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


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.