ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Book Two, Chapter 256: With Jeanette

I meet with Jeanette, my friend from the Grief Connection, she of the warm brown skin and unwavering eyes. We haven’t seen each other or talked to each other for nearly nine months.

On this warm September night we’re at an outdoor table of a nearby restaurant. The sky is darkening, but its deepening blue brings a glow to Jeanette’s skin and emphasizes the fullness of her lips. She seems more womanly to me; there’s a firmer shape to her face.

We talk of our sons, of our inner growth, of our husbands, of our goals.

“In a year or so I’ll need to think of making money,” she says, “but I don’t want work to compromise my inner peace.” Just now she leads a weekly meditation group at a yoga center, but this endeavor doesn’t pay her bills. “In a few weeks I’ll be spending time with a woman in Cleveland who’s organized a Zen center in her home. Perhaps I can make a non-profit work for me, too.”

I’m lucky that my income — the Social Security check I get, based on Ernie’s earnings, and the rent from the studio condo — covers my expenses . . . if I’m careful. I wouldn’t be making the progress I’m making at the rate I’m making it if I also held down a full-time job. Not possible, not for me. I need Time. Time is my luxury.

In our parting hug, Jeanette says: “It’s so good to have met you.” Then she smiles. I know what she means. “I knew you were different the minute I saw you tonight. You’re grounded now. You’re becoming independent. You were all over the place before. I was worried about you.”

“I scared myself,” I say.

Earlier, on my way to meet Jeanette, I said to myself over and over: I am sufficient unto myself. I am sufficient unto myself. Just two days ago, I told Joshua I felt insufficient when I was with me and only me, as if I needed someone to share an experience with in order for that experience to be real, for me to be real. But admitting this to Joshua helped me realize how unhealthy this thinking is. Descartes said: I think, therefore I am. He didn’t say: Someone is with me, therefore I am.

Before Jeanette and I part, I ask her: “Do you feel joy?”

She ponders my question. She seems to expand within herself. She nods.

“I feel peace,” I say. “That’s getting there. I feel sadness and I feel fear, but I do feel more at peace. And I believe joy will come.”

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.