ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching
Book Two, Chapter 324: In Virginia
My sister Jude, in Virginia along with my brother John to help our sister Tish through her first week without David, calls me.
“I’m so glad to hear your voice,” I say. “How are you?”
“It’s been an Open House all week long. A constant stream of visitors. David’s brother was here today. His voice is similar to David’s. It’s almost as if David’s in the room. I like to hear him talk, telling David stories. And people from David’s company. And A.A. and Al-Anon friends. And neighbors. So many have brought food. I cleared out the refrigerator early in the week because I knew what was coming. Tish doesn’t like to clean, so John scrubbed one bathroom, and I’ve mopped and organized. She’s taken walks and answered messages. She’s been remarkably strong.”
“How was it when you went to see David’s body?”
“I was the first one in the room. Tish hung back a bit. A white linen cloth was under and over David. His skin had no color — I wasn’t used to seeing David looking so pale — but he still looked like David. When he was young he was gorgeous, a hunk. Remember, I was with Tish the summer she and David met. We were waitressing on the Cape together. I liked him, too, but he was immediately smitten with Tish. She was it for him.”
“What color were David’s eyes?”
“Blue. The most amazing blue eyes. And the heaviest, blackest, longest lashes. Tish said, when she looked at David’s body: ‘I don’t remember that fold in his neck.’ But later, when we selected photos to display, we found one that showed the fold in his neck. He’s smiling at Tish. He truly loves her. This is so apparent in the photo.”
“What does Tish talk about with the visitors?”
“Mainly she goes over the events of the past week. David made several phone calls on Friday. He talked to Tish early, and he talked to his dad. He was worried about his dad. David’s mother was French-Canadian and never really had command of the English language. She was also compulsive-obsessive. She died of a heart condition at age forty-two. His dad is in his eighties. He called Tish, but she was on a walk. She’ll probably call him back tonight. . . . I hear her voice now. She may be talking to him.”
“Was David feeling okay?”
“He had liver damage from his years of drinking. He was taking interferon shots. That was his decision. So many of his friends have died recently of liver cancer. That was his fear. He had such plans. They were living in his dream house, near water. It’s a quiet neighborhood, beautiful to walk in, like yours. He wanted to live.” Jude yawns. “I told Tish I’d probably go to bed by ten tonight. I asked her if I could sleep with her. John’s been sleeping on the couch, but it’s uncomfortable. He fell asleep on the guest bed last night so I slept on the couch, but I didn’t get a good sleep.”
“Take care of yourself,” I say.
“I am. . . . Every Christmas, Tish and David always watch the film Love, Actually. She’s asked John and me to watch it with her tonight. I know I’ve seen it, but I can’t remember it.”
“Why that film?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out tonight . . . if I stay awake, that is. You know me. I often fall asleep in my chair.”
We say good-by.
David’s friends leave messages on the funeral home’s website. They mention long-ago buddies, now dead — Moe, Neil, Onion. They name dogs long gone — Shasky, Stella, Biggy, Tilly. They write of good times from the past — beach picnics, Thanksgiving dinners. A sweet spirit, someone writes. The greatest smile, another says.
The message that touches my heart the most is from one of Tish’s colleagues. Thanks for sharing all those stories of your beloved David. Thank you for sharing David with us.