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Hebenstreit: FIGHT ON!

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IBA-hebenstreitLess than 24 hours ago, I knew exactly what my topic for this column was going to be. I was going to talk about the insights I have learned working with the many talented members of the IndyBar this year. Now, as you read this you may wonder what this column has to do with the IndyBar. Well, when I signed on to do this job, I was told I could write about anything I wanted, so that is what I decided to do this time.

For about 5 years when I was in law school and after, two other friends and I drove to Hamburg, New York (near Buffalo) to snow ski. A mutual friend was from there, and his parents still lived in Hamburg. That gave us exactly what we needed — a place to stay that was my favorite price — free. Without their hospitality, we Hoosiers would not have been able to afford skiing. Pete and Mollie were just great folks. Both had white hair, were very Catholic, and were obviously very close. They lived in a New England clapboard house that was always covered in snow. Each year, they turned themselves inside out to make us feel at home. We thought we had hit the jackpot and wondered why they put up with us. Now that I have grown children, I know that they enjoyed it as much, or more, than we did. A great deal for all concerned.

Last night I recognized the Hamburg return address on a Christmas card and opened it. For some reason, after 33 years, I still remember their street address. The card was from Pete. That’s right, not Pete and Mollie. I knew that Mollie had passed away earlier this year. We had shared Christmas cards with each other every year, but the notes we received in prior years were always in Mollie’s handwriting. This year, Pete was writing to let their friends know of Mollie’s passing. Reading the card was emotional.

Everyone has a different way of celebrating/dreading the holiday season. We will be fortunate enough to have the entire family home. Being able to spend time with grown children is priceless. It will be fantastic to have them around even for just a few days. My Dad celebrates his 87th birthday on Christmas Day, and all will be around to help him celebrate it. His knees are getting a little unreliable and his hearing is shot. He spends most of his days taking care of my Mother, but that is his mission in life at this point. He doesn’t seem to mind. Robyn’s parents will also be around. Both are OK, but the years take their toll. What a strange reward for a life well lived!

I have handled enough family law cases to know how stressful the holiday season can be. Many families are not close, and the required interaction at the holiday season is probably unbearable. We have several friends who have lost parents, siblings and even children this past year. It must be horrible to watch the calendar creep closer to the holidays and wonder how empty the feeling will be. Hopefully all will find their own peace.

But I do not want to end on a sad or somber note. Pete’s handwritten note under the standard typed letter read “Mollie sure loved your ‘ski trip’ visits. So did I.” And we thought we were getting the better part of that deal! He also wrote “I plan to stay here on Highland Ave. The neighbors are great, the yard work is good for my health…and I know where everything is supposed to be.” What an attitude! He had cared for her through a 5-year battle with Alzheimer’s. Many would think their life was over after losing their best friend of 60 years, but not Pete. I hope I have that spirit when the chips are down. It is a good lesson for me, and I hope for you also. Fight on!

I hope you all have a very Happy Holiday season.•

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