The First First

They say when you lose a loved one, all the of “firsts” are hard.  It’s true.  They are.  Yesterday was our first Father’s Day without the father.

UGH.   I had suggested to the kids that they ignore Facebook or Instagram for the day.  Everyone has all their pictures with their dads….or some meme’ about a Dad being in heaven.  It’s just not fun to think about right now….those people who still have dads….those people who like my kids, lost theirs.

Several years ago when Kramer and I were getting close to having an empty nest, I started pestering Kramer and asking if we could do foster care.  I wasn’t ready to have a house with no kids in it.  I love kids and this seemed to be a good idea to me.  We talked about it on and off for over a year.  I was always gung-ho and he was always dragging his feet.

I finally cornered him on a trip in a car one day.  I said, “Everytime I mention doing foster care, you always drag your feet.  You never say no but you never say yes.”

Here’s what he told me….
He said he didn’t think he was a good dad.  He didn’t make it to all the kids’ ball games.  He wasn’t the cuddle on you lap type of dad.  He didn’t do a lot of the personal care with the kids.  He thought he wasn’t a good enough dad to the kids he already had and he didn’t think he could do better with more kids.

Oh my.  That stopped me in my tracks.  I immediately thought somewhere down this parenting journey together, I didn’t let him know he was a good dad.  I didn’t let him know how much we really appreciated him and the work he did to keep our family together.

I assured him that he was a good dad…a really good dad.  I have always considered my own dad a good dad and Kramer was a lot like him.   I reminded him that the reason he missed ball games was because he was working and providing for our family.  He wasn’t sitting in the bar.  I reminded him that if the kids ever needed anything they didn’t go without.  I reminded him that he had given the kids lessons in so many things….

-being a good honest hard worker
-being a reliable employee
-being honest
-being trustworthy
-strong morals
-being a volunteer
-helping those who need help
-being kind to others
-valuing education
-sense of humor
-doing your best

Sure it’s great for a dad to go to their kids’ ball games….but if they are only going there to put on a show or out of guilt, and not showing their kids these character features that Kramer truly was, what kind of dad are they?

We never did go on to do foster care.  But I did work hard to try to remind him regularly that he was a good dad.  Sure, he wasn’t outwardly affectionate.  He was not as patient as I some…but we all have flaws as parents and human beings….these were trivial.

The good he did for kids…and for me, far outweighed any flaws.  I hope he finally figured that out because he really was a good Dad.  I have five good kids to prove that.

I sure wish I had known his feelings back when the kids were little and I could have nurtured more positive towards him.  If you have sons who are dads (or son-in-laws), or a husband who is a dad, or if you are fortunate to still have your dad, I highly recommend taking the time to remind them of the good they’ve done for the kids in their lives.  Do it regularly and just not on Father’s Day.  They might be just like Kramer and not realize how good of a Dad they truly are.

22 thoughts on “The First First”

  1. Mary Ann Mettler

    I have no doubt that he was a good dad – Farming is really quite time consuming as I know from growing up on a farm. I am sure his finding out about the games was enough. Loved my Dad and Mom – both worked hard and provided for me and my siblings. Life is too short.

  2. Kramer sounds like he was like my husband is. He works long hours to provide for us. He doesn’t make every school event, heck sometimes he only makes the important ones like graduation but he is a great dad. I try to tell him often. I did not have a good dad. Mine was too busy drinking and jumping from woman to woman to ever take care of his kids or even mail the child support check on a regular basis.

  3. Just know that you and your kids are still being prayed for as you move forward. Sending love and hugs. . .

  4. Oh, this one hit home…..I am a farm wife and you described my husband completely. It has never occurred to me that he may share those feelings. But he’s a great Dad. And you described my father also. My faith tells me that Kramer now knows how much he touched his children and many more. I truly believe actions speak louder….
    Your children know they were loved

  5. My Father died when I was 24 and he had been sick for 11 years when he passed. Your kids grew up with him well and being there for important things. To me that is a sign of a good father. They knew they were loved and he didn’t have to tell them all the time. Love can be shown in other ways. Fathers day will be hard on them for a long time. Sharing stories about their Father down the road will help them realize they were raised by a great Father. He is in their souls and yours also.

  6. As a mother who worked weird hours, I had to miss various activities and I always felt so guilty. Hopefully, I was still a good mom. I like the way you quantified all of the things Kramer taught the kids. From all your posts, we know the kids turned out just fine – hard-working, loving, faith, good values. You both did just fine. Your children were loved and that’s the most important.

  7. I’m glad you had the chance to have that conversation. Imagine if he hadn’t found the words–the courage–to express his fear or remorse that he thought he hadn’t been a good dad. You were able to reassure him, and then he had time to look at his interactions with the kids and grandkids with new eyes, through the lens you gave him. Thank you for sharing this tender story.

  8. What a great picture for your family to remember Kramer by!! So sorry that your first “First” was Father’s Day. That’s a tough one! Those “Firsts” throughout this first year will ALL be a challenge. My heart goes out to you and your family as you make this journey.

  9. You may not have officially fostered, but it sounds like your childcare kids benefited from Kramer’s presence, as well as your neighbor girl. It’s clear from everything you’ve written about Kramer in the past that he was a really good dad and husband. :)

    Take things at your own pace. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    If I were closer, I’d come help you paint. I do a decent job and I don’t mind painting. HOWEVER — I’m in Massachusetts! Way too far. I guess I’ll just have to get around to doing my own rooms that need doing instead.

  10. Praying for you and your family and hoping that your memories of Kramer will help you sustain to move forward. You and Kramer gave your children a great foundation and a life full of love and your children know what a great dad he was. Your advice to others is wonderful, but you had many years of love between the two of you and that gave your children something to aspire to. You never gave up on each other. My heart aches for you, but you are strong. I have a sign in my office which helps me every day. It says “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”. My wonderful memories of my husband are what give me the strength to be strong. Another saying is my own that I tell myself is that each day is new and I call it “Widowhood 101: I didn’t ask for this so please God help me”

  11. Another very important way that Kramer was a good dad is that he loved you and supported you in your endeavors. One of the greatest gifts a father can give his children is to love their mother. You certainly had that! I remember you telling us how Kramer would tell you it’s time to stop sewing and come to bed. You explained that he did that because he loves you and knows you need your rest; he knew you would stay up to the wee hours if he didn’t remind you it is time to sleep!

  12. Denise Briese

    My husband says the same thing because he worked so many hours and we have one child that is a drug addict so he takes that as a sign he was a bad dad. But she is who she is. I know Kramer was a great dad you can tell by the way the kids responded to this time in your lives

  13. Donna Pheneger

    What a loving reminder to all of us, Jo. I have a son in law that is a stay at home dad, who homeschools the four kids and also worked part time on the weekends. My dd had the full time job. I think I’ll tell him how wonderful he is the next time I see him.

  14. Marianne Barta

    Such a great read. You do the best you can in anything — no doubt that is so true in your family.
    Continued prayers for your life ahead — Hugs!

  15. The First are truly difficult and I’m glad you talked to your kids about just laying low this year…..Your kids are wonderful adults and parents. I know Kramer was missed on this Fathers day, hugs to all

  16. Carol Lorraine Stearns

    We all love in different ways. Obviously, the photo shows he WAS a good dad! With lots of love around him.

  17. I agree that all the firsts are hard. We just had our second Mother’s day without mom. I never realized how much advertising there was for it until I didn’t have someone to buy for. (It starts about 4 weeks out.) So I can imagine how the Father’s day advertising/fb/blogs etc. is for your family. It gets better. You never stop missing them, but the pain will stop being so sharp. You’ll learn the new shape of your family.

  18. What a great post! The take away is that we all have people in our lives who maybe could use that ounce of encouragement. We are sometimes our worst critics and an encouraging word is so needed. I especially think of the young parents in my life. They work so hard balancing things and really need someone to remind them of the great job they are doing as parents. Thank you for your insights!

  19. oh, this was a hard read for me. we just lost a dear friend Sunday evening to a massive heart attack. He died surrounded by his family, on Father’s Day evening. Blessings to you and your family.

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