“Grandpa and the Marshmallows,” Ensign, July 1997, 58–59
I cannot think of the statement about turning “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (see Mal. 4:6) without remembering my grandfather, Arvin Dean Nielson—a great man who fulfilled that vision in a quiet, unassuming way.
When we arrived at the candy counter, Grandpa typically had a pocketful of spare change, and it was my solemn duty to relieve him of its presence. Yet he could never be accused of spoiling a child when a firm hand was required. I remember being punished for climbing the forbidden oak tree on a dare and almost breaking my neck taking the gravitational shortcut down.
Grandpa lived in a small town in southern Alberta, Canada, where everyone knew everyone else. Every summer, I took on the identity of “Arvin’s granddaughter” with pride and trepidation. It seemed to me that the entire town watched my behavior. Naughty or nice, I remained nameless, but Grandpa’s name was a strong reminder of who I was and who I represented.
One particularly hot day in July, Grandpa found me sitting alone on the back porch, lost and forlorn. My older cousins had gone swimming at a distant water hole, and I had been left behind. Assessing the situation, Grandpa invited me to go fishing. Instantly, my face brightened as I took his outstretched hand.
I hummed to myself as I sat beside Grandpa in the car. He told me about a special spot that only he knew about, and I was delighted to be sworn to secrecy. But the magic wore off when we started fishing. The fish were not biting, and I was hungry—even if they were not. I grew restless. Grandpa smiled and nodded toward the tackle box. Inside were a couple of sandwich bags filled with tiny, colored marshmallows. Sitting on a rock, I happily finished the first bag and then, munching a few from the second, I made a discovery. “These aren’t any good any more.” I pulled a face. “They’re too old.”
Grandpa thought for a moment and then quietly said, “There is no such thing as ‘too old’—just a change in purpose.”
I watched him take the marshmallows from my hand and rebait his line. When he brought in a fine rainbow trout he said nothing, but I understood.
That day, he taught me an important lesson about life. Years later, he passed away. As I have reflected on his words, I have come to understand that there really is no such thing as ‘too old,’ and often, I have felt the quiet strength of a new change of purpose in life.