Commentary: Remembering a mom who meant so much to so manyBy DAVE O'SULLIVAN
When I first launched Glory Days Magazine, in the spring of 2013, I had an idea for an occasional feature called “Momversation.” The idea was for me to stop by the house of a high school athlete and interview his or her mother, get her take on her son’s or daughter’s high school athletic career. And, of course, I would give said high school athlete the chance to refute any embarrassing stories their mother might disclose during the course of a half hour conversation. I’d also take a nice feature photo to go along with the story.
I wanted those features to be a keepsake for the mom, obviously, but I also hoped that in doing these kinds of interviews I would help high school athletes gain a little more appreciation for the devotion their mother had to them, both on and off the fields of play. In a way, these “Momversations” have become sort of a way for me to pay tribute to my own mother, Noreen. She passed away in 1995 at the young age of 58, and I don’t know that with me being just 23 years old at the time I was able to fully appreciate all that she had done for me in my life.
After her passing, I began to reflect more on all those days at baseball fields she spent, some of them in freezing conditions, others under a blazing hot sun. All the while, never complaining, always cheering me on, and always staying to the end. Dad, of course, is the tough love guy, giving a son advice on what he could have done better in certain situations on the diamond. Mom, well, she always had an encouraging word, even if we lost and I went 0-for-4. “You played hard” or “you had good at-bats even though you didn’t get on base” or “you made some nice plays on defense.”
Whether or not high school athletes ever say so — and I rarely did, much to my regret now — they rely on that constant support of a mother. On your worst day athletically, you know when you get home at night mom is still your biggest fan.
Kristi Rohrer was just a sophomore when I began following her high school lacrosse and soccer careers in the spring of 2013. It was easy to tell that as she got older she was going to be one of the best players on her team. Her mother, Antoinette, was always there at her games cheering her on. I didn’t know it when I first met her, but Antoinette was battling breast cancer. She never complained about it, never allowed Kristi to use her fight against the deadly disease as an excuse to slip up in school or miss a practice or game. She demanded that Kristi and her son, Kirk, always give their best no matter what the situation outside of the sport or school was.
In the spring of 2014, when Kristi was a junior at Ocean City High School, I contacted Antoinette — who by that time had become one of Glory Days Magazine’s biggest fans on Facebook — and told her I was interested in doing a “Momversation” piece about her. She said sure, and invited me to the Rohrer home in Upper Township. She talked candidly about battling cancer, the good days and the bad. It was clear to me that her mom’s condition was having an emotional effect on Kristi, even though she didn’t show it then.
And I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Antoinette to talk about a disease she knew had the potential to take her life much sooner than she ever would have thought. I was impressed by her courage to tell her story, and all the while the underlying theme of the conversation was just how proud Antoinette was of Kristi and Kirk. They were the reason she was fighting so hard, going through chemotherapy, dealing with the pain and discomfort while still maintaining a smile.
I recently heard from a friend of mine, Barb DiNardo — who is heavily involved in Ocean City athletics as one of the people who organizes the alumni homecoming gathering each year — that Antoinette had lost her battle with cancer and had passed away. Although I didn’t know her well, Antoinette and I did share a connection of sorts that wouldn’t have been possible without high school sports. One of the great pleasures I’ve had since starting Glory Days is the chance to meet and get to know parents of high school athletes, and you’d have to travel far and wide to find one better than Antoinette Rohrer. I know there are other parents, and students, who are battling cancer, some of whom I haven’t met yet. And I commend their courage in dealing with such a difficult situation.
I guess the death of Antoinette hit me hard because I had grown so used to seeing her face around the ball fields so often, and her strength reminded me of my own mother and how she raised eight children in oftentimes difficult financial circumstances. Like my own mother, Antoinette never complained and brought a lot of joy to everyone she met. There are certain people you meet who just put you in a good mood when you see their face, and Antoinette certainly had that quality, as do so many of the moms I come across when covering high school athletics.
I know words can only do so much for Antoinette’s husband and her children at a time like this, but I can humbly offer these: while Antoinette may have lost her battle with cancer, we all have gained so much from her touching our lives in some way. There are many losses we all must endure, but in the game of life, Antoinette Rohrer was a winner.
According to the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, “That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.” Rest in peace, Antoinette Rohrer, for you have lived well.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays