By Richard Mabey Jr.
There are moments in a person’s life that leave an incredible, indelible mark upon one’s heart and mind. A moment that so deeply moves a person’s heart that it is ingrained deep within the fibers and chambers of the human heart. Such a moment came to my life in the early morning of the Thanksgiving of 1968. I was 15 years old and in my sophomore year at Boonton High School.
This was to be the first Thanksgiving without the blessing of the presence of my grandfather, Watson Mabey. For the good Lord had called him Home to Heaven’s Gate, in May of that year. It had been a particularly tough time for my dear father. Dad and Grandpa had worked together for years at their small trucking company, based in Paterson.
There was a sullen ache deep within my father’s heart. Dad missed his father all so very much. I remember the Thanksgiving Morning of 1968, like it was yesterday. My father was unusually quiet. There was an unspoken sadness in the Mabey Homestead. Grandma, Mom and my sister Patti had already begun making apple and pumpkin pies. Dad had just put the turkey in the oven.
There was a long-standing tradition in our family. On Thanksgiving Morning, Dad would securely place the turkey in the oven. Then, Grandpa, Dad and I would walk the forest path to the old Morris Canal. Specifically, to the foundation of the historic Mabey Homestead that was located along the canal path, just a few yards east of the start of the hill from where Incline Plane Ten East once proudly hailed.
I remember this all so well, as soon as Dad closed the door of the oven, he looked over to me and quietly said, “Richie, let’s you and I take a walk down to the old canal.”
In a solemn voice, with a touch of enthusiasm, I said, “sure thing Dad.”
“Better put your winter coat on Richie, it’s kind of cold out this morning,” Dad said to me as he put on his brown corduroy coat.
“Good idea Dad! I was going to wear my light jacket. I better get my winter coat out of the closet,” I replied to my father.
Dad was quiet for the first few minutes after we entered the forest path at the end of Mabey Lane. A buck with a most amazing set of antlers ran across the wooded path. The deer’s quick pace brought a half-smile to my father’s saddened face.
“Those deer can really run,” Dad said with a bit of a song in his voice.
“I haven’t seen a deer in these woods for quite a while,” I replied.
We walked further down the wooded path. When we reached the stone foundation of the old Mabey Icehouse, Dad and I sat down upon the remains of the icehouse wall. Dad looked out to the still, murky waters of the old Morris Canal. I could see tears flow down the cheeks of my father’s face.
“I miss your Grandpa, son. At times, he could be a bit rough around the edges. But then at other times, he could be as gentle as a lamb,” Dad quietly said to me.
“Dad, I remember the year I had Rheumatic Fever. Grandpa came up to visit me, every Wednesday afternoon. He used to talk about working on the canal,” I reflectively said to my father.
“Your grandfather was the last Chief Engineer to run Incline Plane Ten East. I remember as a kid, your Uncle Carl and I used to run through the old plane house, after they closed up the canal,” Dad told me, with almost a cry in his voice.
“I miss him, I miss Grandpa,” I told my father.
“It’s been over six months since he passed away. I still miss him, I still miss him so very much,” my Dad said to me, holding back his tears.
And then my father cried. It was one of the very few times that I ever saw my dear father cry.
None of us know the day nor the time, when the good Lord will call us Home to Heaven’s Gate. None of us. Not even the wealthiest person among us, knows not the time, nor the place. Life is short. Painfully short. Love one another. Accept the faults of others. Gossip not. Help one another. Help the poor. Give a nod and a smile to a stranger. Forgive, forgive and forgive others who have done you wrong. Hate nobody. Give love out to those who talk wrong of you. For truly, love is the key.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He hosts a YouTube Channel titled, “Richard Mabey Presents.” Richard most recently published a book of poetry and short stories. He can be reached at email@example.com.