I come from a small town in central Wisconsin. All my young life, I couldn't wait to graduate from high school and shake the dust of that small town off of my feet and move on to bigger and better things that I was sure I would find out in the world beyond the city limits of Antigo, Wisconsin, population 9,005. I found everything in that town to be oppressive, provinical and parochial. Everyone knew everyone else, and at times I literally felt like I was smothering in that atmosphere.
But now that I've been gone from that small town for 25+ years, I can look back on my childhood years with a certain nostalgia. It was a place where you could ride your bike all over town, and your parents had no reason to worry about you. I had my close friends, and our parents all knew each other.
One of my very best friends called today to let me know that the father of a close mutual friend passed away early this morning. He was a man that everyone in town knew. He owned a restaurant that was undeniably the "social pillar" of Antigo. He was a hard-working man, a veteran of World War II, a Purple Heart recipient, and a father of seven children. He and his wife were two of the nicest people I have ever known.
So, tonight as I tuck my kids into bed and go about my evening routine, my thoughts are with my friend and her family who have lost their father, and my old home town which has lost a wonderful member of the community. I say a silent prayer that they will have the strength to get through this difficult time.
And I want to say farewell to my friend's father. Safe journey Mr. Ourada. I remember your kind words at my father's visitation, and I thank you for that. And thanks for all the good food over the years.