My father and I, in the Autumn of 2004, building a new cellar door for the old Mabey Homestead.
A Lesson in Determination
By Richard Mabey Jr.
On a Saturday morning, in the early Autumn of 2004, Dad and I set out to build a new door leading into the basement of the old Mabey Homestead. Dad was fighting cancer. I was concerned that the project might be too strenuous for him. My father was determined that together, he and I, would build a new basement door.
There were these little bubbles of joyous moments throughout the day that we worked so hard to build the new door. I remember one time when Dad and I were measuring the length and width of the wood before we started up the circular saw. He looked and at me, smiled for a brief second and then gave me advice on measuring wood.
“Richie, remember what I’ve always told you, measure twice, cut once. I think you were about five, the first time I ever taught you that. You had your little junior carpenter’s kit. I helped you build that little birdhouse,” Dad told me as he sharpened his carpenter’s pencil.
There were times, that day, when I saw Dad’s face grimace with pain. I remember asking Dad if he was okay. I recall how he would answer me in a bit of a gruff voice that he was alright, that we had a job to do.
At the time, I was working as an editor in an advertising agency and also writing a regular column for a local newspaper. I remember this moment so well. Dad measured one of the two by fours, that would serve as the “Z” formation for the back of the new cellar door. After carefully measuring, Dad firmly drew a line on the two by four. Then, he looked up at me and touched my heart with a compliment.
“That article you wrote in yesterday’s paper, you did a good job on that. A real good job. I’m proud of you, son,” Dad told me as put the two by four across our old wooden saw horses. I remember getting such a lump in my throat, my eyes got a bit teary, and I thanked my dad for his kind words. They meant the world to me.
Before the sun set that day, we finished building the new door for the basement. It was strong and opened and closed without a hitch. I remember Dad opened and closed that door about a dozen times, then told me that we did a good job. Dad gave me a hit on my shoulder and told me that we made a good team. I heartily agreed with him.
That was to be the last home improvement project that Dad and I completed on the old Mabey Homestead. I cherish that memory so dearly in my heart. My father showed incredible strength and courage that day. I know there were moments when the pain was overwhelming for Dad. But my beloved father simply did not give into the pain. Throughout the day, he maintained such an incredible look of determination in his eyes.
Today, when I’m faced with a tough challenge, I remember that Autumn day when my father and I built a new cellar door for our old homestead. In memory, I hold dearly to the determination that flowed from his eyes. And, I hold dear to my heart the spirit of my father, a spirit of both a loving heart and a determined attitude.
My father was such a good man. Sometimes, I think to myself, if even I can emulate half the goodness that abided in Dad’s heart, then I’ve accomplished something worthwhile with my life.
There are times, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have heard my dear father’s gentle voice guide me from Heaven’s Gate.