ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

When we work at the Charles Street house, Joshua and I don’t talk. Not real talk. Not intimate talk. Not talk from deep within. “The ceiling needs to be painted,” he’ll say. “It’s a pain in the ass, painting.”

But tonight we treat ourselves to a restaurant meal — sushi for Josh — and he asks me how my therapy session with Jene went.

“He begins each session the same way. He swivels around to face me and asks: ‘How are you feeling?’ ”

“What do you tell him?”

“Today I told him I was feeling hollowed out inside. It’s the space Ernie used to fill. Now, it’s empty. Maybe I’ll keep it open to welcome newness and freshness into my life.” I pause. I imitate Jene. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel okay. I feel . . . okay.”

I don’t know whether he’ll continue. Sometimes he talks, empties out his heart, and sometimes he doesn’t.

“I’m able to function as if Daddy were still here. I know he’s not, but I don’t dwell on that. I’m able to be normal . . . what’s normal for me. We would be working on this house if he were still here.”

Joshua’s blue eyes don’t look hurt or covered up, but underneath his eyes are shadows. His mustache and beard are growing out again, looking bristly. Throughout the meal he’s kept on his black leather jacket because he’s cold.

“Daddy wanted to live. He didn’t know he had bladder cancer. His urologist was stupid. An incompetent. If Daddy had known he had bladder cancer, we would’ve talked about it and decided on the best course of action. I asked him on two different occasions if he was feeling okay, if there was anything he wasn’t telling me. He said that some days he felt okay and some days he didn’t but that there was nothing specifically wrong with him. He was just getting older, he said. I was eye-to-eye with him. He was telling me the truth. He didn’t know he was sick with bladder cancer.”

I don’t say anything. It’s rare that Joshua talks of Ernie, and I don’t want to stop him.

“He was cheated — we all were cheated — out of five or ten years of his life. That’s brutal. I always thought he’d live to at least eighty-five. Maybe eighty-eight. Ninety. He had such a will to live. His will was so strong. He was fit. He moved well. He had everything to live for.”

Neither of us is crying. We’re looking into each other’s eyes. Joshua leans toward me.

“The urologist is the enemy. Don’t forget that. Don’t have compassion for him or for his lawyer. They’re the enemy. The urologist’s speciality is the bladder, the penis, that whole area. Daddy was going to him for his help, his expertise. If he’d said to Daddy: ‘Look, I don’t like to have to tell you this but bladder cancer is back, and we have to scrape it out and monitor you carefully. If it comes back again, we might have to consider the bladder’s removal. But we have to take action. Now.’ He never said that to Daddy. When we knew the cancer was back, all of us did all we could to fight it. Daddy went through that operation. He did leg exercises. He walked the hospital hall. He did not give up. He never gave up. That’s why this doctor’s on trial now, so a judgement can be made against him, and his malpractice insurance goes up so high he can’t afford to be a doctor anymore.That’s what Daddy wanted. He wanted to stop this urologist from hurting anyone else the way he hurt Daddy.”

--

--

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.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
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.