he was there

In the time since I started dating Cortney eight years ago, I have only had one Christmas with his dad.

The first year we were together, Cort and I had only been dating a few months, so we decided not to try to cram family Christmases on each other.  I didn’t go to either of his parents’ houses and he didn’t come to mine.  It’s not like we didn’t know each other’s parents.  We were 25 years old, dating for 3 months, but we had known each other for most of our lives.  We just decided not to make things crazy at Christmas that year.

The following year we were engaged.  We did the Big Christmas Run Around.  We did all the parents and all the grandparents and it was hectic, but fun.  I was glad I was about to join such a loving, awesome family.

It was the only Christmas I ever had with Cort’s dad.

And I just realized that I can’t remember it.

Well not much of it.

I have no idea what we had to eat, but I am sure Cort’s stepmom, Lynne, had crab dip and shrimp cocktail.

I do know that I brought cream puffs because they were Steve’s favorite.

I don’t remember the gifts.

I do remember all of us kids cramming onto the couch in the basement in front of the fireplace until Steve decided it was time to shoot pool.

I don’t remember all the funny things that were said or even if my sister-in-law, MacKenzie had a boyfriend at the time.

I do know she wasn’t dating her husband yet, though.

What I remember are the laughs and the joking and how my father-in-law-to-be made me feel like part of the family in a way no one had yet.

And looking back, he was less than a month from finding out he was sick.

He had no idea he wouldn’t see another Christmas.

Every Christmas since then, we have all gotten together with Lynne.

Tonight, we hosted the get together.

As I looked around I saw Steve’s three children.  All married and extremely happy.  All joking and teasing each other and laughing.

I saw three of his grandsons and felt the fourth kicking around on the inside.

I saw us embracing his wife and loving her and keeping her a part of the family.

And I felt him there.

His oldest son giving his only daughter parenting advice.  His youngest son making his oldest grandson giggle.  His daughter fitting the role of “momma” so well to his new grandsons.

There was warmth.

There was a feeling of family.

Because he was there.


About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. TheNextMartha says

    Awe. Beautiful.

  2. Beautiful post. He must’ve been really special to you. He does sound like an amazing man who raised amazing kids.

  3. So sweet and tender. I need a tissue. Bless you and your family this Christmas.

  4. Great post, one that so clearly illustrates what’s important during this season.

  5. Reading this makes me realize that I should really taken in each moment… b/c we never know what the next day will bring.

  6. Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments says

    Sounds to me like you remember all the important things. And yes – he was definitely there.

  7. What a wonderful celebration of a life and of family. It’s the moments, the emotions that you remember. Who cares what you ate, got as a present…but the time you spent with your family. You never know what will happen tomorrow, so embrace today and enjoy the moment. He was there – and he’ll always be there…even when Charlie is born!

  8. Heather Von St James says

    Way to make me cry in the middle of the salon!!! This is so beautiful :). He IS with you.. I also lost my father in law right after we were married.. I will never forget his first words to me upon meeting me the first time.. He looked at me, smiled and said ” Well hellooooo Mama!!'” I about fell over…
    Thanks for helping ME remember a great man too..

  9. Awww….so beautiful.
    Spending Christmas without loved ones is so bittersweet. You remember all the good memories with them which make your heart happy, yet you miss them painfully.

  10. This is absolutely beautiful, Katie . . . you’re right, he was there.

    I think about my grandfather whenever people are over my house & we start singing Christmas carols . . . it’s when I know he’s paying attention to me.

  11. In a world full of people who dread spending holidays with their own families (let alone their in-laws) you write this.

    About a man whom you respect, a man whose love and legacy lives on; you write of the joy you all take in each other and the influence your father-in-law still has on every one of you…even Charlie.

    How fitting that Charlie is on his way this Christmas; already a part of the family, living through you.
    And at the same time, Steve is still there this Christmas; forever a part of the family, living through you.

    What a beautiful tribute; what a beautiful family.

    Much love to you all this holiday.
    And always.