During the summer of 1985, I visited my cousin, Harry Graham, for one full month. I stayed in the attic basement, where I wrote the stage play, “Beyond the North Star.”
A Stop Along My Journey To Truth
By Richard Mabey Jr.
From about April of 1984 till just about May of 1985, I spent a full year fighting my second battle of full-blown rheumatic fever. During this year, I was in and out of the hospital several times.
When the strep infection was finally defeated and I began the process of getting back into the swing of things, there came to me a calling to write a play about my Great Uncle Earl, who was killed in France during World War I. Life is funny at times. From time to time the hand of fate steps in and destiny carries us to another place, to help us on the path of working toward the fulfillment of one of life’s dreams and goals.
It was the strangest thing in the world. My cousin Harry Graham had heard of my illness, during one of my hospital stays in 1984 and wrote me a letter, sending kind regards and prayers for a healthy recovery. My cousin Harry was about 87 years old at the time. In his letter, he welcomed me to come out and visit him if I wanted.
Well, long story short, my cousin Harry’s invitation weighed heavily upon my heart and mind. So, when I was finally able to get around and drive my car again, I drove out to Indiana, Pennsylvania to visit Harry for a while. I don’t know why I did this, but I packed about six or seven spiral notebooks in my suitcase, along with at least a dozen pens.
Just a great photo of my cousin, Harry Graham, sitting in his old garage.
There was something very special about my month-long visit to see my cousin Harry. I remember that during that time, I helped Harry clean out his garage. I mowed his lawn, for him, three or four times. I helped him do some heavy house cleaning. And, I also helped him clean his old basement.
Basically, Harry was purging a lot of stuff that he had accumulated over the years. We ended up donating boxes and boxes of old sweaters, shirts, pants and coats to the local Salvation Army. We had boxes filled with left-handed smoke shifters, lightning rod gizmos, old radios, old board games, old cameras, well you get the idea. We donated all of it to the local Salvation Army. I have a feeling that they ended up throwing half the stuff away.
During the my month-long stay with my cousin Harry, I worked like crazy on writing a stage play about my great uncle, Earl Mabey. I bunked in the old attic at Harry’s house. Harry was a late riser. He would get up at about nine o’clock every morning. I was still relatively young, so I would wake up at about six-thirty every morning and then work on my play till Harry awoken from his night’s sleep.
There were other golden opportunities for me to work on my play, during the course of the day. Harry would take a nap at about three o’clock every day, for a couple of hours. Well, during that time, I’d walk up the steps to Harry’s attic and work like a madman on my play. Then, Harry would call it a night at about nine thirty. Harry would turn off the television set, in his living room, and we’d walk up the steps to the second floor. Harry and I would exchange our good-nights to each other. I would then walk up the steps to the attic bedroom. I remember that I would then work on my play till about eleven o’clock or so.
I simply loved Harry’s old attic. There was something about the architecture of that old attic bedroom that made me feel like I had walked back in time. The ceiling had all kinds of nooks and crannies. It followed the architecture of the roofline to a T!
There was an old desk, that was located just a few feet from the foot of my bed. There was no ceiling light in the room. So, I only had the little lamp on the desk to provide lighting as I wrote my play. It was an eerie feeling. But at the same time, there was a kind of cozy feeling to that old attic. In many ways, it was a great source of inspiration to me.
A rare photo of Great Uncle Earl in his army uniform. Though I never had the honor to meet Great Uncle Earl, he was and still remains to be my hero!
In June of 1989, my play was produced in a very beautiful theater, in northern New Jersey. The play honored my Great Uncle Earl. The play made over $23,000.00. All of the profits, from my play, were donated to the Lincoln Park Police Athletic League.
Today, at 62, I look back at that magical month that I spent at Cousin Harry’s home in Indiana, Pennsylvania. I was 31 at the time. Sadly, Harry passed away just a few months after my visit with him. My month-long visit with Cousin Harry is something that I still dearly cherish.