Some things just never get easier.
That’s what I came to realize last week as I learned of the passing of Norm Antinetti. Man, just simply typing his name, my eyes have begun to leak.
As much as I would love for all the words which follow to be about this man; a true icon and legend in this town, they’re not.
There are times, I believe, when we must take a moment of pause to allow the shock to set in, to give a proper moment if you will. It’s not always about getting something first to press and this (in my opinion) is one of those times.
I’m also more affiliated with Norm via his late wife Pam, who I (as well as many) absolutely adored, and his son Dave. I’ve been fortunate to come to call Dave a friend through a cherished friendship with his wife, Rachelle. I don’t have a lot of Norm Antinetti stories, which so many of you do. I do happen to know from firsthand experience that he and his wife Pam raised quality children that we should all hope to aspire to do the same.
But enough name dropping, this really isn’t about me and my friendships and affiliations. Quite simply it’s about love, loss and the holidays.
Last week I shared some thoughts on still missing my grandmother. The holidays just seem to make the void more bittersweet than anything else.
As we are grateful for all of those who continue to surround us, there is no denying there is something or someone missing.
Sadly, in 2021 our little town has felt this all too much. A lot of loss has been felt in this town in one quick and crazy year. Community members of all ages have left us and well, that just simply stings.
Last week, as I reflected on the passing of Coach Antinetti, just days before Christmas my heart broke for my friends and their children. Equally it broke for my partner and others like him who both admired and looked up to this community hero. Upon telling my guy of the news, his eyes immediately wept with tears. This was a tough one to hear.
As an Oakdale boy, this was not the first time I’d been on the other side of that sadness with him this year. So many lost.
As he shared stories of a mentor, we began talking of all the families we knew who would be facing this holiday season with a void for the first time. Loved ones of all ages no longer here to take in the merriment.
Acknowledging our good fortune came quickly. While our family faced its own “void” if you will with not all family members being able to make it home, we felt grateful for continued good health and all family members accounted for.
We also spoke of 18-year-old OHS senior Joe Casas and the tragic loss of his life. While neither of us knew him or his family personally, we couldn’t help but feel heartbreak for his parents, family and friends.
Simply put, parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children and when they do, it’s confusing, as well as numbing.
As a society many of us say it often, live all the moments and don’t take this life for granted. Many of those we lost this year embodied those words; that’s the good news.
From what I’ve learned of young Joe through friends, he just like Antinetti, was a true light in many worlds. Gone too soon, no doubt about that.
This town is resilient. It has rallied among many in the toughest of times and this year has not been any different.
Now as we look to face a new year, for some new beginnings I hope we all take the lesson of 2021 with us.
Life is indeed fragile and as moments may seem fleeting, it is important to live each one as fully as we can. Don’t save your words, don’t pass on giving the hugs and don’t take one single moment for granted.
God bless each of you who felt the void for the first time this Christmas, you are not alone. As many of us acknowledge those that we miss as the holidays pass, the void still remains. Yet how lucky are we to have loved such special souls? Even in their absence, they remain present and for that we should remain grateful.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.