Love & A Few Tears

Over the years of jabbering on about house stuff I occasionally get questions about my family. How many siblings I have, how I grew up, etc. I always say it was a somewhat un-traditional childhood… in the best possible way. I was raised by my mom and dad, who split up when I was very young (a few years after my younger brother Daniel was born) so we just had two houses and bounced happily between them.

I remember when a kid at school once teased me for having divorced parents and I put the “I have two houses and you only have one and I get double the holiday presents” spin on it. Looking back, it was a moment of pure genius. Haha. No more teasing.

I also grew up with my half brother Adam, who was born after my dad married my step mom Nina a while later (he was 11 years younger than me). You might remember him from his cameo in the most embarrassing moment ever caught on film when I was 17.

But I always say I’m the oldest of five – and the only girl. So where do the other two fit in? Well, my Aunt Kay Kay (as we lovingly call my mom’s sister) and her two sons named David and Darius actually moved in with us when my brother and I were very young (my brother was 3 and I was 6). My mom is one of seven children, and while many of my aunts and uncles lived closer, Aunt Kay Kay and her kids used to live in Maryland, so we didn’t get to see our cousins very often, who were 2 and 4 at the time when they moved in… which was just one of about a million reasons we were SO excited for them to move in with us.

My aunt had been diagnosed with a craptastic disease called Multiple Sclerosis, so raising all four of us under one roof with my mom was a way that my mom could lend a hand to my aunt and also a way that my aunt could help us. My mom’s an attorney, and back in those days she was working her buns off to make partner at her firm, so she often got home late. So it was great to come home to my aunt after school, and on most nights she cooked us dinner and helped us with our homework. It was kind of a crazy house with four kids so close in age (four kids born within five years), but growing up with them honestly made me who I am today. Here’s my Aunt Kay Kay with me and my cousin David in the pool when we were little. Isn’t she beautiful?

My aunt was always laughing. She was “the nice one” while I, being the oldest of all the boys, proudly wore my title as “the bossy one.” My brother was “the smart one,”  my cousin Darius was “the funny one,” my cousin David was “the crazy one,” and my mom was “the strict one.” So you can guess that when it came down to asking an adult if we could do something… well, we’d usually ask my aunt before my mom.

It was an odd little madhouse, but it was our madhouse and we loved it. So when people ask me how many siblings I have, I usually just say that I’m the oldest of five, and the only girl. But for those who have time for more details, I explain that my total includes one brother, one half brother, and two cousins who grew up under one roof with us like they were our brothers. We had all sorts of adventures over the years – from building forts in the woods to epic sock fights (don’t ask) and karate tournaments in New York City (that’s Darius on the left, me next to him, Daniel second from the right, and David on the right). We kicked some booty that day.

My aunt battled with her multiple sclerosis like a champ. Always smiling and making jokes. Always working hard to stay mobile. First she walked with a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair, and for the last ten years or so she has been bedridden. Didn’t stop her from smiling (most notably when we stuck Burger or Clara in her bed – that always made her giggle). Strongest, bravest and sweetest woman I know.

Yesterday she passed away. It was a very very sad day. So although this might sound like a bummer of a post, I wrote it because I always wanted to remember how amazing and life-changing it was to grow up with such an awesome lady in my life. And I want Clara to be able to read about her Great Aunt Kay Kay someday. She could light up a room then, and thinking about her now brings a smile to my face. Just picturing us all gathered around the breakfast table fills me with nostalgia.

We’ll be back this afternoon with some regular DIY-related fare. In the meantime, feel free to tell/call/text/email/skype the ones you love. Family is such a blessing. And I’m so thankful for the one I got.

Comments

  1. Kate says

    Sherry, that is LOVELY post. The people we love never really leave us as they live on in our hearts and our memories. I hope it gives you strength to remember that a sunset on Earth is a sunrise in Heaven.

  2. Steph says

    So sorry for your loss, Sherry. You and your family are in my thoughts. Your aunt sounds like she was a wonderful woman and an inspiration. I hope your memories of her will help guide you in this difficult time. xo

  3. Theresa says

    Condolences to you and your family. I too was blessed with a terrific Aunt who made my life so much richer. Her relationship with my mother helped mold the sister relationship I now have with my two sisters. Family is what makes life worth living. Hugs, Theresa

  4. says

    Sherry, that was a gorgeous post and I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss. She sounds like an incredible woman and you’ve done her memory justice by preserving it here. She certainly was beautiful and you look a lot like her in the photos you showed. Thank you for sharing that.

  5. Kate says

    So very sorry for your loss…thinking about the amazing women that have come and gone in my life and feeling, like you, so very thankful.

  6. Desiree says

    I’m so sorry for your loss Sherry. It sounds like even back then you knew how to make the best of every situation you found yourself in!

    Hugging all my fam extra close the next time I see them!

  7. says

    Sherry, thank you so much for sharing. What a lovely post. My parents were divorced and I told my friends the exact same thing as you. Your aunt sounds like a wonderful woman and she, along with your mum and dad, obviously did a great job of raising you. I’m so happy she got to meet Clara and see you settled and happy with John.
    My mum has been battling cancer this year. It’s been tough but such a reminder to make sure those you love know how much you love them because you never know what’s going to happen.

  8. emily says

    What a beautiful post to honor Aunt Kay Kay. She sounded like a wonderful woman and my thoughts are with you, your mom, your brothers, and the rest of your family at this difficult time. She will never be forgotten and her beauty and humor will live on in you, Clara, and your mom.