By Richard Mabey Jr.
In August of 1964, a month before my twelfth birthday, a fever came over me. I acquired a severe sore throat. My Mom took me to our family doctor. He told my Mom that I needed to see a cardiologist. My Mom took me to a young cardiologist and he put me right in the hospital. The strep infection had begun to attack my heart. I was in the hospital for about a month. But, the fight wasn’t over. And, for one full year of my life, my feet never touched the ground.
I was to have two more long-stay hospital visits during that year. But, the rest of the time, I was required to have strict bed rest. It was a lonely year for me. Rarely did any of my friends come to visit me, as I lied in my bed in my bedroom. The days were long. So, when my dad came home from work and climbed the stairs of the old Mabey Homestead to see me, a certain joy and hope flowed through the chambers of my heart.
As many of you know, my dad worked as a truck driver for Main Trucking and Rigging in Elmwood Park. Dad would come home from work, weary and tired, but he always dug deep within himself to climb the 15 steps of our old farmhouse, as soon as he came home from work to spend time visiting me, before going back downstairs for supper.
I had an old, plain, wooden chair beside my bed. Dad would come into my bedroom, after work and say something to me like, “how’s it going son?” Or, he might say to me, “Dicky Jim, how ya’ feeling?” For this was that era of my life, when Dad still called me Dicky Jim, my childhood nickname, which came about from my middle name being James. Some time, in the midst of my year-long battle with rheumatic fever, Dad stopped calling me Dicky Jim and began calling me Richie.
What I remember most, about my dad’s after work visits to my bedroom, is that just before Dad went back downstairs to eat his supper, he would read my Bible to me for about 10 minutes. I truly cherished that gift that my father took time to give me. Most of the time, Mom would come upstairs with my supper on a tray and tell my dad that supper was ready. Dad would close my Bible and put it down on the little table beside my bed. Then, Mom and Dad would go downstairs together to eat supper with my sister, Patti.
Sometimes when my father was reading my Bible to me, I would look at his face and see the sincerity that flowed forth from his eyes. Sometimes Dad would struggle over some of the long names of some of the individuals from the Old Testament. He would do his best to pronounce the long names and then simply carry on with reading my Bible to me.
My dad would sit beside my bed, wearing his navy-blue work clothes. Sometimes there would be dirt on his shirt or on the knees of his pants. Often times, Dad would wrinkle his forehead while reading scriptures to me. My father had a calm, soothing, serene voice that would bring a certain comfort to my heart.
After reading my Bible to me for a while, Dad would often say to me, “Dicky Jim, you’re gonna beat this thing. You’re gonna get well. You’ll soon be going on hikes and campouts with the scouts again.” There was such a ring of faith in Dad’s voice. A strong conviction prevailed in his voice that reflected his strong faith that abided in his heart.
I confess that at the age of 12, I liked it better when Dad called me Richie instead of Dicky Jim. But I think that Dad needed to talk to the little boy who used to jump on his back and Dad would give that little boy a horsey ride throughout the house.
I know this may not be able to be proven medically and scientifically, but I am convinced that the time that Dad spent reading my Bible to me every day, played a big role in my healing process. I know some of you may not agree with that. But, I know deep in the inner most chambers of my heart that it is all so very true.
Life is so funny with all its twists and turns. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. I loved my father with all of my heart. He was my hero. He still is. And even though at times, I dreaded Dad calling me Dicky Jim, back when I was 12 years old, today I’d give an eye tooth to hear Dad call me Dicky Jim, just one more time. Oh, just one more time.