This is me

Cheryl (177 of 418)-1
Special thanks to Koli Nichols Photography 

I love children, flowers, and conversation.   I don’t watch tv and I don’t iron.  I am tender hearted and hard headed.

I believe in marriage, foster children, and adoption.  Despite that fact, I have failed at all of them.  I do not regret anything I have attempted and, of course, there are things that I would do differently.

Thirty days ago I didn’t know much about a podcast.  Things have changed.  I obviously don’t know much about a blog either, but I have a precious baby girl who is loyal to her mother.

I love being Southern, at least in the mindset of all that is good.  Relationships are the best and it all began with my Aunt Genevieve.  She lovingly called me by my middle name of Suzette my entire life.  She was my dad’s baby sister.  She spoke her own language-Genevievian.  It was tons of small phrases followed with laughter.  I try to speak it with my close friends whenever possible.

A funny story was always preceded by “Don’t laugh, Suzette”, and I knew that I was about to.  I would love to share the best of us with you as well.

Don’t laugh,

Cheryl

Ballad of the Wildflowers…

Imagine feeling like you let a friend down.

A friend who took their own life.

Now imagine 90 million people knowing about it.

For 30 days, I didn’t talk about it.

Losing sleep, feeling guilty. Ashamed.

I was having some trouble with what I was reading online. Negative comments were replaying in my mind over and over.

Then imagine someone miles away understanding exactly how you feel.

Across an ocean.

“Cheryl, I usually share my music with my wife”…

I can’t describe how it felt. All I can think of is-

Healing.

Sitting in my car after work and playing it over and over.

Calling my friends.

And telling them to listen to this.

We played Ballad of the Wildflowers when we cut the ribbon to celebrate Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resource Coalition locating in Woodstock .

And we will play it again tomorrow.

Live and in person.

I told Jeff we should invite Spencer to play.

Jeff said he is not going to come over here from England.

He arrived Tuesday.

And my friend Georgina arrived yesterday.

We have been working to show them our way of life.

The Turnip Green Supper.

The Homecoming Festivities.

And friendship. And hospitality.

Food and Music.

Now I am asking you to listen.

Come see Spencer play tomorrow at the Woodstock Music Festival.

And come meet Georgina with me at the hospitality tent.

It’s going to be wonderful.

I just know it.

And you will too.

See you tomorrow,

Cheryl

Here’s to 51…

I know that it isn’t easy being married to me.

I would have to think it would be like living in a daily episode of “I Love Lucy”. Except Lucy would be hosting a home improvement show gone bad.

Jeff has arrived home to the yard on fire, the ceiling torn out, and just this week-the bathtub disappeared.

Much like Ricky Ricardo, he spoke a foreign language when he assessed my latest project.

I can always see the finished product.

As much as I love him, he lacks my vision.

Reagen’s advice was simple. “Mom, just get it back together. He’ll be okay.”

She was right. And he is.

Today is his birthday.

51 years old.

I will try to give you a break today Jeffrey.

I know that I have aged you in 16 years.

But if I do say so myself, you have aged well.

I love you for the way you light up with a baby.

And when special needs kids attract to you like a magnet, I have to think they see your heart.

Your reputation has always been a tough guy and I loved that.

It made me feel safe. And protected.

With Daddy gone, you mean more to me than ever before.

But the best of you is behind the scenes.

The advice.

The common sense.

And the fact that you will take care of this family and all that it requires.

I love you Jeffrey Lynn.

And so do the kids.

And the grandbabies.

From the voice of the West Blocton Fighting Tiger Band to the Mayor of Woodstock, you wear many hats.

I apologize for the need for the hard hat earlier this week.

But you are going to love it, just trust me…

Charlene

Dear Mr. Coal Miner,

I am writing to say thank you.

I know you don’t know me, but I have been a Coal Miner’s Daughter for 47 years.

I learned alot about my Daddy’s living through second hand information.

Loretta Lynn always made me proud to be a coal miner’s daughter. Jimmy Dean made all of us kids respect and sing “Big Bad John”.

And every now and then, Daddy would call and say, “Sister, turn it on Channel such and such, Harlan County, USA is on. Watch it. That is what we went through.”

Sometimes he would tell me to keep a certain United Mine Workers Journal magazine that told the history of their struggles.

Talk of times past and safety and strikes were normal language when I was young.

And there was always a nagging worry if you heard about news of an accident.

Your mind can worry terribly in those moments of not knowing.

It was your worst fear.

But, Daddy always told me that when the day came that I would be without him that you would take care of him.

I just didn’t realize that you would also be taking care of me too.

I found out personally how special it is to be a part of this family. I feel like I have become a daughter of many of you.

Daddy was proudly named after the United Mine Workers of America President John L. Lewis.

John Lewis Acker or John L. Acker was given his coal miner nickname of Luke.

Growing up, he would come home with those dark lines under his eyes. A teenage friend told me once that she thought it was so cool that my Dad wore eyeliner.

I thought that was hilarious.

I was used to seeing coal dust on his work clothes. His sweet hands. And under the rims of his blue eyes.

That was my normal.

What I could not see was in his lungs and in his mind. The consequences from earning a living down in the dark depths of a mine shaft.

What I do know though is the brotherhood that develops in those situations. You don’t work together in that environment without becoming close.

After his service in the U.S. Navy, he served 30 years with his United Mine Worker Brothers.

Jim Walter Resources Mine #7, Brookwood, Alabama, to be exact.

Uncle Terry gave me a phone number and I called them to find out what I needed to do after he passed away. I expected to be speaking to just someone in an office.

When the voice on the other end of the line questioned me in a surprised voice, “Did John pass away?” I then realized I was talking to someone that knew him.

He kindly said, “You don’t have to do anything, we’ll take care of it.”

And you did.

Some of you showed up to his funeral.

But ALL of you paid for it.

Almost 500 men gave $25 to take care of Brother John L. Acker.

I don’t know who you are.

But I wish I could send each and every one of you a thank you card.

In a world that seems cold and distant at times, it is incredibly beautiful to see rough and tough souls join together to take care of their own.

My Daddy was always so proud to be a part of all of you. Now I understand why.

I regret not asking him more or trying to understand what he was doing all those years that he paid his part of this fund.

I am so very thankful and proud to be a Coal Miner’s Daughter-Forever.

May God Bless Each and Everyone of You. May God keep you safe and may all of you know how much my family says-Thank you.

Cheryl Acker Dodson

Sharp Dressed Man…

Graduation Night-1969.

Mother was headed to a party after her high school graduation.

Daddy was a wild sailor home on leave.

They crossed paths and the rest is history.

A few days. A few letters.

And the next thing you know, it is August. Mother is on a plane to San Diego to get married.

My grandmother calls ahead to her close friend we lovingly called Aunt Nell. Aunt Nell lived in Lakewood, California.

Aunt Nell was asked to meet my parents at the airport and stop the wedding.

I loved to hear her tell this story.

She said she got to the airport and took one look at Daddy.

“He stepped off the plane and he was wearing his dress blues.”

“Your Daddy was sharppp…..”

She said, “I told myself there would be no stopping this wedding…”

We all laughed.

She was right.

They were married in her backyard 50 years ago today.

Daddy always loved for me to tell that story and copy Aunt Nell’s voice.

He would smile.

Aunt Nell came to Johnny and Angelica’s wedding 30 years later. She made no secret about the fact that she was looking for Daddy.

Still makes me smile.

I guess ZZ Top was right-Every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed man.

Young girls, old ladies and brokenhearted daughters.

Neither one of my parents made it to see this day.

But I will celebrate you both in my heart today.

I got the best and worst of both of you.

Thanks for the rebel heart. I use it daily.

I love and miss you both dearly,

Your baby girl

One-Hour Photo…

When my brother chose his wife, I knew how much he loved her.

We all did.

And we still do. Twenty years later.

Today is her birthday and I just have to say how very thankful I am for everything she has been in my life.

One of the toughest challenges we have faced is living our lives without the very person who brought us together.

Johnny.

I found a disposable camera when I cleaned out Daddy’s house.

I called Wal-Mart today to see if they were ready.

“Can you tell me something? I know this is unusual, but what is on those photos?”

I explained that I lost my Dad and I just wanted to be prepared for what I would find in the envelope.

She told me it was kids playing with rocks.

I had secretly hoped for one last glimpse of Johnny.

No such luck.

On the ride home, I shuffled the pictures and realized that what I was seeing was Daddy’s life after Johnny.

The grandbabies were throwing rocks.

He was throwing himself into them.

I think he was looking for one last glimpse himself.

When I think of it now- Everytime I see those boys, I have not only him. I now have Daddy.

Thank you Angelica for loving those precious boys. My brother. My Daddy. And me.

Happy birthday. I love you Always.

Sister

Don’t tell your Momma…

We have cried until our cheeks burn and our eyes feel swollen.

We have been fed by the best local cooks for almost a week.

We have spent more time together in the last 30 days than we have in the 12 years since we lost Johnny.

Sitting around numb and unsure how next week will go without a daily dose of Papa.

The adults are in one room and the kids are in the kitchen.

We hear a roar of laughter that symbolizes wrongdoing.

Curious as to what confession was made, we find my nephew Jared telling on Papa.

Years ago, Papa took the grandbabies down to his favorite place-the Cahaba River Road.

He let them ride in the back dangling their feet off the tailgate.

He would hit the brakes and sling them forward.

And he would “goose” the gas and sling them back.

The kids loved it.

On one occasion, Papa got carried away.

He slung out Jared and Joah.

He panicked and hit the brakes. They said he run around and dusted them off. After making sure they were okay, he warned them not to tell their momma.

“If your Momma finds out, she ain’t never going to let y’all go off with me again.”

Jared was laughing because he never told.

I am laughing because he did.

He would have been so proud of his grandchildren this week.

They wore overalls, took care of him one last time, but most of all-they kept his secrets.

I am personally hoping we are about to find out a few more.

Thank you so very much to everyone who has supported us this week.

For everything- the love was abundant.

We found your love and kindness everywhere. We found it in hugs and in the flowers and the food.

We even found it in true Southern Style- with a little money in the sugar bowl.

I don’t know if we can return it all, but I promise you we will try to keep it going.

As we have been reminded so very often this week, love is eternal.

And so is gratitude.

Forever grateful,

The Acker Family

Good people…

I was about 7 years old and we were driving past a sad little house and I laughed and said, “that’s where so-and-so lives”.

Daddy hit the brakes.

“Don’t you ever let me hear you say anything about someone or where they live. That kid has no more control over that than you do where you live. If someone is working and making an honest living and that’s the best they can do, that is all that matters.”

In 47 years, I got many of these life lessons.

Whenever I thought I knew better, Daddy reined me in with humility.

He was not perfect.

But I never had to point out his mistakes, he was always first to do that.

“I could have done a better job raising y’all”, he would start an apology and his voice would make that familiar sound of regret and heartache that was barely holding back a few tears.

We could all do better.

My favorite thing about my sweet Daddy though was not doing better. It was not being better. It had nothing to do with any of that.

It was being simple.

His best days were spent rounding up a yard full of grandkids. They chopped wood, started fires, and Luke ran a weedeater until his hands trembled. Reagen a.k.a. Ikebod rode her plastic horse Buttermilk in the front yard.

He changed more diapers than most women.

And like everything else in his life, he did it his way.

Nascar style.

When a sagging diaper was noticed, he would announce that it was time for a pit stop. Jacob, being the oldest, stood by in the pit crew holding a diaper and baby wipes. The guilty party ran to the ottoman and threw their legs in the air like they were competing for the fastest time. Daddy made various air wrench noises and entertained while cleaning. He changed a lot of flat tires and blow-outs as he called them over the years, then the fresh toddler got a pat on the butt as they were put back down and a “Back on the road!”

I was always amazed at how the kids cooperated.

But we laugh because he did not fix hair. Shea would get a call, “Baby, I am going to Clanton. Come over here and do something with this baby’s hair.” Shea said Papa would have a hairbrush and ponytail holder waiting.

If Daddy had extra money, he would obsess on how to share it. He would let me know how he was going to divide it. We all got our part.

There would never be enough time or words to describe what he taught me.

But if I could tell you something that would honor him, it would be sit on your porch.

Watch the birds. Feed stray animals. Ride down to the river. Often.

He always reported to us if the Cahaba River was up or down and whether or not the lilies were about to bloom. When we look back at pictures, they are mostly of Daddy holding fish.

He always told us to drive careful and when it would rain. I have told myself I will now have to watch the weather.

My Daddy planted flowers with me, danced with me and taught me to be proud of who you are. As long as you are “good people”.

That was how he described people he was fond of. “Sister, go over there and meet Mr. and Mrs. Townsend -They’re good people.”

He knew the names of waitresses and janitors and truck drivers.

He leaves behind a family who will miss him the rest of our lives.

But we know exactly what it takes to be Good People.

Thank you Papa. For miles of trotlines, duct tape creations and endless hours of arm wrestling and riding horsey.

It was a blessing to be a part of your Acker family.