unanswered questions

What would it be like if you were here?  If you never got sick?

Or if you did, but you got better?

What would our life look like?

I find questions like this running through my head almost daily since having Charlie.

What would you think of me as your grandsons’ mom?

I don’t have many memories of you.

Cort and I were in our mid-twenties when we started dating, neither of us living at home.  It’ s not like we had to introduce our parents to our date before we took him/her out for the first time.

And so Cort and I carried on in our courtship with our paths crossing those of our parents only from time to time.

You would think that you and I would have met in the 10 or so years Cort and I were friends before we started dating.  I am sure we met at his graduation open house, but as a 19 year old, I really wasn’t so concerned with the parents of my friends, and since your house wasn’t the “hang out house,” I didn’t ever really meet you and he never really met my parents.

But this is what I remember from meeting you…

Cort had taken me to the marina for some event.  I want to say it was a dock party, but somehow that doesn’t seem right because everyone was up at the club.  And Cort’s mom was there.  It was summer, so really it could have just been a Saturday.  Who knows.

Anyway, I remember Cort introducing me to you, Lynne, and all your friends.  He introduced me as his friend Kate because that is what I was…his friend.  That was it.

You totally gave him shit about me being more than your friend.  You joked with me and I smiled nervously.  I had no idea if that meant you liked me or that you thought I was just some chick with your son.

Later, as Cort and I walked out in the cool evening to his truck, he would tell me you only gave grief to people you really liked.  I was wary.

You had SO many friends.  SO many people liked you. You were definitely the center of the group and when you said something funny, the group roared with laughter.

Time went on, Cort and I officially started dating.  Nine months later we were engaged.

I remember coming to tell you and Lynne about it.  You guys were on the boat and you met us on the dock when we got there.  You walked right past Cort and threw your arms around me.

I remember a few fall/winter Sunday dinners at your house.  You never let me hear the end of it when I said I didn’t like gravy.

Then you got sick.

While you could still go out and about on your own, you came over to “supervise” Cort while he installed our garage door opener.

It’s the only project you ever “worked on” with Cort around our house. My dad has been around helping with many projects since then, but you were there for just that one.

That is not how things are supposed to be.

A garage door opener isn’t supposed to be a sentimental object.

Just before our wedding, you were hospitalized for treatments and tests.  We drove out to visit you.

In all of this time, I never got to sit one on one with you.  I was never able to just talk to YOU.  I never got to know what you were like from YOU without a million others around.  And when you got sick, it was even harder to get you alone.  It just didn’t happen.

So when we saw you in the hospital, it wasn’t surprising that there were others there.  We were a few of the last to leave for the evening though, and as we got ready to leave you said, “Kates.  I want you to know that I am sure glad we get YOU as part of our family.  Love you both!”

I smiled and mumbled, “love you too” back.

I dance with you at Cort and my wedding. You told me I looked lovely and that you were so happy for Cort to have me. I spent a lot of the dance not knowing what to say because there was just so much that could be said. Even though I felt overwhelmed,  I wanted it to last forever, but without everyone staring at us and snapping pictures.  It felt like the paparazzi was on us, and in the next months EVERYONE would offer me the pictures they took of that dance.

It’s the only picture I have with you.

Less than two months after our wedding, Cort and I came to sit with you so Lynne could get out of the house for a bit for dinner.

Things had gotten pretty bad.  Tumors were pushing on your brain now, so you spent less and less time lucidly “with us”.  You would get confused and it reminded me a lot of how my Grandma was with her Alzheimer’s.  Most of that evening you spent “out of it,” at one point even trying to head out to the boat to see everyone.

We stayed late, lingering because we were finally alone with you.

When we went to leave, you had not said much other than mumbles for hours, but when Cort hugged you, you sat up straight and your eyes suddenly focused.  You were completely there and you said, “I LOVE YOU.” to both of us.  Very seriously.  So we would be sure to know.

We couldn’t squeeze you because every inch of your body ached, but we both gently wrapped our arms around you and said right into your eye, “I love you too, Pops.”

You died three days later.

I believe you know your grandsons.  I believe you play with your two grandkids who never made it to birth.

But I just don’t know what life would be like WITH YOU HERE.

Cort tells me things you would like, or things you might say.

MacKenzie tells me about how you would probably act.

Cody talks about they way you would laugh or walk.

Liz tells me about your hugs and your jokes.

But I don’t know.

I didn’t get to know you.

I was so close.  SO DAMN CLOSE to knowing you.

And then…you were gone.

What do you think when you see me being a wife to your son?

What do you think when you see me mother your grandsons?

Am I a good sister-in-law to your daughter and youngest son?

Do you think I would make a good daughter-in-law to you?

We know all the stuff about seeing you again some day and we believe it.

But it’s hard.

Because we miss you now.

the only picture I have of me and my father-in-law

In loving memory of Steven K “Slippery” Sluiter

Born August 9, 1956

Died August 14, 2005


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. Oh, Katie…I am sorry for what you missed.

    But grateful for what you had. My husband’s grandfather died not long after I met him, and way too young. And I will never ever forget how genuine he was with me, a shy sixteen-year-old…like I was already part of the family.
    Like you were.


  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s heartbreaking to think about what your family has missed out on. This is a beautiful tribute to your father in law.

  3. I’m so sorry for all the unanswered questions, and your loss. This is such a beautiful tribute to him.

  4. He would think all those things. He knew you were a good one because you would handle his shit, you were/are good to me, and I know that he loved you dearly, even if only for the short time that he was around when you joined the family.

    I know my saying so, or anyone else’s doesn’t hold as much weight as hearing it straight from him…

    I miss him too… and I have a lot of the same questions that will go unanswered.

    Love. You.

  5. How very lovely.

  6. I think about this kind of thing a lot too. My father-in-law died before I ever met him – the same year I met my husband in high school actually. I often wonder what he would have thought of things in our lives, and I know my husband does even more. And then two years ago my mother-in-law died. I was very close to her and think of her quite often – but I love the fact that we talk about both of them regularly with each other and with our kids. Even something as simple as seeing a gardenia and pointing it out and saying how much Jo-Jo loved those or telling the story behind the clock on our wall that my father-in-law had made way back when. Memories keep them alive for us. I’m sorry for your loss.

  7. Just here. Hugs.

  8. Beautifully written, Katie.

    I, often, think about my father’s father, and my wife’s mother’s mother, and my wife’s father’s father. Because, well, in my grandfather’s case, he was a bigger influence on my life than my own father. And with my wife’s grandparents . . . well, I never hear the end of just how wonderful they were. As it stands, when we started dating, we had one grandparent between us.

    Your boys need lots & lots & lots of stories about Cort’s dad. Lots of them. Because, as you well know, he’d have loved them hard.

    Lastly, though, I had to do a doubletake seeing you as a blonde bride . . . you look great, but, damn, you’ve always been a brunette in my mind. And, despite you saying that you were blonde, I just couldn’t adjust.

  9. Loss is so hard. Loretta, Jeff’s mom, died 3 years ago and I miss her fiercely.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss, both what was shared and what could have been shared. I don’t have much to offer, except you are a wonderful mother, wife, friend, and person. Those things make him proud. xo

  11. Katie,

    this made me think about all of my in-laws…I haven’t lose my FIL yet, but my husband’s grandparents have all died, and I ask myself these questions a lot, even though it’s not exactly the same. Dan’s maternal grandparents were very kind to me, and even called me their own granddaughter (they never had one—only all boys!). They were often more grandparents to me than my OWN grandparents were….

    Thinking of you & sending hugs.

  12. Weepy tears as I read this. Lovely, perplexing, and…just lovely. Hugs! 🙂

  13. Tears in my eyes while reading this. My husband’s father committed suicide ten years ago this September. I never met him and he will never meet his granddaughter. I completely understand your questions – I asked my husband the same thing last night……do you think your dad would like me? There’s so much to mourn – loss of a father, a father-in-law, a grandfather and all the relationships involved. Sigh. You put into words what I can’t share on my own blog – it’s not my tragic story to tell so I just write around it. :/

  14. Tears in my eyes as I read this. Thinking of you all today and sending you hugs and love.

    I often wonder what my grandma would think about Brian if she were here today. He’s her first great-grandchild.

  15. This is so sweet and sad at the same time. My husband’s grandfather passed away just before we met. My son is named after him and I often wonder what life would be like if he was still alive. Grandma and my hubby tell so many stories and it makes you wistful.

  16. What a beautiful tribute to your late father-in-law. I’m sure he’s gotten to know you while watching you raise his beautiful grandsons from his view in Heaven.

    My mom died 10 days before our son, her first grandchild was born. We talk a lot about Grandma Kathy, and how she watches over us.


  17. How heartbreaking, to have him taken so soon. I wish you’d had the chance to really know him, but I bet he knows you pretty darn well – and I bet he’s proud of you as a wife to his son and mother to his grandsons.

  18. Oh chills. We lost my mother-in-law to cancer before she ever met her grandchildren and I feel the same. I never got to know her or what kind of grandmother she would have been. After we lost Hadley it brought me so much comfort to know that she was already there waiting for her and she has a grandchild up there to take care of for us.

  19. Oh you.

    And here I am with tears once again.

    I have asked myself those questions more than once.

    I wonder what my dad would think of my daughter.

    I wonder what he thinks of the choices I’ve made in my life.

    I wonder if he’s proud of me.

    I am sorry for the loss your family has had.

    And I am sorry for all of the unanswered questions.

    Love and hugs to you.

  20. Reading this just opened a whole can of worms for me. My grandfathers were both gone before I was a twinkle in an eye. My paternal memaw hated me swearing I was not my dad’s and my maternal memaw died when I was 15. My father died 5 years ago, while he lived to see my kids , he didn’t live to see my grandkids, but saw my sisters. My mom passed last year. I am about to be a grandmother. There I admitted it. I am TERRIFIED. I never thought I would have a grandchild of my own without my mom being here. Reading this has just opened up all of that for me. How can I , who is such a die hard fan of keeping family together and making memories, be the one who seems to lose the most when someone passes?? I completely understand this. I will even share my coffee and my tissues with you.

  21. Im sorry my friends. This hurts my heart because you know it’s close to home. The sadness of missing out on our babies. That’s one that hurts the most. The wondering who I’d be if she was here. How things would be different.

    I was thinking of y’all today. And no. It never gets easier. You just breathe more in between the sad.

  22. Oh the what if’s can make you crazy. It’s hard not to let your mind go there, isn’t it?

    I love this picture and I am so happy that you have it.

    May your FIL RIP.