Grandpa Ben

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“Grandpa Ben,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 66–67

Grandpa Ben

Years ago when I was in California studying English in a program for international students, I worked at a fast-food restaurant. Nearly every day brought the same routine: go to work, go to school, go home. I was feeling lonely and sad, especially because my grandfather had just passed away back home in Mexico.

I remember one cold, rainy morning very clearly. It seemed no customers would come into the restaurant for breakfast that day. But every morning the same old man came to eat breakfast, and this morning was no different. He always seemed so lonely and sad. Many times I had felt the desire to talk with him but always hesitated because he wasn’t very friendly. Yet I sensed that behind his grumpy, cold exterior and attitude of indifference there was a very special person.

That day I decided to go to his table and simply wish him good morning. To my surprise, he acted very nice. He asked me what made me feel so happy. I didn’t know what to say, but I remember telling him he reminded me of my grandfather whom I loved so much. My grandfather had recently passed away, I said, and even though I felt sad, I knew he was in a very special place and that someday I would see him again. Then I asked my new acquaintance if I could call him grandpa too. I still remember “Grandpa Ben’s” sweet expression and his beautiful eyes full of tears. He smiled and told me that he was happy that I wanted to call him that.

The months passed, and every time he came in for breakfast we chatted. Often our conversations turned to gospel topics, allowing me to share with him what I believed. I enjoyed his company, and I began to love him as if he were my real grandpa.

The time came for me to return home. Seeing Grandpa Ben in the grocery store one afternoon, I never felt so sad, as his tender eyes filled with tears when I told him I needed to go home because I had finished school. I hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He told me he would never forget me. I started to cry and hugged him once again.

The morning before I left, I decided to go to the restaurant. I knew Grandpa Ben would be eating his breakfast, and I wanted to say good-bye and give him a cassette tape called Our Heavenly Father’s Plan. He was there, and I gave him the tape. I told him I hoped the tape could help him find the way to real happiness.

After I returned to Mexico, we wrote often. It was wonderful to see how much love the once grumpy man expressed in his letters. After a while, however, I stopped hearing from him. Many times I prayed to Heavenly Father so I could get an answer to the letters I’d sent to Grandpa Ben. Finally one morning the mailman brought a letter from a person whose name I did not recognize. As I read the letter I started to cry. Grandpa Ben had passed away. His last desire was that his wife write me a letter telling me how much he loved me and how much happiness my company and letters had brought to his life. His wife also told me that he had spent hours listening to the tape I gave him and that he had always talked about me as his real granddaughter.

I still have his words, advice, and his sweet face in my heart. I feel grateful to Heavenly Father for the wonderful opportunity to know this special man and for helping me look past his grumpy exterior to his kind heart. Meeting that wonderful man blessed my life.

Illustrated by Robert McKay