The Blackest Friday

It was important that this day be as normal as possible.  Remember that.  Normalcy was important to me.

Black Friday of 2007 started out normal and I was ever thankful for that.  My mom and I did our shopping and we had a good time.  I didn’t bring it up the entire time we were out.  Not during our first few shops.  Not over coffee.  Not while when we walked past the baby stuff.

When I got home with all my packages, I intended to decorate the house with Christmas and wrap all of my newly bought gifts.  Just like any other year.

But this is when my “normal” was shattered.

While I was out, Cort had made plans for us with our friends (who, by the way, are usually only in state once–maybe twice–a year).  This wouldn’t be a big deal to me if those plans had fallen into the customary time period after my decorating and wrapping frenzy, but the plans called for us to be ready to go in less than 2 hours and I hadn’t even showered yet.

I know.  Big deal, right?

My world fell apart.

I was immediately angry at Cortney for messing up my “tradition”.  Inconsolably so.

“Just decorate tomorrow,” he offered.

“THAT IS NOT THE POINT!” I told him. “TODAY is when I wrap and then decorate all to the sounds of Bing Crosby.  Why can you not respect this?  Why would you make PLANS for us during this?  Do you not know me at ALL?”

He was speechless.  He even offered to cancel the plans.  But I wouldn’t let him do that.

“how would that look?” I questioned him.  “what would they think?”

So I begrudgingly showered and got all ready.

And went out to eat and to have beers.

And acted normal.

But ignored Cortney. I mean, how could he be so thoughtless?

The rage built.

After dinner we all headed over to our friends’ house where we could sit around and visit and share some wine and snacks.

I continued to ignore  my husband.

It got so bad that nearing the end of the night he came to the chair that I was actively ignoring him from and asked if I would like to go home.

I said yes.

We left an awkward wake behind us.

I started crying somewhere between here and there.

Once home my memory blurs.  I think the yelling started as we got ready for bed.  I finally started telling Cortney how this entire day was a big suck for me thanks to him.

He didn’t yell back (he never does).  He just looked sad.

But he questioned me.  He questioned how in the world this small change in my “normal” Black Friday routine could be THIS awful.

I raged at him.

And then?  I collapsed into the ugliest cry I remember having and blurted out,

“We were supposed to have a baby this week.”

And proceed to cry so hard I couldn’t get my breath.

In the dark warmth of our living room, on the leather couch where I had lain recovering from the loss, Cortney sunk and wrapped his arms around me.

“Oh, honey,” he managed.

It all started to make sense.  I was grasping for routine.  For nothing to be out of the ordinary.  For everything to “proceed as normally scheduled.”

When it didn’t?  I lost my shit.

And we sat in the dark on the couch for a very long time.

He instructed me to breathe.  To take deep breaths, and to talk about it.  Neither of us had mourned that loss like this.  And I didn’t expect the due date to hit me so hard.  I thought I was over it.  That it never bothered me that much.

But it did.  I had just suppressed it.

In the winter, when we had found out my due date, it was perfect.  All of our friends would be in town.  Family would be around.  Everyone would be ready to celebrate our baby. Somehow that fact made our unexpected pregnancy ok.  It made things start to look up.

But that night while Cort’s arms held me, my arms were empty.

No baby.

And I started to cry all over again.

It still never escapes me that if the first time around had happened, we would have been throwing a 3-year old’s birthday party this week.

Sometimes I still don’t know how to feel about this.  If we were having a birthday party, Eddie maybe wouldn’t be here.  And he is…well…there are no words for how that little boy makes my heart swell.

But yet…

someone is missing.

(two little someones, actually.  but that is another post.)

The very next Thanksgiving, Eddie was baking away in my tummy and we have never had a “normal” Thanksgiving weekend again.

I am closer to Cortney.

And I have never loved this holiday more.

white walls

I wanted to look at my hands.  I wanted to study my feet. I wanted to stare at the ceiling.

But instead?

I looked at their faces.

I had somehow (on purpose) squeezed my way into the corner behind Cortney.

Squeezed is an understatement.

I don’t think exam rooms are meant to hold 12+ people.  And this one?  Was freezing.

I’m starting to forget him.  I haven’t ever said that before. But it’s true.  I can remember everyone else from those visits, but I am losing his face.

I know he was sitting on the exam table.

But what I remember are the looks on his sisters’ and brothers’ and parents’ and children’s faces.

The walls were white and it was cold.  Until the news came that he wasn’t going to get better.  Then?  I couldn’t stop sweating.  I was the thousand degree corner of the room.  Behind my fiance.  I was there because I was told I was part of the family.  But I felt like such an interloper.

I only knew him for just over a year.  Not my whole life. Not like everyone else in that room.

The doctor gave numbers.  A time span.

I saw the math happening in people’s eyes.  He would not be there to walk his daughter down the aisle.  He would not be there to see his son marry a girl who was already part of the family.  He would not meet any grandchildren.  He would not outlive his parents.

And I?  I was sweating.

Why was I here?  This was not real.  This doesn’t happen in REAL life.  Shouldn’t I be sitting on my couch watching this unfold to some characters on a TV show and not to real people that I know…who are going to be my family?

Tissues started to be handed out.  None came to me.  I was wiping my nose and eyes on my sleeve.  No one noticed.  My runny nose was not the issue today.

I felt eyes.  Cort’s aunt was looking at me.  Into me.  Or through me.

And then she wasn’t.  Her eyes had moved on.

The walls were so white.  There was an ironic picture of a boat on Lake Michigan on the wall.

I was still sweating.  But shivering.

The only face I can visualize is that from the pictures we have…either formal or sick.  No real life images.

He is slipping from me.  Even though I feel like I never really had him.

And yet…

He is here.  I know it.  And Eddie knows it.  I think Eddie knows him.  I think they have met.

Has it really been five years?

Yes.  It has been five years.  And I am losing him in one form, and gaining him in another.

**Read Cort’s post about this at Tasty Buttered Toast.  But grab a tissue first**

**And Read Cort’s Sis, MacKenzie’s post about him (and their adoption process) at Stepping Stones.**

This post was written in loving memory of Steven Kent “Slippery” Sluiter who lost his battle with the beast that is cancer on August 14, 2005.  He is Cort’s Pops, my Father-in-Law, and Eddie’s beloved Papa.  He is missed on this earth every single day by everyone who knew him.
Today, in honor of him, Sluiter Nation is hosting a garage sale fundraiser to help bring his grandchildren home from Ethiopia.  We are confident this is how he would want us to spend this day.  Happy and hopeful instead of sad and full of remorse.

A Happy Day

Today, somewhere in Heaven, two guys are having birthdays…

Eddie’s Great Great Grandpa Edward Koops…
and Eddie’s Papa Steve Sluiter
These two are Eddie’s namesakes.  They shared a LOT, so it was only fitting that they shared Eddie.
And last year on their birthday…
Eddie was baptized in Papa Steve’s baptismal outfit.
Just because they aren’t around anymore,
doesn’t mean they aren’t around anymore.
We celebrate their birthdays by remembering the good times…
The love of a father and a son…
has been passed on and is celebrated again.
Today, somewhere in Heaven, someone is cracking a Busch Light and eating peach pie…
and smiling down on us and on Edward Steven Sluiter.
You can read Cortney’s birthday post to his dad at his blog, Tasty Buttered Toast

We Can Be Quiet

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night…

The day of our wedding was great.  It was very…us.  We are quiet a squirrelly, rambunctious couple.  We like to bring the fun.  We laughed through our whole ceremony.  People still talk about all the laughing and chatting and smiles that went on.  In fact, we wrote our own vows.  Mine were all serious and lovey.  Isn’t that how vows are supposed to be?  Apparently not.

Cort’s rhymed.  That is A.  B is that they were also funny.  Those who could hear (they forgot to mic him) we rolling.  In fact, our wedding was anything but quiet.

The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago
Turned around backward so the windshield shows
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse

We were (are!) best friends. The group of friends and the events of our life that got us to the alter are nothing less than a rambunctious muddle of awesome.

We have so much history.  We have so much love.  We have so much us.  It was very fitting that we were not quiet and solemn up on that alter.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night…

But we can slow it down.  We can be quiet and loving.  Our minister slowed us down and (unexpectedly) had us recite the traditional vows as well.

I’m not sure all these people understand,
It’s not like years ago…

We were glad we did.  But even gladder that we had said our own to each other.  And since we weren’t sticking to ordinary anyway?  We picked a first song that no one knew (well, a few did, but that is because they rock our socks).

These things they go away,
Replaced by every day.

I had to specially give our DJ our song by R.E.M for our first dance.  It was magical.  It was slow.  It was love.  And it was us.

Nightswiming, remembering that night,

This dance? Was when I really felt like I had said, “I do”.

And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?

But because we are not quiet 99% of the time?  We also had another very special song.  Just for us to be introduced to as Mr. and Mrs. Sluiter for the first time.  And it was?  RAMBUNCTIOUS!   The song?  Big Pimpin’ by Jay-Z. Yeah, people still talk about it.

And that song?  Helped with the atmosphere for the rest of the night!  I mean, I bet YOU didn’t have someone announce his intent to run for the presidency in the next election? (he did not run, by the way.  Don’t worry, I did not have McCain or Obama at my wedding.  Apparently is was just his political unrest and the beer talking.  Mostly the beer.)

But for that four minutes and fourteen seconds?  It was just us.  Quiet.

The photograph reflects,
Every streetlight a reminder,
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night. 

Song lyrics from Nightswimming by R.E.M.

Mama's Losin' It

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Pops Would be Proud

Today is a day full of memories. Today we spend more time than usual reflecting on the good times we had with Cortney’s dad, Steve. Today it’s been three years since he left us. It’s difficult not to be sad when we remember that, but we think Steve would have been proud of us today.

Cortney took the day off work because he had the Fall Resource Fair to go to at GRCC–basically it was a tour and an opportunity to get his books and id. So there he is…books in hand, ready to start his first semester as a Computer Information Systems student! He also got his student id taken today…he is now an official card-carying Racoon Detective! Ok, GRCC calls themselves the Raiders, but they put a cartoon racoon on there, so it’s just funny. Anyway, now he can enjoy the benefits of the “student discount” at places like the movies and the gym! NICE!
I was not left out in all this educational excitement either! While Cort was out getting familiar with his new school, my official paper degree finally came in the mail! Yeah! Now I have a piece of paper that SAYS I am a smarty pants!
See…there’s MY name on that Master of Arts!
We think Steve would have been proud of my accomplishment of earning a Masters and of Cort’s new adventure as a student. It was a great way to celebrate and remember Pops!

Another Year…

The past five days are the hardest days that we Sluiters go through during the year. We try to be positive and remember just the good, as was requested of us, but it is still hard. There is no other way to describe it.
Two years ago today, my husband lost two things: his appendix and his dad. Looking back, I believe God took these two things at the same time for a few reasons – a few of those reasons He lets us in on, others not so much.
Steve was diagnosed with cancer in January, just 6 months before Cortney and I were going to get married, and only about a year after I had really met Steve. I have never witnessed anyone go through something so terrible with such gusto. Everything I knew about Steve before showed me the man knew how to LIVE. He loved life, he loved his family, and he loved God. And cancer illuminated that much, much more. He never let you leave his sight without saying, “hey, I LOVE you!” He made me so comfortable in that family it was just too hard for me to believe that he would not always be there. After our wedding in June, things continually got worse, and by his 49th birthday in August, we knew our days were limited.
On Saturday, August 13, 2005, Cortney began having horrible stomach pain. It was so bad that we had to leave our friends’, Erin and Tad’s wedding quite early. I was a bridesmaid, so I felt badly leaving so early, but we had been getting a few phone calls throughout the day with less than stellar updates about Steve (who by this time had had Hospice come in to his home). Cortney felt like he would puke at anytime, so it was time to go.
Sunday morning Cortney was supposed to participate in a fantasy football draft, but just couldn’t get out of bed, so I went in his place. In the meantime, Cortney’s brother and sister kept calling him saying, “you have GOT to come over; there just isn’t much time left.” Cort finally called me away from the draft and said, “it’s time to say good-bye to Pops, Kate. We gotta go.” So I drove him and his puke bucket (which he hadn’t used yet despite the fact that the pain just kept getting worse) to his dad and step-mom’s house. When we arrived, the house and lawn were packed with family and friends. Cort’s uncle Scott cleared out the living room where Steve’s Hospice bed was and Cort sat beside his dad.
I don’t think I will ever forget that sight for as long as I live. I could describe absolutely everything about it: from MacKenzie sitting on the couch in the background to the blurs of people outside the slider door. From the smells of hospital mixing with house to the tremble in Cort’s hand as he sat next to his dad. All I could do was sit and stare. I had zero words. Cortney craddled his puke bucket in his lap and in a sort of hunched over position took his dad’s small hand and stroked it with his thumb. He just sat there for what seemed like forever quietly holding his dad’s hand. Then he finally patted it and said, “it’s Ok dad. Go home.” Then he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, “take me to the hospital.” So he got up, I leaned in to my father-in-law and whispered, “I’ll take care of him. I promise.” Then we jetted out the door and out to the car. We weren’t even out of the subdivision when Cort’s stepmom, Lynne called to say, “He’s gone.”
Was it coincidence that even though Kenzie and Cody had been calling us all day, Steve waited until less than 10 minutes after we had been there to go? I just can’t believe that. He may have had tons of drugs in his body, he may have had massive tumors on his brain, and he may have been “out of it”, but I believe with all the certainty in my body, that he WAITED. He could not be Ok with going until he had heard from ALL of his children.
I rushed Cort to the hospital and by 10:00 pm, his appendix was out. When I went into the recovery room, Cortney looked over at me in his half in-half out drug haze and declared: “There she is! There’s my WIFE!” I chuckled and talked with the surgeon about when he would be able to walk and if he would be able to by Wednesday. “What’s Wednesday, what’s Wednesday?” Cortney kept asking me as if I had some exciting surprise for him. I swallowed hard and said, “honey, Wednesday is your dad’s funeral.” “Oh yeah,” he said with a forced seriousness that only drugs can do to you. “My dad died today.” My heart broke all over again. His funeral was August 18th, exactly 2 months after we were married in the same church.
So last Thursday, August 9th, we went to dinner with Lynne, Grandpa and Grandma Sluiter, MacKenzie and Dave, and Cody and Liz to celebrate the great life that was Steve Sluiter for his birthday. Tonight, Aunt Lisa and Uncle Rick took Kenz, me, Cort, Cody, and Liz out toward the place were his ashes were spread on Lake Michigan. We shared memories and thoughts. It was an incredibly special time.
I didn’t get to know Steve that well. I feel ripped off because of that, I won’t lie. But most of my saddness comes when I look at Kenzie and Cody and especially Cortney. In the past two years, even if they don’t know it, Kenzie and Cody and Liz have BECOME my siblings. Their happiness means as much to me as my actual brothers’ happiness. I would go the distance for them. And Cort knows I am not happy without his joy. That is why I feel so helpless to make them feel better in this area.
But that is not what Steve wanted us to think about. Steve wanted us to think about all the great times. All the joy he brought us. All the fun we had. All the beers we drank. All the laughs we shared. So that is what we did. There is no doubt that his not being here is shitty. But there is also no doubt that while he brought us joy here, he is recieving that joy a million times over where he is now.
We love you, Pops. Save us a beer.