ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

In One Thousand Days in Tuscany, Marlena and Fernando talk of death — she, unwillingly, but the subject comes up because their good friend Floriana is dying of cancer.

“I want to stay as long as you do, but not any longer,” Fernando tells Marlena.

When Ernie was alive, my purpose was clear: to serve him, to work for him. Without him as my purpose and my prop, I dropped to the floor. I wanted to die, too.

Now I’ve found another purpose: to write of Ernie and me as a way to spread the word about the insidious killer disease of co-dependency. I’m working for myself now. Working on myself, really — one thought, one feeling, one action, one inter-action at a time. Sometimes I go backward, sometimes I stall, sometimes I stumble — I’ll always be a little clumsy — but I’m further along than I was a year ago.

In the park I meet a man, probably in his forties, named Sam. He’s strapped into a wheelchair. His arms work but his legs don’t.

“I’m sad tonight,” he says as he looks over the hills he biked up and down as a teenager. He’s newly divorced, and his wife, also disabled, has kept their two cats. He misses his legs, his wife, and his cats. “We tried to have a child, but it didn’t work out.” He shrugs. Despite all this loss, tonight he got himself into the wheelchair, got himself into the car, got himself to this park and has propelled himself around the rises and falls of it.

I have a functioning mind, a functioning body, a home, enough money, a loving son, wise and kind friends, books, paper and pencils, Ernie’s manuscripts. I have my memories of Ernie and of our life together. I have a story to tell. I have work to do.

Be grateful, Ernestina, I hear Ernie say. Count your blessings. And he knocks on wood.

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My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.

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Ernestina

Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.