Brother Andelin and the Teeter-Totter


It was just an old board Kristen and I had found—maybe 10 feet long and just wide enough to sit on. The desert sun had already started to turn the board gray. But, even faded, it was the perfect addition to our makeshift playground. In fact, other than a lot of sand and a few toy trucks, it was the only thing in our playground. Laid across a big rock sticking up in the backyard, that old board became a teeter-totter, kind of like the one at the park by Grandma’s house. Of course, our teeter-totter didn’t go as high as the one at the park. But it was ours.

One day we were teetering and tottering when a couple of men came to visit. I didn’t know what they wanted, but they talked to Mom in the kitchen for a while. Kristen, who was a year older than I was, said they were from church—the new one we had just started going to. One of them was young, and the other had white hair and a white beard. He was the oldest man I’d ever seen. As they were leaving, the old man walked over to us and watched as we went up and down on the teeter-totter.

“That’s a nice looking board you have there,” he said. “Would you mind if I took it with me for a while? I could sure use a board like that.”

We both looked at Mom, who was standing by the kitchen door. She told us to give the man the board. So Kristen and I got off our teeter-totter, and the man put the board in his truck. He and the man with him said good-bye and drove away.

“Mom, what were those men doing here?” I grumbled.

“They’re our home teachers; the church we went to on Sunday sent them to make sure we’re okay.”

“I’m okay, but I was better when I had my teeter-totter.”

Mom ran her fingers through my hair. “I know, honey. It’s almost dinnertime. Go inside and wash up.”

Most kids would have probably put up a fuss when someone took their favorite toy, but we knew if Mom said it, we should do it.

That night, Morn said the old man’s name was Brother Andelin. My four-year-old mouth had to work to get his name right. Mom said Brother Andelin lived on the other side of town but would come and visit again.

A few days later, I was on the porch when Brother Andelin’s truck came rattling up the drive.

“Hello, Bobby. Would you like to see what I built out of that board you gave me?” he said, getting out of his truck.

I ran behind him to the back of his truck. He pulled out the board, now painted green with a seat and handle at each end. In the middle, on either side, were some steel rings. Also in the truck was a big, wooden, pyramid-shaped box, painted the same color as the board.

“Is your sister here?” Brother Andelin asked. “Run and get her while I set this up in the yard.”

I ran into the kitchen and down the hall. “Kristen,” I yelled, gasping for air. “Brother Andelin brought our board. But he, he—come see.”

Mom followed as Kristen and I ran outside. Brother Andelin had fastened the board on top of the box.

“It’s a real teeter-totter,” Kristen whispered to me. “Is it for us?”

“I don’t know. Ask him.”

“You ask him.”

“Brother Andelin,” I said, stepping closer, “is this for us? For keeps?”

“It’s your board, isn’t it?” he said. “Besides, what am I gonna do with a seesaw? My kids have all grown up.”

Kristen and I climbed on the new teeter-totter. It wasn’t like before. When we went up, we went off the ground way up in the air. Brother Andelin laughed as we played, his teeth smiling from behind his long, white beard.

After that, when Brother Andelin visited, Kristen and I didn’t keep playing. We would go inside to listen to his stories about growing up in Utah, about his pioneer grandpa, and about this new church we were going to.

Years passed. Brother Andelin passed away. Then on a cold December morning, our priests quorum arrived at a little house on the edge of the ward boundaries. The name on the mailbox read Andelin. At the door, leaning against a cane, was a small woman with thinning white hair and a warm smile.

Our adviser introduced us to Sister Andelin as we brought in the small Christmas tree we were giving her. She made sure to learn our names as she talked to us. Sister Andelin hadn’t been able to come to church for several years. But even though she didn’t recognize most of us, she knew our families.

“How’s your mother?” she asked me.

I gave the usual response. “Fine.”

“My husband used to be your home teacher when you first joined the Church. Do you remember that?”

After telling her I did, I reminded her about the board and the seesaw. She held her hands together and smiled at me as if picturing the entire thing in her mind. “You know, he was always doing good things like that for people. And now look at you,” she said, taking hold of my hand. “Passing on the good that you were taught. That’s how I get along now; all the love my husband spread around this ward just keeps flowing back to me.”

I realized that Brother Andelin took care of the widows and the fatherless as the Lord directed. But more than that, Brother Andelin passed on a spirit of giving that outlasted both him and that old teeter-totter.

Since Brother Andelin’s first visit, I’ve learned a lot about the Church, while gaining a testimony of the gospel. That testimony began when a white-haired man took an old board and made a seesaw.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer