2013-08-11 12.36.54

Eight years and 3 months ago Cortney and I sat in these chairs for the first time. They were wedding shower gifts from someone. A couple’s wedding shower. I don’t want to tell that story (or maybe ever because it’s sort of embarrassing), but Cort’s dad had a lot to do with that shower since it was held at the marina where Cort’s dad and stepdad slipped their boat and it was all the boating people Cortney had grown up with plus both of our families and our wedding party.

We still have these chairs eight years later.

I’ve sat in them numerous times, but this summer I have found myself in one or the other almost daily. They are on the back patio and they are the perfect chair to lean back and read or watch the boys play in the backyard. It has quickly become my favorite spot.

At one point this summer I put my book down, breathed in deeply, and thought about my father-in-law.

I didn’t know him long, but whenever I went with Cortney to the marina to visit with him and his stepmom (they were there in all of their free time), he was sitting in a chair just like mine under a specific tree by the docks.

The first time we ever sat in these chairs.

The first time we ever sat in these chairs.

I have thought of him often this summer as I plant myself in my chair.

Each time the wind blows, I close my eyes and try to feel his presence. I look at my children–his grandchildren–and I try to imagine what he would be like with my kids. How would he laugh as Charlie runs at full speed with his curls flopping around behind him? How would he play with Eddie?

And I don’t know.

I can’t remember.

I try so hard to squeeze my eyes shut and imagine his face…but it’s fading.  We have his picture out, yes, but it’s hard for me to actually remember him from my own mental photo albums. I remember seeing him when Cort and I were dating. I remember telling him about our engagement. I remember all the times we were along for doctor visits. I remember the events before he physically changed from himself into The Cancer Patient.

But I don’t remember him.

Before I knew him, with Cort's stepmom

Before I knew him, with Cort’s stepmom

I stare into the eyes of those photos we have living in our computers.

I see Cortney and his brother Cody and their Grandma Sluiter the most in those eyes and cheeks and chin and nose and smile.

When I look from this photo to one of my boys my eyes burn, and my heart hardens.

Why do I have to search for similarities and guess at their relationship with each other?  Why will I never ever get to see them together?  Why can’t I remember his laugh, damnit?

The only picture we have of us with ALL our parents

The only picture we have of us with ALL our parents

Already he was slipping away in that photo. He is so small and not the same man in the physical sense. By that time, I had already started to forget what he was like before Cancer.

And it had only been four months since his diagnosis.

He was always in his chair after that and surrounded by friends and family. He was never ever alone.

This meant as a newbie to the family I never ever spent one on one time with my father-in-law. But I knew he was a great man who everyone loved.

always the goof.

always the goof.

I never knew him in the normal, every day way.

I can’t remember anything other than moments that were touched and tainted and special and beautiful because we knew he wouldn’t be around for more of those moments. But they were not private moments. At least not many of them.

There were always other people around.

Cortney says his dad could tell a great story.

I don’t know.

Cortney says his dad was a good listener.

I don’t know.

Cortney gets tears in his eyes and talks about how much his dad would love to be a Papa.

I. Don’t. Know.

Laying Cort's dad to rest in his favorite place.

Laying Cort’s dad to rest in his favorite place.

Lots of people see my last name and ask me if I am related to him. I proudly say he was my father-in-law.

People often smile and simply say, “he was a really, really great man.”

I nod. I know.

But I don’t know.

I miss him.

Not because I knew him, but because I didn’t.

And hell yes, I am bitter about that because I should have known him.

He died two months after Cortney and I were married, eight years ago today.

It doesn’t get easier to have him gone. The weight still presses on my chest thinking about “never” and “forever”.

But just in case “never” and “forever” don’t mean what I think they do, I have a seat saved for him in the backyard to watch his grandsons laugh and play.

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. This.. just beautiful. I am now a grandmother and my mom was gone before he was born. I know what she was like with the other great grandbabies but I don’t know what she would have been like with mine. It is a painful place to find yourself when you think of all the things you missed out on that it seems everyone else got to know about. Here is what I have believed all along. Cort’s Dad held your children long before you did. He helped pick them, and said these are the ones. He rocked them to sleep, told them the stories of Cort’s childhood as he spent time with them before sending them to you. He told Charlie that it would be shaky for you at first but your love for him would be the thing you needed to save yourself. He told Bird that he would be your chance for what you saw as redemption, armed with the knowledge now and the ability to say I am not Superwoman, but he knew that in reality you were. You were strong enough with love for his son that you stayed through a rough family time. You loved their daddy so fiercely you became his anchor in the storm of cancer and loss and everything most people ran from. He told them you were much stronger than you would ever realize or know, but he knew. Then he kissed those sweet spots on their neck, at the base of their hair. The ones that got red when they got mad as babies and time and life have made fade as they have grown. They will look at you one day and just smile and you won’t have a clue why. It will be for that moment of time, heaven opened up their memory banks and they will feel the overwhelming love of their papaw once more and his love for you because of the strength and love you have given his son. They know him. You know him. Pain sometimes camos the truth because the truth is so painful. The little quirks are the things the ONLY way they could know it is to have seem him. Be it the way they hold their head or like a certain food. He is there in the small moments darling. Believe that..

    • Oh friend. I am so glad you somehow some way found your way to my blog. My space. These words are exactly EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I have tears running down my face. Thank you. I don’t know how to really tell you what this means to me today. xxoo

      • Then it did what I meant it to do.. I don’t come by here often enough but with school starting I am hoping to have time again. So just so ya know you didn’t cry alone.. your comment back made me all weepy eyed.. see no one cries alone in my presence..

  2. Kelsey Posma says

    thinking of you guys today. what a beautiful post, you are a great writer, Kate. Cort sure looks like his dad, wow! Eddie and Charlie will be forever grateful that you have documented their grandfather so well. You are amazing, my friend. <3

  3. This is kind of trite to say (without meaning it to be), but you’re a good daughter-in-law to care so much when you had so little to go on.

  4. I’m so so sorry for the loss of a man who was so special to many. No doubt he would have loved being a Papa. It sucks that you can only imagine. He lives on through your boys. I’m so sorry Katie. Hugs to you on this day.

  5. I know this loss pains you very much, because as you so eloquently put it, you miss him because you didn’t get the chance to know him. I’m so very sorry. I hope that things get easier over the years.

  6. Oh Katie, made me tear up with this. I have similar feelings about my grandma… we were really, really close when I grew up and my older two were able to meet her but my youngest only knew her through Skype… we thought, we would have plenty of time to make another trip across the pond. But it wasn’t to be. She died very unexpectedly of a heart attack and even now, years later I often sit and ponder and wonder… I miss her so terribly.

  7. Katie, this is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. I’m sad for you and your kids. (hugs)

  8. “In case never and forever don’t mean what I think they do…”
    SO beautiful. You’ve captured feeling honored and cheated at the same time in your words here.
    I’m sure he was a remarkable man.

  9. This is so beautiful! It was really hard for me that my husband and kids never got to know my mom. And now, everyone we meet will only know “of” our son, Jack, but not really know him. So hard. xoxo

  10. This is beautiful. I love that something you use every day reminds you of him.

  11. He sounds like a wonderful man. I so wish you had more time with him and had known him cancer free.

  12. I knew from the way you shared this that I had to wait for the rough morning to pass before reading this. The tears are flowing for you, for Cort and his dad. This was a truly beautiful tribute. He is forever with you in the hearts of those who loved him.

  13. Oh sweet Kate. My heart hurts for your family. I wish I knew the right words to say to make you feel better but those words just aren’t there. This was really such a beautiful tribute to him and I am sure he is smiling down on you right now.

  14. It’s heartbreaking that he doesn’t get to watch his grandchildren grow up. That you never got to have that relationship with him. I’m so sorry for your loss, for Cortney’s loss. I know that even eight years later, the hole in your life doesn’t get any smaller.

  15. I am at work. Caring. In a public area. How sad that you didn’t get to know him.Really, really know him. I also wonder if that is how my husband feels about my dad. My husband met him once in the parking lot of a McDonald’s so all he knows are my stories.

    I am sure your FIL is looking down on you and is proud to call you his daughter.

  16. I’m glad you got to know him a little but. Christian’s family often tells me how much his sister Rachel and I would have gotten along. In a weird way I miss her too. Miss having never known her.

  17. Oh, Kate. I’m not even sure I can actually leave something coherent here because I’m crying. The first of many cries post-funeral, I’m sure.

    It’s not fair. Whether you see it coming or don’t. It isn’t fair.

    This is beautiful and haunting and perfect.

  18. What a touching and heart breaking post. Sending you and your entire family so much love. The anniversaries, the marking of time just sucks.

    You know I get this.


  19. I am so sorry that you didn’t get to know him like a daughter in law should. I’m sad the boys are missing time they should have had with grandpa. It’s not fair and it’s heartbreaking. You wrote about this perfectly.

  20. Grief never, ever fades.

  21. I am touched by your love for your husband’s father, even if you only knew him a few months. He sounds like a great man, and he has a great legacy.