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HETRICK: Moving on and starting over in life, art and politics

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Bruce Hetrick

When my cell phone rang a few days ago, I figured it was a campaign volunteer wanting me to vote early or donate money. Or a student wanting to set up office hours. Or a salesperson touting some once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But the call brought bad news.

A friend, a woman in her mid-40s, had lost her husband: a man of 46, a father of three, a former college football player, and a strapping fitness buff. He’d died suddenly just a few days after the couple’s wedding anniversary.

My caller, a mutual friend, said it was an embolism or blood clot. She thought I’d want to know.

Suddenly, political campaigns and college students and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities didn’t matter much.

The next evening, my wife and I attended opening night of a world-premiere play called “The House That Jack Built” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

We never see the title character in James Still’s Thanksgiving story. Like the absent father in Tennessee Williams’ “A Glass Menagerie” or the dead college friend in the film “The Big Chill,” Jack is ever-present but never seen. He’s the undertow.

Throughout this funny and poignant play, Jack’s widow, his mother and his sister are each struggling, in their own way, to deal with Jack’s death and move on.

Jules, Jack’s widow, tells of the extraordinary measures she’s taken to keep Jack’s spirit alive and in her life—including seeing a shaman.

“I thought all this meant that I would rescue Jack,” says Jules. “That I might bring him back, like some Greek myth.”

“Poor Jack,” says Jack’s mother, Helen. “He must have wondered what to do.”

“What do you mean?” says Jules.

“I wanted him to stay put so I’d be able to find him when I got to heaven. And all the while you were trying to bring him back. He must have wondered what to do. Jack. ‘Should I stay or should I go?’”

“Maybe it’s the living who haunt the dead,” says Jules.

“But you didn’t bring him back,” says Lulu, Jack’s sister.

“Turns out it wasn’t Jack who needed rescuing,” says Jules. “It was me. I had to bring myself back from the dead.”

“How?” asks Lulu.

“I had to start all over again, from the very beginning. Slowly. Quickly. Quietly. Loudly.”

And so it is for everyone in Jack’s life. Trying to move on. Struggling to start over.

Someday, my friend who lost her husband will have to move on and start over. Once upon a time, I did too.

After the election Tuesday night, many of my friends on Facebook and some of the pundits and politicians I follow on Twitter spoke of starting over.

Some who supported Mitt Romney were bitter.

Some who supported Barack Obama were giddy.

But many saw not a chance to gripe or gloat, but rather to move on and start over on shared challenges.

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” said Mitt Romney in an eloquent concession speech delivered in Boston. “At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

Ever the business advocate, he called on “job creators of all kinds” “to invest, to hire, to step forward. And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.”

Moving on. Starting over.

In his Chicago victory speech that followed, Barack Obama delivered a similar message.

“In the coming weeks and months,” Obama said, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together.

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests,” he said. “We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.”

Moving on. Starting over.

On election night, some of my preferred candidates won. Three of my dear friends lost. But despite our often-nasty electoral process and our Rube Goldberg governance model, I’m grateful to live in a nation with peaceful transitions of power and broad participation by all who choose to partake.

Now, like the characters in James Still’s “The House That Jack Built,” we have to get over it. We have to move on.

As my friend who’s lost her husband and her children who’ve lost their father will now learn; as Jack’s family had to learn; as I once learned, life is too short for grudges and sour grapes, for backstabbing and obstruction.

It’s time to move on. It’s time to start over. It’s time to make like Jack and build this house together.•

__________

Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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  1. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

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