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Two weeks after I decided to leave Austin for New York, my stepfather Richard Zieren was struck with an unexpected seizure and soon diagnosed with a brain tumor. I felt bad for leaving Austin and leaving my mother and an ill Richard. He was a rock of support for my mother and my family, and was part of our family for the better part of the last decade. And, I was conflicted about leaving, and living on the other side of the country. Before I left, he had a biopsy and the results were not optimistic.

For the next few months, the entire family tracked Richard’s condition. I saw him occasionally, in various stages of health. He had slowed down, which I knew was a bad sight. This is a man who was very active into his 60s, even running the New York Marathon just a couple of years ago. The fact that he was in a state of static was depressing, perhaps to himself more than anyone else. There were more doctor visits and more hope. But hope became fleeting. I saw Richard over Thanksgiving weekend, and he appeared to be better. Not cured, but much better. It seemed like things were stable. And, then, after New Year’s Eve, he took a turn for the worse. Since then, it had been a downward spiral. It’s so hard to talk about Richard’s battle with brain cancer as a thing of the past. But, at the very least, it’s a battle he doesn’t have to fight anymore. On Thursday night, Richard died in bed with his three daughters and my mother by his side.

I’m not going to share the intimate details here, but Richard passed away in the best circumstances imaginable. And, this is most definitely the kind of situation where Richard would have wanted everyone who knew him, to have a drink or three, and just remember him with a smile. There will be more memorials in various parts of the country, and I’ve taken a day or two off blogging about anything else. It’s so hard to think about this, it’s so hard to share it, but it’s a big part of what’s going on with me and I wanted to pay tribute to Richard. It’s news that we had been expecting and preparing for, for many months, but it’s still hard. He’s someone that I feel proud to have known, and someone who always supported my life and my career and my family. He was a remarkable, kind, and lovely man. He was compassionate and smart. And, of course, he took good care of my mom. That’s reason enough for an oldest son to love him.

(Richard and his newborn granddaughter, Lizzie, May 2008)

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