The End of an Era

I grew up surrounded by family on Long Island. My Mom was the youngest of 3 siblings, born from German immigrants. All of my Aunts and Uncles lived at the most 45 minutes away and for most of my life my Grandmother lived in an apartment a mile down the road from my house. My Mom’s (Tacke) family was a HUGE part of my life growing up.

There was always a family gathering in the summer, a pool party or a cookout. I spent holidays growing up with my cousins. Our Christmas Eve parties were idyllic. I cannot even begin to describe how absolutely perfect they were in my eyes as a child. We’d all dress up and eat and sing Christmas Carols. It felt as though my Tacke family could be a Norman Rockwell painting. And maybe it felt so much more normal because my Dad’s side was so dysfunctional. But even if it wasn’t as perfect as I recalled it to be, I’d like to remember it that way.

My Grandmother had an incredibly thick accent, even though she had come to the US when she was 19. She was the matriarch of our family and made of some strong, German stock. My Grandfather had died when my Mom was young, so my grandmother had raised her children on her own. She was a tiny woman, but a force to be reckoned with. That woman took care of her family. She got me off the bus, took care of me when I was sick and home from school and was always dropping off chocolate chip cookies or butter cake. She was always on the move, cooking or cleaning or doing our ironing.

My grandmother doted on my Mom. Now maybe that’s not true, but that’s how I saw it as a kid. Now that I’ve had 4 kids, I do see just how easy it is to coddle the youngest. She sold her house my Grandfather had built to move closer to us. She had a soft spot for my father who called her ‘Mom’ and always spoiled her. She was always over our house or we were dropping by her apartment for a meal. And some other family members were usually around. There was always someone there.

It wasn’t until I lost Benny that I realized how hard it must have been for my Grandmother to watch her baby die. She was more of the strong and silent type, around us kids anyway. But losing your child changes you. My Mom’s death was devastating to our family and in true Tacke style they rallied around us, or at least tried. My Dad didn’t make any of it easy.

My Grandmother lived to be 100. I was pregnant with Darcy and we had just found out it was a girl. Losing her was hard. That woman had been such a huge part of my life. But she had lived her life. I was sad for my loss.

My Uncle Bob tried to help after my Mom died, even though he was going through treatment himself. That man had more wit and humor than anyone else I knew. And always a smile on his face. I remember when he was in Massachusetts and he called me up and took Parker and I out to dinner. We had such a great night together, laughing and catching up. His positive demeanor was infectious.

When Darcy was a toddler, my Uncle’s cancer came back. He had been sick for so long and had fought so hard. Losing him was awful. He was such a huge piece of this family. And my Godfather. It was awful. Our family had already lost so much.

One of my cousins came up to me at Benny’s services and asked me if I thought our family was cursed. Because she too had lost 2 siblings. My cousin Todd died suddenly in 2009 and I had never met my cousin Scotty. He died before I was born. He was a concept to me, probably much like Benny is to my littles.

After Benny died, my Aunt Carol, my Uncle Walter (my Mom’s other brother) and my cousins came up to talk with us. I was the youngest in the family, so Scotty’s death was never discussed with me. I just remember being floored at how open they were to talking with us. I created new bonds with this family over our lost children. I talked to my cousins at length about what it was like for them losing their brothers. They were so incredibly kind and supportive of us in our grieving. They threw us a lifeline that we so desperately needed at that time.

My Mom’s one sister, my Aunt Dorothy (and her husband Bob) took my Mom’s place in my life without hesitation after she died. She took care of my sister and I the best that she could. She flew us down to Florida to visit. She walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. Once I had children she became the surrogate grandmother. She spoiled the crap out of them! She added their pictures to the ‘grandchild picture wall’ at her house. She came to visit us every chance she got. She read every single one of my blogs and would call me if she thought I was struggling. She was my lifeline to my Mom. She saved me in so many ways.

On December 23, both my Uncle Walter and my Aunt Dorothy fell ill. For 2 weeks it’s been a flurry of family messages. Good days and bad days. On Saturday my Uncle passed and today my Aunt passed. In 2 days we lost the remaining Tacke siblings. And I lost another piece of my Mom. And I am devastated.

Everyone in this picture is gone. All of these incredible people. All of my people. In 2 days our family was shattered. I’m reeling. I’m angry. I have to wonder if my cousin is right. Maybe we are cursed. Or just truly unlucky. We have had to endure tragedy after tragedy. I just want to hug my cousins and hold them close.

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Author: sheriroaf

Sheri Roaf is the mother of four wonderful children who turned to blogging after her 17 month old son Bennett passed away unexpectedly. Through her writing she has found a way to help herself and her family move forward in the face of tragedy.

One thought on “The End of an Era”

  1. Oh, my dear, dear friend… my heart is breaking for you under the weight of these new losses. I am so very sorry. But, as I read your words, I realized that these wonderful people had given you the greatest gift in the form of all those precious memories… memories that I know you will use to carry you gently through this difficult time. Please know that you are in my heart…. always!

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