ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 120: Mind to Hand to Mind
Often I find myself with my hand on my cheek.
Whatever I’m thinking brings on a feeling of dismay, and that’s what my gesture reveals — dismay, bewilderment. Ernie put his hand to his cheek — sometimes a hand to each cheek — many, many times during his last year or so of life.
I remember the Depression-era photo of the woman surrounded by her children in front of their mountain cabin. Her left hand touches her cheek. She’s also bewildered, dismayed. How did this happen? Who can help me?
I never used to touch my face. Now I massage my temples, press out the two vertical lines between my eyes, trace my eyebrows. And when I’m overcome with a memory laced with pain, I put my hand to my cheek, then to my lips. Over and over I outline my lips. New gestures for me. New movements.
I see Ernie’s hands, so graceful. I see his eyes, those mineral blues. I see his white hair, so fluffy when freshly washed, and I wonder: How can he not exist? How can he not be here with me? He’s too real not to exist. He’s more real to me than I am to myself.
And that’s my sickness. Maybe that’s why I feel my face. I’m trying to feel me. To prove to myself that I exist. That I’m real. That I think my own thoughts, feel my own feelings. And I’m learning to think healthier thoughts so that dismay and bewilderment will not overcome me.
It’s progress to be aware of my feelings. To name them. To know where they come from. To know that they exist to guide me, to help me find my way.