I want to show you something…

When Ch. 7 ended of the S-Town podcast, there were so many questions.

At the time, everyone was so very emotional.

Local people were defensive. People who had lived a small town life and moved away were in agreement.

I remained silent on a lot of questions that I could have answered, but it was simply because I did not want to argue.

I think enough time has passed and I also think there is something many people need to know.

I look at the podcast differently now.

When I lost John, I lost my friend.

The painful thing is that he was not my first friend to lose to suicide.

I have lost several.

Each one was a beautiful individual with their own story.

John’s story is different in the fact that his voice and pain were documented. I have personally seen his story help others because people can relate to what he was feeling.

It is my hope that they can see that what they feel is not isolated inside them.

That is where we save lives.

If you want to share John’s story, use it to make a connection.

I challenge everyone of you to give him that legacy.

I know we all have an inner voice that doubts and fears.

I have found that when I am most vulnerable, I later became the most understood.

Things that were painful to share became the very way I connected.

Mostly, to a lot of you.

I want to thank you all for that.

And I want to show you the power of connection.

It started with private messages and ended with lifelong friends.

I expected a tag. Or some wildflower seeds. I never expected the sweet little notes and heartfelt encouragement.

Some of you have shared with me some painful things you have experienced.

We understood each other.

So if there are any who are struggling, this is what I want to show you.

As my precious friend Bec told me, “grief is love with nowhere to go”.

Somehow it came here to me.

How it ended up in my laundry room is strictly because I couldn’t pack it away.

But when I saw the door with all the names guarding this beauty, I thought it was appropriate.

So here is a little glimpse of the love from everywhere.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

This is why I wanted to share this week.

If you want to talk about John, let’s continue with what happened afterwards.

I think it is just as important.

Love to all,

Cheryl

Big baby…

I was walking into Foodland over 10 years ago.

A lady was sitting behind a table before you went in the entrance.

I think I thought she was selling doughnuts.

I asked what she was doing.

“I am signing people up to be foster parents.”

I wrote down my information.

She later told me that I was the only person that signed up.

I am so very thankful that I did.

I imagined a little six pound baby in my arms.

I got my groceries and plotted how to break the news to Jeff.

It was easier than you think.

Jeff loves kids. All kids. Hyper. Disabled. Angry. Even teenagers.

We try to count and never agree on the number that have been in our home.

Our kids are asked about their siblings and the answer is well- complicated.

His. Hers. Ours. Theirs. Foster. Adopted. Exchange. Short term. Permanent. Etc.

I can tell you stories that would rip your heart out. Jeff says they are not ours to share.

The past of a child is just that-Theirs.

And I agree.

But what I can tell you is this- your heart doesn’t have a fuel gauge.

It will never be full.

As a matter of fact, the more you love- the more you can.

As for the baby that I brought home ten years ago- he was 6’2, 300lbs., 14 and angry.

Not anymore.

For a while we were known as the blindside family, now we are just us.

And as far as my heart, it was almost as close to full as you can get today.

When he reached and smiled to hold his baby niece, life doesn’t get any better.

I wish I could capture the beauty, but a picture will have to do.

Thank you Lord for my brand new baby girl and my big baby boy,

Cheryl

The store porch…

It is funny what triggers your memory.

I walk in the store to pay for gas and I am as excited as a kid when I see a glass bottle.

All of a sudden I am seven years old and have been sent across the road to Freda’s.

The official name on the front of the store was Hunt’s Grocery.

Most of the time, we just said we were going to sit on the store porch.

We didn’t have to specify, there was only one.

And most of the time we just sat.

It didn’t seem like we had enough money to stay inside long.

And if you did, Mrs. Freda was bound to get onto you.

My first destination was the drink box.

I loved to open it up and stick my head in it. I can still smell the cold metal.

Drinks always seemed to be just beyond the reach of my arm.

It felt like I had to tiptoe to reach one.

About the time I had cold wet glass in my hand, I was already in trouble for leaving it open too long.

Then I would love to wander around dark aisles and stare at racks of Goody hair accessories that I did not know how to use. It seems like nobody else did either, because they were dusty.

If someone was at the register to distract her, I could make it back to the scales and the rack where you could tear off the butcher paper.

Those were fascinating. I have tried to think of a reason to purchase one.

Maybe a lifetime supply of gift wrap in butcher paper? The Christmas tree would look like I gave everyone a pack of hamburger meat.

I may have just found a reason!

Anyways.

One particular day Mother sent me across the road to put something on her charge account which we called our “ticket”.

Yours truly gets the bright idea to charge a bottle of fingernail polish (of all things) to Momma’s ticket.

Mrs. Freda looks about 9 feet tall on the other side of the counter.

“Did your mother give you permission to charge that?”

I lied and said “Yes”.

Uh-oh.

“Yes what?….” Double trouble.

I forgot to say “Yes, mam”.

I got out to the road, checked for cars, took a deep breath and braced myself to run across the road barefoot.

As the outside temperatures increased, so did my speed in crossing the road.

When I proudly gave mother her purple-brown fingernail polish, she was not impressed.

She told me to go right back over there and take that back.

Talk about a walk of shame, hanging my head and facing Mrs. Freda.

She was smug as she said, “Your mother didn’t say you could buy it, did she?

“No, mam….”

Over the years, Freda seemed to grow shorter and not so scary.

It was probably because I remembered to say “Mam” to her even if I said it to noone else.

She would rock on the porch and talk to whoever was in the next chair.

I would sit on the back corner and eavesdrop.

You could find out lots of things on that porch.

Who was fighting, honeymooning and drank too much. We shared everyone’s business but our own.

I think that was a rule.

If I could go back, I would run behind the mosquito truck and breathe in all the carcinogens again.

I believe the smoke must have helped our immune systems.

I would just love to go back to the store porch for the advice of everyone and better yet, I would love to ask for a few more memories. Tell me more.

There are so many things I forgot to ask.

When the cars go by faster now, noone is there to fuss about their speed.

It is an empty ghost of a building.

Don’t they know there should be a historical landmark sign there?

It was our community center, our neighborhood watch, and etiquette training classroom.

But mostly it was just ours.

It belonged to Mrs. Freda, but she shared it with everyone who crossed the road.

Here’s to dusty dark shelves, metal containers and paper sacks.

I wish I could shop there again just long enough to get in trouble.

Don’t laugh, or it makes it worse-

Cheryl Suzette

Stay tuned…

My favorite Father’s Day weekend was a few years ago.

It didn’t revolve around gifts. It was the toughest challenge of parenting- Discipline.

Our kids only loved it when it applied to someone other than themselves.

Our middle daughter Lea is continually teased for being Daddy’s favorite.

So it comes as no surprise that her brothers loved to be spectators of her being in trouble.

One big fib about her whereabouts late one night and a pair of short-shorts caused all of her siblings to chime in.

She happened to get grounded on the Saturday night before Father’s Day.

So as they visited, they had to comment.

“What did you think you were doing?”, asked our oldest Lauren.

“How’s it going party animal?”- big brother Jacob.

The famous, “I would never…” from little sister Reagen.

Lea took it all in stride with plenty of eye rolls.

But my favorite was finding out that when they found out she was in trouble, her older brothers were texting a play-by-play.

Jacob said when he got a text from Colby late on a Saturday night that said-

-Stay tuned-

-She has poked the bear-

He looked at his phone and the late time and he called for details. Still makes me laugh.

Jacob says Jeff knew what they were doing before they did it.

They would tell him where they were going and his reply would be, “Now where are you really going?”

We use all of these stories to warn Reagen and hopefully save us some energy.

Because we are tired now.

But we are proud of all of you.

(Minus the shorts that went into the trash.)

Happy Father’s Day to you Jeff Dodson.

I know our children are thankful for all of the times you said yes.

I, however, believe they benefitted the most from your love on the times you said “No”.

Looking forward to the grizzly bear becoming the teddy bear with our grandbabies.

It is a beautiful thing.

Now the “No” belongs to all of you.

Don’t laugh kids,

I am just kidding- (I already know that all of you do not think I am funny…)

The dressing room…

I can remember opening the door without permission.

My right hand would swat the air softly searching for the string.

When you felt it, you pressed down slowly, held your breath and hoped Granny didn’t hear the click or see the light come on.

Otherwise, “Cheryl Acker…” and her Indiana Jones adventure was over.

For most of my life, my view was only from the doorway because I would not behave.

And she was right, I would not have.

There was a hairpiece and rows of scarves to the left.

To the right were racks of clothes squeezed in tightly.

But if there was a treasure map, straight ahead would be where X marks the spot.

As she would say-“Pocketbooks, brooches and earbobs” were all in their place.

Rows of white boxes filled with thin cotton and treasure.

I strain to remember their contents. My mind thinks there was a fox and maybe an owl or both with enamel and rhinestones.

I know there were many clip-on earrings, but how many I am not sure because there were even more strict instructions of “Do not touch”.

As I grew older, I was lucky enough to be handed a pair of vanity fair pajamas from that same closet.

She would be putting on her face cream and she would giggle at her reflection.  I can still smell the Avon rich moisture when I close my eyes.

Something about that all felt like such a luxury and I don’t think I could ever feel so rich these days.

I know that my greatest wealth today is in my memories, not possessions.

I was at the thrift store earlier today and the display case held a pair of earrings that I just knew would have belonged in her closet.

I smile now because I am wearing them as I type.

Thank you for donating whoever you are.

I just used them for time travel.

And I stayed in the closet, as long as my heart would let me.

That’s all of my thoughts for today, my vision is a little blurry.

Big hugs to all of you who know about the forbidden…

She really didn’t have much, but what she had she appreciated.

Trying to remember that myself and quietly enjoying my collection,

Cheryl Suzette

What she has…

January 4th, 2019- Daddy and I have just left the doctor for a follow up from his lung cancer. We eat lunch and I am driving him home.

A few miles from his house, the phone rings.

“Mr. Acker….”

He answers the phone and the volume is so loud that I hear them say they want him to come back next week and meet with an oncologist.

I am thankful to be wearing sunglasses and I hope he does not see the tears I can not stop from rolling down my face.

Fear.

After losing mother two years ago, Daddy has become more precious than ever before.

Approximately 40 doctor visits later and the doctor has given us wonderful news. The cancer has responded to treatment.

I don’t think I would be typing otherwise.

Our daily trips to the doctor have given us a lot of time.

Daddy has shared more about his life than ever before.

He talks of my mom. He talks of his.

It makes me happy to hear about good days.

We listen to a lot of Earl Thomas Conley.

He tells me a song reminds him of his mother.

A lyric stands out to me.

“And what she has, she thinks is enough. ”

I long to be as content as the grandmother I never met. This December will be 50 years since he lost her.

When he says, “Mother would have loved you,” it makes my eyes water.

She was kind and humble.

When you hurt her feelings, you should be ashamed of yourself.

My other grandmother came over and belittled her when my parents married.

She ridiculed the house.

When I think of that, I think about what we value.

She was content with what she had. She passed away 4 months later.

My other grandmother lived another 40 years and was never content.

When I told her I was pregnant with Jacob she said, “I don’t want to hear it. I thought you were going to make something of yourself “.

It has taken a while to get over her hurtful words.

I am very thankful to be Jacob’s mother. I have also learned the priceless lesson of contentment.

I try to enjoy my home and flowers and I am thrilled about my grandchildren.

Miss Hadley James will be here Monday.

I want her to know the kindness of Maudie and the laughter of Genevieve. The resilience of Theo and the adoration of Jackie.

And hopefully what she remembers of Cheryl will guide her long after I am gone.

Here’s to healing and Hadley. This world needs both.

I love you so very much already,

Your Mamie

Breakfast Blessings…

Frog Level, Alabama.

Approximately the Summer of 1984.

I am standing on the ground pointing my finger and saying every cuss word I can think of.

My two younger brothers, Jason and Johnny, are laughing down at me from our treehouse.

That only makes me madder, so I cuss louder.

I could not understand why they shook with laughter after everything I called them.

Until I heard a voice behind me.

“Sister…”

My knees went weak and I began to cry.

Daddy was standing behind me.

Nothing like the disappointment of John L. Acker to break my heart.

“I can’t believe my baby girl would talk like that.”

I am ashamed to this day just thinking about it.

Daddy will be the first to tell you of mistakes he made.

He has a survivor’s grit to him combined with tender hearted kindness.

These days he grows and cooks collards. If you are lucky, he will deliver them to you.

He makes sure to ask if you ate all of them because he doesn’t like waste.

“Those are a lot of work.”

I divide them up and share to avoid leftovers.

There were years where I felt like I was a failure. No degrees, certificates and titles.

Sitting down to breakfast with him and my baby girl this morning, I am so very thankful.

Lung cancer came along 5 years ago and I never thought I would have mornings like this.

When I think of the unknown of tomorrow, I am unsure of what lies ahead with his health.

But I have decided that I will not allow that worry to steal my joy from today.

So here’s to 2 eggs, bacon, grits, toast and coffee for $4.95.

Breakfast with my Dad and Jeff’s.

We are sitting in a small restaurant like VIP’s.

They might not know who I am, but I do.

I am Sister.

Hugs to you all and Happy Saturday!

Cheryl