Saying Goodbye to My Dad
The reason I was off the air last week was that late Friday night May 26, my Father, John Rauner passed away from a 6-week battle with liver cancer. He was 66.
If you didn't know my Dad, I wish you had the opportunity. He was a truly special person. I can say that while separating myself as his son. He was a great man. His first name was John. He was named after my Grandfather. Because there were two Johns in the house, my Dad's nickname was Jack.
Many will tell you that my Dad was complex. And they're not altogether wrong. However, his "complexities" are what made him so awesome. He was a very wise and intelligent guy. He was always full of wisdom, and he was a great listener. My cousin said to me the day after my Dad passed that "Uncle Jack didn't say much, but when he did, people listened." Always analytical, my Dad would often say the reason he listened so much was to "be practical," or "to problem solve." Also, not altogether wrong. But I think the reason he listened so much was that he always felt the need to heal, help and fix the problems of others. Other's needs were put before his own all the time. Bottom line, my Father just wanted his family and friends to be happy.
My Mom told me that of the many reflections and remembrances from others over that past week, one word was a constant - kind. My Dad's sister told me that under the rough exterior, was "a mush." She's right. His generosity was endless. It was also unique. Dad was a lifelong fan of the Yankees. If he met you and you shared that interest, he wouldn't think twice about sharing his baseball card collection or taking you to a game.
Music was a big part of my Dad's life. That's where he and I bonded. He used music to bond with others too. If you were close to my Father, you likely received a mix tape. He made an 8-track mix for my Mom when they started dating, cassettes for co-workers and friends, and CDs for my Grandmother to play at her and my Grandfather's art gallery in Island Heights. Music is a powerful thing. It was my Dad's favorite way of leaving a lasting connection with someone.
Money and material things meant very little to my Dad. Visits and pictures of his nieces and nephews, updates on successes at work and life, and the knowledge that his family was well are what satisfied him and put a smile on his face.
My Dad's career was a big part of his life. Sure, ego and desire to rise to the top fuelled his amazing work ethic, but it was mainly providing for my Mom, my Brother James and me that motivated him. Dad was a hospital executive for 35 years. He ran the operations of Pt. Pleasant Hospital, Brick Hospital, and St. Peter's in New Brunswick. These were incredibly high-stress positions. Imagine being told that you have to go back to school to earn your Masters Degree to keep your job. Hospital administrator during the day, school at night and on the weekends. Not to mention helping to raise a young family at the same time. Not only did my Dad get his degree, but he earned it with flying colors.
Another example of my Dad's kind nature had to do with his last position as Executive Director of Monroe Village, a retirement community in Monroe Township. When he stepped in, things were in bad shape. The residents and staff weren't happy. My Dad strongly believed that just because a person was in a retirement community, whether it be assisted living, a nursing home, or hospice, that they didn't deserve dignity. He sat down with every single resident and got to know them and their interests. He would come to find that many of his residents liked to garden. So he cleared a big stretch of land on the property and made sure every person had an area to enjoy. My Dad would even garden with them. He could have delegated, but he didn't. He wanted to spend time with the residents. Many of the senior citizens had little to no contact with their families. My Dad became like a son to them. He was very close with many and spoke fondly of them often.
My Father provided my family with protection, understanding and unconditional love. That to me is the true measure of a man. My Dad taught me that you can be flawed, but still be successful in all aspects of life. He taught me how important the acceptance of others is. He tried to get me to not take life so seriously. I'm still working on that last one, but I hope he'll guide me in the right direction of my journey.
I have never seen a person more madly in love with another than my Dad to my Mom. Dad would say to me all the time that "your Mother is the best thing that ever happened to me." He thought she was perfect - and she is. They spent 40-years together and were a great team. Man did I throw some "life curveballs" at them. Often times it wasn't easy, but Dad and Mom were ALWAYS there for me.
I was blessed to have a very open relationship with my Dad. Towards the end, there wasn't anything that needed to be said or resolved. I always knew where I stood with him. The last thing he said to me was "I'm so proud of you Mark. I love you, kid."
So, in the end, my Dad wasn't "complex." He liked to collect music and film. He liked listening to a Yankee game while gardening or floating in the pool. He liked to take his camera and find the perfect shot. He liked to camp with my Grandfather in Maine. He liked enjoying a glass of red. Pretty simple if you ask me.
I miss my Dad so much. But, he would want me back doing what I love, and that's playing music and talking to you every day. Thanks for letting me share a piece of my life with you.
Thanks for letting me share a piece of my life with you. Also, thanks to my family, friends and the truly amazing people I work with. I have no words to express my gratitude to you all. You gave me unwavering support during and after my Dad's passing. I'll never forget any of you.
RIP Dad. I love you.