Monday, January 23, 2012

The passing of my father, Donald Rauschenberg

I thought trying to find the words to describe a challenging race or a hard-fought victory was tough.  I was wrong. Trying to encapsulate how you feel when your own father dies makes everything else seem like a walk in the park.


I do not often go into details of my private life in public, and will hardly open the vault in this post (you can, however, see my father’s obituary by clicking here). But after a simple posting on facebook about my father had me flooded with condolences I wanted to at least take the time to thank those who spent a few seconds of their day wishing me and my family well.

Even my closest friends knew very little about my father.  He was a quiet man who kept to himself for the most part. Having been physically crippled by a hunting accident, a series of post-accident surgeries, infections and his personal bad judgment, I only knew my father one way my entire life- fairly immobile. Yet this did not keep him from attending just about every event I participated in, if at all possible. I never so much as played catch with my father but there was no sport that I took on that he did not fully support my participation in. Yet, there were times when he could have been a better father or husband. He was far from perfect. Then again, so am I.

About four years ago I was participating in a race on a very unique day. This race put me at the exact age (just a few days off) from the age when my father was shot. From that point on, I would have had the full use of my legs longer than he ever had in his life. During this race, my father back in my hometown, went to the hospital. What we would later learn was the beginning of a slide into Alzeheimer’s took roost.  Given the nature of my race (a 24 hour event where runners simply tried to run as far as they could on a 2 mile loop) I had the ability to take phone calls while I walked certain portions. When I called my father and spoke to him, it was clear he was quite confused.  He was absolutely convinced he was still at home even though he was obviously hooked up to machines in a hospital. I had known my father as a diabetic crippled man my entire life, but this was the first time that shield of invincibility finally cracked around his mind.


The race itself was hard on me and each time I spoke to my father (which I did every few hours) I was beginning to realize things would never be the same. Not long thereafter, I pulled out of the race. I blamed heat and fatigue. In reality I knew it was at least partially because I had beaten myself up mentally over seeing Superman fall.

Over the next few years, as long as my father was home, while his memory itself was slipping, he was rather lucid. This changed a little over a year ago. Sparing the details, suffice it to say both his mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly. We began preparing for what seemed inevitable. Always a stubborn SOB, my father rallied on numerous occasions until finally my mother called me to tell me that I needed to say goodbye to him. If you think an 18 mile training run is hard, try saying goodbye to the man who helped make you who you are, over the phone, when he cannot respond.

I lost my Dad on Friday around 9 AM EST. He was 68 years old. If you can, please do me a favor and call your own father and tell him how much he means to you today.

17 comments:

Cheri Fiorucci said...

Dane, this resonated with me incredibly. Remembering the day I too saw mortality in my father is one that is jarring and heartbreaking; it is Reality's sucker punch. There are no words I can send you to ease the pain. Just know that I am sending you hugs and love from across the miles.

amy said...

Thank you so much for sharing about your personal experience. I too lost my dad to cancer in 2009, after a one month battle with cancer. You are an amazing person Dane.

Ron T. said...

You articulated this very well Dane and your father is surely proud. Take care.

Daren Williams said...

Thanks for sharing, Dane. Calling my dad now.

Leslie Williams said...

Dane, I'm so sorry for your family's loss. I think your post is a wonderful tribute to your dad. I was blessed to be able to say goodbye in person to my dad when he slipped away from us a year and a half ago. I pray God's blessing, comfort and peace for you. Leslie Williams

Michelle Bates said...

Thanks for sharing Dane. Well said. Calling my dad right now. Mine too is a stubborn SOB but love the man regardless.

Unknown said...

Dearest Dane, I am so very sorry for your loss. Your words are beautiful, a tribute that is deeply touching. A couple of months ago you encouraged my spirit and told me my mother would have been proud of me, and now I give that same comfort back to you and say that that your father is proud of you. I know it hurts, please take good care of your heart and know that you have so many along your path sending love and prayers in honor of you and your family.

MorganGeo said...

Thanks for sharing Dane. I have not lost a parent yet, but can only imagine the pain I will feel when it does happen. I hope you and your family can get some rest and peace in the time to come. Stay strong and always remember the great memories you shared and he will always be with you.

Juliann said...

Dane, I am incredibly touched by this tribute to your father. I hope you and your family can feel a portion of peace and comfort during this difficult time. And I will take your advice and call my dad. Today. Much love to all of you.

Machelle Poole said...

Your post does show what your father means to you. I'm certain you mean the world to him also and now he is watching you from above, free of pain and with a clear mind. Hugs to you and your family Dane.

Emily Pacheco said...

Hi Dane, thank you for shearing Your personal experience. I too lost my Mother when I was just 15 years old and I know exactly what your going thru. Am really sorry for the lost of your Daddy, but he is know in a better place. R.I.P Mr. Rauschenberg.
Sending you this msgs from MIAMI with love and with tears in my eyes. XOXO Emily

Kirk said...

Thank you for the reminder.. I am sorry for your loss.

Clay said...

Thanks for sharing, Dane! Nice tribute. Your words resonate with me so much and are also helpful as I am dealing with this kind of grief after losing my mother 3 weeks ago. She was 68 just as your dad was. They may be gone but their impressions on us and our love for them will never fade!

Clay

foleylee said...

Very sad to hear about your loss.

Tess said...

I have found there is nothing to compare to losing a parent. Whether sudden or if you are prepared, this person knew you as no other did. I'm so sorry for the loss of your dad. I pray for peace and strength for your family.

Francisco Javier Aranda said...

Francisco Aranda
Dane, it is hard going through this, but remember all the good moments you and your father lived together. They will never go away. Life is not fair. I am 68, almost 69, and that is the age your father had. Keep up your running and I consider myself honored to be your friend(marathoner).

Michelle Goslin said...

Dane, I too just lost my father on December 30th. It was a very hard and mind breaking last 24 hours. I hated saying my goodbyes also to the great man that made me. Leukemia took his life at 64 and now I am running with TNT Delaware for the LLS. So happy and proud to be doing something about this disease. I just wanted you to know that I know EXACTLY what you are going through. My prayers are with you and I know we will be stronger people for this. Michelle