Brian Bungum, Tom Kenyon, Gordon Spencer and I spent this past weekend with Hobie at Meadowood. Hobie did not know we were coming and after searching the hallways we found him, sitting in his wheel chair with his head slightly down, taking a pause from walking with his physiotherapist. As the four of us approached him, Hobie looked up and after a few seconds of staring at us, he quips “It’s not for me…”, a reference Tom’s response when Hobie bumped into him leaving the liquor store 40 years ago stating it was actually for Bungum! Hobie was thrilled to see us and things went uphill from there. We sat with Hobie as he was served his lunch, and after about 15 minutes of watching his food get colder and colder, I suggested to Hobie that we do some of the talking so he could eat his food. I only got about halfway through my first sentence before Hobie took over again with another wonderful story, told in true Hobie fashion with piercing eyes and a finger pointing to emphasize every point. For the next two days we spent hours in his room reminiscing of old times, listening to dive by dive commentary of championships won and lost, personal stories of heartbreak and triumph, thoughts on “How to Live a Good Life” (Hobie's next publication), and how genuinely humbled he is at the life he has led. We caught up with Jim, Nancy and Elizabeth, as all three children came by during our visits.
Hobie’s wit was in fine form and kept us laughing.
Hobie has trouble hearing and Brian shared his hearing aid with him. After putting it on his ear for an hour or so, Brian said to Hobie “I’ll leave you with the hearing aid until we get back from lunch. Hobie responded, "Huh?”
Later, Hobie’s storytelling was interrupted when he received a phone call from Scott Cranham and they spoke for about 20 minutes. When Hobie hung up, he looked up at us and said, “Wrong Number”.
Hobie got stronger every day we were there. His speech was clear and his mind was sharp as a tack. He knows he will not live forever, and he is at peace with that. His faith is strong. But, it was clear he still has a lot to do. He is looking forward to finishing his latest article, sorting out his future living arrangements and thinking of his next reunion. There is still plenty of hard work ahead to fully recover, but as he reminded us on several occasions, “all I ever asked of you was to give it your best shot”, we told him the same in return.
On September 7, Hobie will be receiving the Indiana University President’s Medal for Excellence, a prestigious award given to individuals for exceptional service to the university. Curt Simic, Hobie's good friend and former head of the IU Foundation, told Hobie while we were there that unfortunately, he would not be allowed to speak. When Hobie asked why, Curt said they were only allocated an hour. This brought a wry smile to Hobie’s face.
All in all, Hobie is amazed at the life he has led and at the outpouring of affection he has received over the past few weeks. There is no question that this has helped his recovery. A big thank you is due to those who responded in the early days when Hobie was facing an emergency health crisis and did so much to bring his difficulties to everyone’s attention. I would encourage everyone to keep up the visits, phone calls, cards and messages, even if they are one liners. They make a difference!
As we said our goodbyes, we shared tears of joy and amazement at our good fortune to have spent the majority of our lives knowing each other, loving each other, and promised to do this again in the near future.