August 26th was my 20th “First” day as an educator, but it was also really my “First”. You see, I’ve never begun a school year without my Pops being around.
It’s been over three weeks since he left us for the Angels, but I could tell something was amiss. Pops always had the habit of calling to check in on me daily, but especially after a new school year had begun.

“Jeffers” he’d say. “How did it go today”? I’d tell Pops all about the students, teachers, parents, and some of the great things that went on during the usual crazy first day of class. We’d catch up, laugh, and just listen to each other.

You see, my father had a work ethic, unlike anyone I’ve ever seen, or known. He worked two to three different jobs growing up, just to ensure our family was taken care of better than he was as a boy. It wasn’t unusual for dad to bike home from the University after a long day, eat dinner with my sister, mom and I, shower up, then head off for a night shift at another hospital.

I really can’t comprehend this, and I even lived it. Now I realize why he always seemed so tired. But, damn. He did whatever it took to make a great life for us. You just don’t see that commitment to work, or family anymore.

Getting back to my first day of the 2019-2020 School Year. The day was fantastic; so many bug eyed students, excited parents, and staff members that knew their “why”.

It wasn’t until I was driving home that it hit me. “I can’t call Pops” I thought to myself. So, I decided to speak to him aloud anyway. Telling him of the highs, and lows, and how hot it was. A few tears ran down my cheeks, really missing his voice.

As I walked in the door to my house, my mother was sitting on the couch reading her book. She had taken care of my son for the last few days, helping my wife and I jigsaw our life into one piece. It really dawned on me then: My parents were always there for me. Regardless of it being a real life conversation, a visit, a chat of encouragement, or just in my memories.

I miss Pops everyday. Some days more. Some days more than that. Each day is new, but I know, deep down, that he is cheering me on, watching me, and reminding me that “Family First” is really what it’s all about.