ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

In these nearly two years since Ernie died, I’ve come to two giant realizations: that I’m a co-dependent, and that I’m an escapist. These are my rabbit holes. Unless I’m completely awake and watchful, I’ll fall into one of these rabbit holes again.

As I have.

The month after Ernie died, I fell into a friendship with Bella. I knew she reminded me of Ernie, but I thought that was a good thing. She’s observant, absorbent, expressive, a reader and occasionally a writer. She also hates to be alone, as Ernie did. If she’s not with someone, she’s usually on the phone with someone. She keeps her TV on all night as a companion even to her subconscious and to comfort her if she happens to awaken. Usually one of her cats sleeps with her.

For almost a year Bella and I exchanged notes, sliding them under each other’s door. We took walks together. I picked up grocery items for her, drove her to hair appointments, discussed her finances with her. In return she listened to my endless talk of Ernie, my anguish over Ernie, and gave me her best advice. This was our quid pro quo.

Eventually I began not to like the person I was with her. I felt like a puppy following the master, doing the master’s bidding, wanting to please. In pleasing, I was twisting myself about, and it felt dishonorable. So early this year I backed away from Bella.

Yes, I was in the midst of a major depression. Yes, I was backing away from most people, and most people — even Bella, who one evening called me toxic — were backing away from me. This was partially why our separation occurred, but it would have happened eventually. We were wearing each other out.

Now we smile and say hello in passing, but we no longer exchange notes. We no longer take walks together. I don’t visit her in her apartment. I don’t feed her cats. I don’t pick up items for her at the grocery. I don’t fetch her mail. We’ve talked at length only once, and that was after a happenstance meeting in our building’s lobby which led to a three-way conversation on our building’s terrace.

So, rabbit-hole number one: co-dependent relationships. Pleasing others while being untrue to myself is dangerous territory.

Rabbit hole number two: escapist, compulsive behavior, as I exhibited this past Oaks Day when I let myself be overcome with race-track fever, running a block to catch a bus to Churchill Downs, losing myself in the Oaks Day crowd . . . losing myself.

I fell into another rabbit hole just last weekend when Joshua bought a vintage radio at a yard sale. I got caught up in his excitement and asked him to buy a radio for me, too.

This is what I want now: honest, trusting, kind, respectful, equal friendships. Meaningful, purposeful work. Goods that help me or hold significance for me.

This is all, and this is enough.

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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.