My dad and I built the old red barn in the summer of 1978.
The Old Red Barn
By Richard Mabey Jr.
During the summer of 1978, my dad and I built a red barn on the backyard of the old Mabey Homestead. It was a tough time for me. In some ways, things were looking up. In some ways, things were looking down.
It was in May of 1978 that my girlfriend Linda and I broke up. We had planned on getting married in a short time. It’s a long story, personal. But the bottom line was this: Linda wanted to marry a bloke who made a lot more money than I did, at the time. It’s painful to admit that. Humbling to come to terms with. But, that was the basic problem, in a nutshell.
At the time, I was still driving my old 1966 Ford Galaxy. Sadly, it was showing its age. It was by no means, the cool car that it once was. It was a ton of stuff, but it all boiled down to the fact that Linda really wanted to be with a man who was making more dough than me.
At the time, I was working as a writer and editior of the Marketing Services Division of a national toothbrush company. We were responsible for the creation of, the writing of, and the editing of all of the propaganda that the dental salespeople used in their presentations to dentists. It wasn’t a bad job. It just wasn’t making the kind of dough that would give me the ability to buy a Porsche and put a down payment on a big mansion home.
My father was such a wise man. It was in early June of 1978 that he came up with the idea of having the two of us build a barn in the backyard. It was such a blast to work with my dad, in building that barn.
It was hard work to build the barn. But it brought my dad and I closer together. It reminded of the days when I was a teenager in scouts, going down the Delaware River for a week with Dad. Or, hiking the Appalachian Trail with Dad, for a week. I loved doing things together with Dad.
I remember sitting at my desk on a Friday afternoon, thinking about the upcoming weekend. I would be working on dreaming up another silly adventure of Tommy Toothbrush. This was a series of little illustrated booklets designed to brainwash children to use Ripya-Off Toothbrushes. I would draw crude sketches of Tommy Toothbrush along with a little story to go along with the prospective illustrations. Then, a talented artist would sketch out cartoon-like drawings of Tommy Toothbrush working to keep children’s teeth free of cavities. All the time, I would be working on my little Tommy Toothbrush booklet, I would be thinking about working on building the barn with Dad.
By the end of August of 1978, Dad and I finished the red barn. It was a big project. It was rather time consuming. But it helped me to heal my broken heart. I loved Linda dearly. I thought for sure we would get married. Whenever my dad saw that I would start to get a little teary eyed, as we worked on the red barn, he would sternly say something like, “come on Richie, keep your mind on sawing that board straight.” Sometimes Dad would act stern, but inside he had a heart of gold.
Eventually the years took their toll on the old red barn. We used to put in a vegetable garden on the western side of the old barn. In the year 2000, Dad and I were going to do a complete renovation of the old red barn. But Dad’s cancer took its toll. He just wasn’t able to do a lot of hard physical work any more.
So, I put some Band-Aids on the old barn. I remember it was kind of lonely working on the old red barn, without Dad by my side.
I’ve been going through a bit of a rough time of it all, of late. Sometimes, it seems like the goal of self publishing my novel, is impossible. I think about how much it is going to cost. I worry if I’ll even sell enough books, just to break even. I worry about the snobby critics.
Sometimes, I just wish my dad were still here. Just to give me that word of encouragement. Just to give me that tap on my shoulder. Just to tell me that I can make it.
I miss my dad. I miss him so much. I’d give the earth to just have even one more day to work with him; sawing wood, hammering two by fours, and doing the simple work of building a backyard barn.