but Brother Blackwelder was holding a granddaughter on his knee and straightening his grandson’s tie.

As Sarah continued to search for a temporary grandfather it seemed to her that everyone she wanted to ask was sitting together in family groups. Then she saw Brother Fitzpatrick sitting alone at the end of a pew near Sarah and her family. But he never spoke, and he never smiled. Sarah was afraid of him because once, when she had accidentally bumped into him in the hall, Brother Fitzpatrick had looked sharply at her under his shaggy eyebrows and cleared his throat loudly. She had been so frightened that she had hurried to her CTR-A class and sat in the chair closest to her teacher. While Sarah was remembering that day, Brother Fitzpatrick saw her looking at him. She smiled, but he just pressed his lips tightly together and looked away. Sarah went home sadder than ever.

“Mom,” she said, “I don’t want to go Tuesday night.”

“Why don’t you ask Brother Fitzpatrick?” Dad said. “He’s fairly new in our ward. I believe his family lives on the West Coast, and he’s here all alone. I bet he’d like to go with you.”

“I’m afraid of him!” Sarah wailed. “Besides, he’d never say yes.”

“Sarah, we can’t look at others and know what’s in their hearts,” Sarah’s mother said. “Why don’t you ask Heavenly Father about inviting Brother Fitzpatrick.”

Sarah loved to say her evening prayers. She told Heavenly Father all the happy things that happened during the day. It was also the time when she talked to Him about the things that worried her. So that night when Sarah knelt at the side of her bed, she told Heavenly Father about her problem. “Heavenly Father,” she said, “Dad wants me to ask Brother Fitzpatrick to go to Grandpa Night with me. But he always looks so grumpy, and one time, when I bumped into him in the hall, he said, ‘Grrmmph!’ Heavenly Father,” she continued, “I’m afraid of him. I don’t think that he likes me. Should I ask Brother Fitzpatrick?”

Sarah waited quietly by her bed for Heavenly Father’s answer, just as she did whenever she had a question. Soon a familiar, warm feeling filled her heart.

But the next day after school, when it was time to make the telephone call, she did not feel so happy.

“Why don’t you call now?” Mom suggested.

“I think I should do my homework first,” Sarah said.

After her homework was finished, Dad said, “Sarah, why don’t you call Brother Fitzpatrick before dinner?”

“I need to clean my room first,” Sarah said.

During dinner, Mom asked, “Have you made your phone call yet, Sarah?”

“Maybe I’d better take my bath first,” Sarah said.

After her bath Sarah couldn’t think of any more excuses. She took the ward directory from the top desk drawer in the family room and began to look for Brother Fitzpatrick’s phone number.

“I don’t think he has a telephone,” she told Mom when she couldn’t find the number.

“Here,” Mom said. “Let me help you.”

Sarah dialed slowly. She heard the phone ring once, then twice, then a third time. Maybe he’s not home, she thought. But on the fourth ring, Brother Fitzpatrick answered. “Hello?”

“Hello,” Sarah said very softly.

“Hello!” Brother Fitzpatrick said again, this time in a loud, gruff voice. “Is anyone there?”

“It’s me—Sarah from church. I just called to see if you would go to Grandpa Night with me.”

Brother Fitzpatrick did not answer.

“Oh, please say yes,” Sarah said, talking quickly. “When I asked Heavenly Father about asking you, I felt happy about it. My own grandpa lives faraway, and I miss him.”

When Brother Fitzpatrick answered, his voice wasn’t gruff anymore. For a moment Sarah thought that he might even be crying. “My son and his wife live in Oregon,” he said at last, “and I miss my three granddaughters terribly. Sarah, you remind me of Laura, the youngest one.”

“Oh,” Sarah said.

“I’ve been very lonely since I moved here three months ago. Your call is an answer to my prayer to Heavenly Father to send me a friend in the ward. Thank you, Sarah, for asking me. I’d love to go with you.”

At the party, Brother Fitzpatrick told jokes that made Sarah and the other children laugh. He and Sarah had fun playing the games, and they sat side by side when they ate chicken potpie and apple crisps. He showed her pictures of his three granddaughters, and she told him about her grandpa in California. Sister Little asked Brother Fitzpatrick to tell a Book of Mormon story, and he told about Jesus and about the Nephite children being encircled by angels in a ring of fire. Sarah was proud and happy that Brother Fitzpatrick had come to the party with her.

That night Sarah told Heavenly Father about all the fun that she had had at the party, and she thanked Him for her Florida grandpa.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Pat Hoggan