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.
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.